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Top tips to improve your CV

It is important to stand out from the crowd when looking for a new job. Employers and recruitment experts share their top tips for improving your CV.

The average employer is reported to spend between six and 30 seconds reading a CV so advisers who are job-hunting need to ensure that their CV stands out for the right reasons.

“Generally employers don’t read CVs properly so they need to be punchy, have all the important information at the front, with no fancy boxes, fancy fonts or photographs,” says Harris Keillar, managing director of recruitment firm Keillar Resourcing.

And while it might sound obvious, he says you must pay attention to detail.

“A number of people transpose or miss out digits from their phone number – and if your email address ends in .com don’t,” he says.

Keillar says advisers should include their correct contact details, the product areas they specialise in and whether they are whole of market or restricted.

A lack of attention to detail is also something that Foundation Group founder Stephen Hagues is still surprised by.

“I’m still gobsmacked at how many people don’t spellcheck their CVs – or leave Americanisms in there,” says Hagues. “Advisers should get another two pairs of eyes looking at their CVs.”

CVs should be tailored to the role being offered, says Almary Green managing director Carl Lamb. “Research the firm and the individuals. Find something to say that will give you a connection with the recipient if possible,” he says. “But steer away from buzzwords and anything that sounds like it should be on The Apprentice. Examples of cases, projects and events you’ve been involved in will give your statements substance.”

Hagues feels advisers should focus on their achievements and accomplishments, providing evidence to back it up.

“Most people list their title, duties and responsibilities but although employers are interested in what you’ve been doing, they are more interested in how good you are at doing it,” he says.

Coast Recruitment executive consultant Karen Halliday says not putting enough information on their CV is a mistake advisers can make in their quest for brevity.

“There seems to be an obsession with getting CVs onto two pages but three pages is okay, particularly if lots of exams and qualifications need to go in,” she says

Keillar says advisers should explain their previous roles and qualifications in detail, including the route they have taken. “Don’t just put that you have a diploma. If you have 150 credits rather than 140, put 150 credits. Do you have a statement of professional standing? Can you bring any clients with you? Lots of people say they can take over this number of clients with this amount in assets when it’s not the case. If you do have influence over clients you need to provide details,” he says.

Anyone who offers the ability to boost the income of their new firm should definitely highlight the fact says Hays director Parvez Miah.

“Employers are looking for someone who is proactive about bringing in new business, so state how much of your business is self-generated. If you have professional connections, for example with accountants or solicitors, explain how many leads they generate for you,” says Miah.

But don’t be economical with the truth. “If we feel someone is not telling the truth in an interview we will follow that through as part of the due diligence process before we put someone before the FCA to get authorised. It also begs the question do I want to put that person in front of clients?” says deVere United Kingdom head of UK recruitment Paul Greveson.“There should also be no unexplained gaps between jobs. Not only does it raise our suspicions, gaps are also a no-no for the FCA.”

Some employers prefer to use social media profiles instead of CVs. Adam Gordon, chief executive of recruitment firm Social Media Search, says: “Some employers assess people on their social media profiles and answers to online interview questions. If they do ask for a CV, including links to online profiles would set it apart from its peers.”

Gordon says photographs, a detailed description of what you do and key words, such as job title, are essential for online profiles. Video links can be another way of grabbing employers’ attention.

But advisers should also ensure that their online presence does not contain anything inappropriate that could give potential employers the wrong impression.

“Employers will be looking at your online profile over the last five years so expect them to look for reasons why they shouldn’t employ you,” says Gordon.

Top CV tips

  • Boast about your achievements but don’t lie or exaggerate
  • Highlight your qualifications and credits above the minimum standard
  • Use examples of cases, projects and events you have been involved in to show employers that you are good at your job
  • Don’t neglect your social media profile


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