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5 useful tips to make your CV stand out

Written by: Helen Jones
Published on: 10 Sep 2021

two women discussing a document

Pic: Cottonbro, Pexels

A good CV is vital when applying for a job, especially in recent years with the job sector becoming more competitive than ever. Many studies have shown that recruiters or employers won’t spend more than a couple of seconds looking at a CV, especially when there are numerous candidates for the same job.  

Creating a CV that will capture the attention of an employer or recruiter to help you get shortlisted and even get the job doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are 5 useful tips on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd and highlight the skills or experience that will contribute positively towards you as a candidate. 

1. Tailor your CV to the role  

Depending on the role you are applying for, customise your CV to highlight the skills, accomplishments and experience that are relevant. The clues are in the job description and company information, so read the details from start to finish and create a CV specifically for that role. You need to clearly demonstrate that you understand what is needed for the role and that you are the perfect fit.  

There is no perfect template as each sector requires emphasis on different aspects of your CV, such as career history or qualifications. Try to be as specific as possible and reflect the skills set and qualities they are looking for in a candidate. Present your skills in a similar order to the job description and make sure to remove any unnecessary areas. This means that you may have to alter and adjust your CV for each new job you apply for. 

2. Include keywords in your CV  

Many employers or recruiters use keywords when looking for candidates. Keywords are often based on the job title, the job description and specific skills or qualifications needed for the role. Utilising keywords is even more important, if the employer is using an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to filter out candidates.  

You should identify and carefully pick up these specific words and phrases and use them within your CV to increase your chances of getting noticed by employers. When applying for an accounting or finance job in particular, it is important to include keywords that are relevant to your technical skills. These could be phrases such as ‘Management Accountant’, ‘Financial Planning’, ‘GAAP’, ‘SAP’ etc. Read also about how to present your transferable skills in your CV. Using keywords is a sure-fire way to make your CV stand out from the competition and unfortunately is often overlooked by candidates.  

3. Emphasize actions and results rather than responsibilities 

When writing your CV, work history and experience sections, you need to ensure that you don’t just list your responsibilities. Emphasis should be given to results and you should always use real life examples and quantifiable data to back up your accomplishments. 

Use assertive and positive language, such as "developed", "organised" or "achieved". For example: "The work experience involved working in a team," or "This position involved planning, organisation and leadership as I was responsible for a team of people". 

When you get into the habit of writing about your achievements, rather than things you’ve been responsible for, it creates a sense of accomplishment and gives a positive context to your writing.  

4. Sell yourself 

Your CV is your marketing tool and your opportunity to show off your skills and accomplishments to potential employers. You need to focus on the relevant skills you can bring to the role and the value you can add to a company, but you also need to convince them that your CV is worth reading.  

Make a first good impression with a good personal statement (a brief summary of your skills and accomplishments). This is an important part of your CV because it can grab an employer's attention straight away and help them understand if your experience and skills match the requirements for the role. 

When writing your CV make sure it reflects your personality and demonstrates the things that will make an employer consider you as a potential employee and not just another CV in the batch.  In most cases the best way to make a CV stand out is to make yourself stand out!  

5. Don’t forget the basics 

Presentation is key when putting together your CV. The layout should be clean and well-structured and should clearly outline all of the different sections including contact information, a brief personal statement, work experience, education and finally your skills.  A CV should also be short, usually no more than two sides of A4 stressing achievements and strengths on the first page. 

Ensure you include references and keep your CV updated adding any new skills or experience. These include contact details, education and qualifications, career history and own interests. Keeping a CV up to date is crucial to building a level of trust with an employer and establishing you as a professional. If your CV contains out-of-date information, it may show a lack of attention to detail and can paint you in a bad light before you’ve even had a chance to engage with potential employers. 

Creating a CV that stands out requires a bit of extra work and can be time-consuming, but following the above CV tips will help you show off your accomplishments and skills in the best possible way. For further career advice and support, visit our career advice blog or contact us