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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Want your CV to stand out? Here's what to do

Want your CV to stand out? Here's what to do

January 20, 2010 12:19 IST

Want to score an edge over other prospective candidates in the job market? Kshipra Singh tells you how to perfect your resume. Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

The other day I was going through the CV of a student aspiring to a job and found that most of the things that a recruiter will want to see were missing.

Your CV is like a marketing brochure which sells a product, ie your skills. It is the first document through which you come into contact with a potential employer and it is the only thing based on which they decide to see you for an interview or not. So, the basic purpose of a CV is to fetch you an interview call. Nothing more, nothing less. If a recruiter shortlists you for an interview based on your CV, it has done its job. In this article we are providing you some tips to write the most important document of your career. You must understand that these are just the principles, not rules. At the end it is you who has to attend the interview, so it is very important that you are comfortable and confident with the final document that you produce.

Many of us sit to write the CV an evening before it is to be sent to a potential employer; which is an errant practice. It will take you hours of drafting and re-drafting till you are happy with the final outcome. If you do not have a ready CV, it may mean that you send out something you yourself are not convinced of. So, you must write it well ahead of time so that you are comfortable with the final document. It is okay if you want to modify one later on when you apply to a specific job.

Here are some tips to help you write a good CV:

Neat, easy to read and well organised: Ensure that your CV is neat, easy to read and organised properly. If you achieve just this, yours will be much better than half of those out in the market.

Make sure that you do not just dump information onto paper and call it your CV. If you do that and expect an interview call, chances are that you will keep waiting.

Short sentences: Keep your sentences short and meaningful. Recruiters do not have the time to read and understand long and complex sentences. If they are not able to get what you want to convey in your CV, they will simply trash it and move to the next one. So, try to grab their attention with simple and easy language.

Career summary: In our country of more than 100 million people, a single job is applied to by thousands of candidates. So, you hardly have 30 seconds to one minute to grab the attention of people shortlisting candidates for an interview. In order to make the best use of these 30 seconds, write an appealing career summary which provides a gist of your career and proves you a candidate worth seeing for an interview. This career summary can be written in bullet points or as a short paragraph of 5-6 lines.

Focus on achievements rather than responsibilities: This will apply more if you are an experienced candidate. The potential employer will be interested in knowing your achievements rather than your responsibilities. They will want to know where can you take the company if you are offered responsibilities and as they say, results speak for themselves -- your achievements will speak for themselves. So, make sure that you attach some figures which justify and quantify your achievements in past and present jobs.

Use words that make an impact: Use strong words that show you are in control of a situation, rather than just being a performer. You will see that using the past tense of words will do a good job.

For instance, if you were a topper of your college or university, it will be more impactful if you write 'Secured top position in the college' rather than simply writing 'Topped the college'.

No spelling or grammar mistakes: If you come across a poorly-written book with spelling and grammar mistakes, do you feel like reading it? No. Similarly, spelling and grammar mistakes put recruiters off. The immediate impression these mistake leave about a candidate are 's/h is lazy', 's/he doesn't care', 's/he is not serious about getting this job' and 's/he doesn't have an eye for detail' -- none of these qualities are appreciated in a candidate. Run a spell check and grammar check before you finalise the document. Also remember that many spellings may escape the spell check, but they may not fit into the context of a sentence, so it is important that you read the whole document carefully.

No abbreviations: Most of the time, CVs go to the HR department, which shortlists and sends them to the decision makers. HR executives are not aware of abbreviations used in every industry, so in order to ensure that you get your foot in the door, you have to make sure that they understand you are a relevant candidate. So try to limit the usage of abbreviations in your CV.

Latest at the top: Keep your CV in a chronologically descending order, ie latest at the top. Your most recent qualification and work experience should appear towards the top in that section. No one is interested in seeing what you did 15 years ago. They are more interested in seeing what you do today. It is possible that an experience which you gained long ago is useful for this job and in that case it is absolutely advisable to highlight it.

Formal font on a plain A4 paper: A CV is a formal document, so try to keep it simple by using formal fonts and take the printout on an A4 size paper. Avoid glossy paper and designer fonts unless you are applying for a job where you want to demonstrate your creativity.

Obvious contact details: The first thing that an employer will want to see after shortlisting your CV is your contact details. So provide these details and ensure they are easily found on the document.

Kshipra Singh is a contributor to CareerRide.com, a website that offers a common platform for employers and candidates to discuss career opportunities.

Kshipra Singh