How To Improve Your CV

You know the feeling. You fire off what seems like a million job applications, then wait for weeks and don’t receive a single response. It’s an utterly disheartening experience but a somewhat avoidable one. There are always factors you can’t control, but your resume and the skills that you bring are two that you can. Here’s some ideas on how to move your job application from forgettable to memorable.

Step one: If you can, try to get a recruiter on the phone

Love them or hate them, recruiters play a pivotal role in the job market. If you’ve had no luck with cold applications, identify some recruiters in your niche (whether it be via LinkedIn, your contacts, or networking events), explain you’re looking for opportunities, and articulate what you can bring to the table. Not many recruiters will reply to strangers who ask for resume help, but if they have vacancies to fill (and you’re presenting yourself as a possible candidate), they’re more likely to get back to you.

From then, you can follow up with specific questions. Ask what skills you should be including in your resume but aren’t, or which skills you don’t currently have but are necessary for you to move to the next step. If you run into the latter, figure out how you can get that training. And if you still can’t get hold of a recruiter? Try to connect with individuals who are in the roles you want and get their input. Chances are, by hearing about their experiences and skill sets, you might be able to identify what’s stopping you from landing that dream role.

Step two: Streamline the top half of your resume

Recruiters spend a few seconds scanning the top of your resume when they open it, and then decide whether or not they will invest any more time in reading it. This is why it pays to focus on the content above the fold of your CV (the part visible without having to scroll down) to ensure it hooks recruiters’ attention in those first vital seconds.

Start by stripping out any cliché or generic skills, like teamwork or communication from your profile. These are prerequisites of most jobs and won’t amaze anybody. Instead, pack the top of your resume with in-demand industry-specific skills and knowledge that reflect the needs of your target employers. Consider adding a bullet-pointed core skills summary under your profile, if you haven’t already, to ensure your most valuable attributes jump off the page and don’t go unnoticed.

Possibly the most common issue that recruiters face is the sheer volume of applications they receive for advertised roles. From your point of view, this might seem like a nice problem to have. But having to screen each one of those of resumes is a significant drain on time, and unfortunately, if you don’t streamline the top half of your resume, it won’t always get the attention it deserves.

Step three: Quantify or describe your impact

A lot of resumes look similar, even if the candidates behind them are very different. The problem is, many applicants simply list their skills and qualifications that they often share with thousands of other people. If you’re applying for a role that requires sales, negotiation, technology, and account management skills, you can be sure that there will be competing candidates who also have those skills.

Results separate a mediocre candidate from a great one. So when you write your role descriptions, don’t just list your responsibilities and skills. Expand further to demonstrate the impact your actions have on others. For example, instead of writing “Identifying potential clients, networking and building relationships,” write “Identifying and networking with prospects in order to generate over 30 new high-value client leads this year, and five signups that have led to over $250K in sales revenue.”

It’s easy to see how this will make you stand out miles above those candidates who just list skills. You’re telling the recruiter exactly how you’ve excelled at your previous role, demonstrating what you can potentially bring to the vacancy that they’re trying to fill. That’s making their job easier.