Banish the Boring CV: How to Add Flair to Your Applications

by Mar 18, 2015

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Imagine you’re a hiring manager responsible for filling every open position for a large company. Every day, you receive dozens of resumes from prospective candidates — and every single one of them looks the same.

They all feature the same tired format, same bland lists of responsibilities, and the same vague language. When every resume looks the same, none stands out, and it’s likely that you will get bored and possibly overlook a potential quality candidate.

From a candidate’s perspective, blending in with the crowd is the worst thing that can happen.

You want to stand out (in a good way) and the best way to do that right off the bat is to submit a curriculum vitae that is unique and compelling, and provides deeper insights than the standard chronological format CV.

Customization Is Everything

When you apply for a new job, do you pull up the same resume that you’ve used for years, add your latest position, and call it good? Or do you take the time to customize your documents for each individual job? If it’s the former, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

Career experts recommend that you create a custom CV for every job you apply for, using the specific requirements of the position listing as your guide. However, you can do more than explain why your experience and skills are a good match to the open position. Spend some time perusing the company website and social media profiles of the executive team to learn more about the culture and values of the company, and tailor your CV using similar language. Even slight changes to language can make a difference; if the job listing says, “manage” and your CV uses supervise, change your wording to better match the desires of the employer.

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Customize your CV

Make It Interesting

What do you think that recruiters and hiring managers are more interested in: Your responsibilities at your former job, or what you actually accomplished on the job? In most industries, the job descriptions for most roles don’t differ all that much between companies, so listing your responsibilities tells them what they already know. Besides, telling employers what you were supposed to do isn’t very insightful — they want to know how successful you were in those tasks.

While focusing on your accomplishments is a start, the best way to keep recruiters interested is to tell a story.

What is your career story? How have you grown and developed throughout your career? Your resume should show progression and improvement. Telling a story also means focusing on the experience that is most relevant to the job you’re applying for; in other words, staying on topic. While you may have gained valuable experience in a part-time job, or found success exploring your passion for another field in your spare time that may not help you tell your story.

In fact, many of the fundamentals of creative writing actually apply when you’re telling your story. The number one rule for all writing, “show, don’t tell,” applies as much to CV’s as it does to a short story.

It’s not enough to say that you’re organized or accomplished

You need to demonstrate why that’s true, with examples and quantifiable results.

Be Creative

While certain conservative fields, like law, still expect candidates to use the traditional CV format, there is more leeway than ever before to show some personality on your CV. This is especially true in fields that value creativity and communication skills. After all, if you’re seeking a career in strategic communication, your CV should clearly demonstrate your skills in that realm. This might mean turning your entire resume into an infographic, or using sections, bullet points, and graphics to better demonstrate your skills and experience.

For example, try using a graphic to show your competencies in particular skills related to the job (resist the temptation to rate yourself as an expert in every realm, and be honest) or simply use interesting fonts, pops of color, or unusual design elements, such as a photo, to highlight important points.

Don’t be afraid to take your CV online, either.

Include a QR code that leads to an online portfolio or CV, or provide direct links to your social media profiles.

The idea is to make it easy for recruiters to locate the most important information quickly, while simultaneously compelling them to read more. According to one study, when a recruiter looks at a CV, he or she spends 80 percent of the time looking at basic info (name and address), education, the title and company of previous positions, and the start and end dates of those positions.

Design your resume so those points stand out, and the recruiter can spend more time reading your story — and calling you for an interview.

Need help creating an impactful CV? Check out the 3Plus Career Services for individuals

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