How to make your CV stand out – You’re a rockstar. Can they see it?

Well, that’s not how you want to stand out!

Let’s talk about your CV.  Résumé. Whatever you call it. It’s the thing you rely on to show a prospective employer that you’re shit hot. It needs to yell, I’M THE ONE FOR YOU!! It’s often your first chance to make an impression.

What intrigues me is how much boring, run of the mill advice is out there.  If you follow it, you’ll get your CV aaaall the way to the… middle of the heap.  Yay.

If we do what’s always been done, what’s expected, what’s conventional, you’ll fit right in with everyone else.  That’s lovely and safe if you want to blend in.

BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO BLEND IN, DUH!

The entire point of a CV is to get noticed.  In a good way.

I’ve seen a few good articles around lately:

And guess what?  As a writer (who gets asked to develop CVs for some amazing people), I have thoughts on this, too.  Surprise, surprise.

I talk a lot on social media about how I love enhancv.com. If you read no further, just go check them out.  If you want more convincing, here are some reasons why I love it!

Words are important but first impressions last

Yes, word choice in your CV is important.  But words only have impact once someone decides to start reading.  I believe we write our CVs based on an incorrect presupposition: that people are going to read them, word for word. Like a novel. For fun.

But that’s not what happens at first glance.

At first glance, people scan.  They skim.  And they make instant judgements about you, based on whatever jumps out at them, and especially on the layout – Does it look polished?  Does it look professional?

The next question then, is: what does professional look like? A page full of black and white text with very little differentiation that requires you to read it word for word? That isn’t appealing to the eye, and it doesn’t invite engagement.

But if you use a more graphically designed layout, something where the headings and key words jump out, that’s gonna get attention.  In fact, the reader would have to consciously try NOT to notice a word here and there.

So, use a layout that’s different from the traditional black and white sections and paragraphs.  Instead, add a little pop of colour – nothing over-the-top.  Make sure there’s a visual element, that’s going to make your CV stand out in the pile.

We hire people not qualifications or experience

Yes, there are minimum qualifications and ideal experience that recruiters are looking for.  But ultimately, your CV is going to be placed alongside someone else’s, or 5 or 10 someone elses’.  And they might all meet those same criteria perfectly.

At that point, what’s going to give you the edge?  YOU!  Your personality, your character, your authentic self.  So I truly believe your CV needs to give clear insight into what kind of person you are.

I absolutely detest words in CVs that are the same words everyone else is using:

  • I’m a people person! (Yay! Anyone on the planet can say they’re a people person!)
  • Highly motivated (Sounds great. Where’s the evidence?)
  • Integrity (You get the picture…)
  • Self-starter
  • Work autonomously
  • Work well in a team

Anyone can say those things.  How can you illustrate them?

Confidence sells!

Let’s not pretend that a CV is anything other than a selling document.

It’s your opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer.  And if there’s anything that you wanna be in that position – it’s confident.

When you’re willing to step a little outside of the norm of convention, just a little, that comes across as confident.  I’m not talking about pushing the boundaries hugely. There is such a thing as being overly confident, arrogant, borderline ridiculous.  That’s completely up to you whether you think that’s going to sell or not.

But you know what? That’s what I choose to do with mine.  Over-the-top Rockstar Writer, check me out!  It fits my brand. It sends the message that I want to send.  In some situations you might wanna do that.  In others it might alienate a prospective employer.  But the point is, don’t be exactly the same as everyone else.

Don’t toe the line.  BE YOU.

Check out my CV here.

Or download my infographic: How to write a RockStar CV!

How to be concise – strip out the fluff!

Being wordy is only good if you’re a dictionary.

If there’s one thing we know about text, it’s that messages get weaker as the word count grows.  But, flick our writer switch, and what happens?  The more concerned we are with getting our point across, the more words we use!

Doh!

We’re worried people won’t get it.  We’re worried they might miss something.  So we say the same thing over and over again, in slightly different ways, trying to cover all our bases.  All the “just in case”s.  Every eventuality.

You know what that gets us?  Really badly written legalese.

Brief = strong

The best business writing is stripped back to just what’s needed to make your points and achieve your outcomes.

So how do we strip our writing back, but still be comprehensive enough to get the job done?  Here are a few quick approaches.

Strip out fluffy, wordy phrases

It’s easy, when we’re trying to put our most professional foot forward, to take on an unnaturally wordy voice.  Because we want to be taken seriously, we try to sound a bit more formal.  Resist!

UseInstead of
toin order to
canbe able to
becauseas a consequence of
considergive consideration to

Write less formally and more conversationally

We think a conversational voice is waffly, and that’s true in one respect – we speak in very long, run-on sentences with lots of “and”s.

But if we use conversational to mean the active voice and everyday words, that will be less wordy than a traditional formal voice.

Use headings and bullets

A well-written heading speaks directly to your reader.  It engages them. The following approach forces you to think first, write second, and do that in a very focused way.

  1. Separate your thinking into key points
  2. Turn those into statement headings
  3. Then list supporting info as bullet lists beneath them

And no, before you ask, I’m not suggesting that you then flesh out each of those bullets into a paragraph.  The bullets are enough!  Use them as often as you can (but keep each list short – no more than 7 bullets).

Stay concise and outcomes focused and your business readers will love you for it!