CV Formatting: bullets kill – and so do a lack of £/$ signs

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 - Article, CV Examples, CV format, CV Help, CV Template, CV Tips, CV Writing, how to make a cv, How to Write a CV, Job Application, tutorial

CV Formatting


Many a CV or resume we are asked to review fails on a few consistent points:

  1. The candidate couldn’t operate a spell check button – FAIL
  2. If they could operate the spell check button, they didn’t read it or print it our before they sent it – FAIL
  3. If they accomplished the above two points, they kills themselves either with non-STAR accomplishments, or over bulleted formats – FAIL

Now, everyone claims to be an “executive” – one of the most over used words around by candidates in their Job Search – but few back up claims with actual pounds or dollars.

The summary of all of this is that, most CV/resumes fail to address the needs of the ideal candidate outlined in the job advert as stated by the employer. If the candidate does have the right combination of skills stated in the job, they make it far too complex for the HR professional reading it to extract the skills, tick the boxes and hence select them to call for a telephone interview.

As a recruitment company owner, where we also provide professional candidate service including CV writing, I can hence see why candidates may be surprised when they get a “thank you for your application, but…” letter.

Read the job advert:

The first skills in applying for a job is actually knowing your own skills base, and knowing which jobs you have the right combination of skills to apply for. This means you need to be very honest with yourself about your skills, but also need the ability to read the job advert. The best tip I can give any job applicant is to spend a solitary £1 or $1, and buy a highlighter pen. Then when you see a job you think is interesting and you could have the skills for, copy or print the advert out. On the third occasion of reading it, take your highlighter pen and pick out the skills and competencies required. Then take your CV/resume, and find the exact same skills and competencies in your CV/resume. Can’t find the required skills, qualifications and experience, then don’t apply for that job!

Write about substantiated ACTION:

Many CV/resumes open with a Personal Statement, and that’s great – it creates focus around you and the job. But many Personal Statements are full of copied phrases from CV Examples with noun-dominated unsubstantiated phrases like Responsible for, Experienced, Accomplished, etc. Recruiters and HR professionals want to see what you actually did and achieved – in part because better candidates can communicate that, and looking forward to interview stage they know these candidates will engage easily.

The use of verbs written in STAR format, accomplishments like leading a team, growing revenues, reducing overheads and winning or retaining key clients – particularly is when they later ask for references, one of then can independently verify this – all lead to engaging CV’s from stand out candidates who will get interviews.

If you can show accomplishments using action-orientated verbs, you will get interviewed.

Bullets kill

In formatting your CV/resume, bullets are great, and an easier format of highlighting something to a reader – but not using the bold facility. However, too many bullets kill a CV/resume, with overuse drawing the readers attention all over the document – what is important, what should I read – and looks junior in status. It hence is difficult to read, and doesn’t tell what you’ve really done.

The best format is to use paragraph formatting for job duties and responsibilities, there by telling the story of what you did in your job, on a day-to-day, month-to-month basis. Then, use bullets for real accomplishments: things you did better, faster, and more profitably than anyone else.

Recruiters and HR professionals look for £/$ first in a CV/resume, so for accomplishments, use numbers! If you saved money, made money, or finished a project quicker or more efficiently than peers; tell a STAR story to quantify that and substantiate it with numbers.

Use spell check and print facilities:

Poor spelling and grammar will kill an application instantly. Get into the habit of pushing the spell-check button every time you save your CV/resume to your computers memory. Before sending out your CV in response to a job application, even if it is online, print it out and read it first. Spell checkers just check the words are in a dictionary, they do not check they are the rights words.

Good Luck!

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