Spring is finally here and you remember that New Year's resolution a few months back about looking for a new job – and finally, you're ready to make good on it. Your flat isn’t the only thing that hasn't been dusted off for quite some time: Your CV is not ready for your job hunt in 2018 either and you're thinking about sprucing up the format to help stand out in the stack of applicants who also made the same resolution as you.
But you've got a few things to keep in mind before you start the search: Besides the fact that spring and summer might not be the best time to apply, new technology has taken over the recruiting process. If you want to be invited for those first-round interviews, you need to beat the ATS, or applicant tracking system, with your CV before you start preparing for further steps. At the same time, standards in structure and design are changing and might inspire you to question the boring table you were using for years (or just use one of our brand new and customisable templates for 2018 – you can find them at the end of the page).
Getting past the gatekeeper
More and more companies are using an ATS to screen potential hires before anyone in HR gets their hands on your CV. An ATS can be configured in a variety of ways and tailored for a specific position the employer is looking for. While there is no way of knowing exactly which variables the company has plugged into the applicant tracking system, there are a few universal tips to help you get past the gatekeeper:
- Keywords: Every ATS will scan your CV for relevant keywords the employer has deemed relevant for the position to be filled. Be as specific as possible. For example, using 'Web Content Designer' instead of just 'Designer', or 'Three years of project management experience in website design and software implementation' instead of 'Manager with many years experience designing websites and software'.
- NO Graphics or Images or Text Boxes: Opening a Word document and bullet-pointing your work history might lack the flair and pizazz you want to convey to your potential employer, but it's exactly what an ATS wants to see. When you include images or text boxes in a .doc file, there is the potential for formatting issues if an older or newer version of the Office Suite is used. Saving it as a .pdf isn't any better, as many ATS don't handle the file format as well as a .doc file.
- Colour and Font: Your ironic appreciation for Comic Sans will be lost on an ATS, and yellow may be your favorite color but save it for your socks and not your CV. Using a standard Calibri or neutral Helvetica in black with a white background will work wonders. But we will come back to the matter of design in a later section.
Convincing HR of your qualities
So, the computer liked you, and your CV has made it into the hands of a living breathing human being. Now you have to deal with the judgment and scrutiny of the human eye. This is when you need to think of your CV as a personal brand and to shape the impression of your future employer.
Having spelling mistakes and mixing up 'there' and 'their' are major no-nos that should be avoided at all costs. Send your CV to your mum or best friend to have another set of eyes look at it before sending it off. Also, your 'Excellent written communication skills' or 'Team player' cliches and platitudes aren't doing you any favors. And hopefully there is no need to advise you to leave your emoji skills out of this, as well.
When it comes to design, a clear structure is a must win battle. Don't be afraid of white space! Consider it your best friend for creating an easy-to-follow composition of your core strengths. Besides this, download one of our free 2018 CV example and see what changed in design and structure – you can find them at the end of the page. A well set design highlights your abilities and leads the viewer throughout your experiences.
Making it to the decision maker
The last person inspecting your CV is usually your prospective leader and the one deciding who to invite for further steps, so you want to tailor your CV to each specific position you're applying for. Instead of starting with your personal dates, you first should present a summary why you suit the job: your core professional and technical skills, your main qualification(s) and significant career history. This text should be tailored to every new position you are applying for at any rate.
After that you can list the detailed sections of your career: first the date with month and year, then your function or job description (substantiate this with numbers whenever it's possible) and last the company name. But still, stay focused on the experiences that fit the position you are applying to; the financial services department of a Fortune 500 company won't care about the two years of barista experience at your local coffee shop, as happy as those two years were.
These two sections should have the relevant keywords for the job description you're responding to. Now, if you're new to the workforce or just graduated, this is where you want to showcase how innovative you are and what practical skills you've acquired in your studies, internships or engagement. But no matter on which stage your career might be, ensure to point out the languages you speak and the IT applications you are familiar with since the working world became more and more global and digitised since you checked your CV last time.
Despite all the tips we have given you so far, you still feel desperate about being able to stand out with your mediocre CV? Find some really creative ideas to finally get that invitation for the on-site interview:
- What-I-don't-know section: Why only talking about your skills? Surprise the reader with honesty and tell them what you wish to, but do not know, yet – programming in Python, speaking Italian, presenting in front of an audience without sweaty palms…
- Use the Corporate Design: Are you looking for an outstanding graphical presentation of your CV? Why not slightly lean against the Corporate Design of your soon-to-be company for that wow effect?
- Show off about how you can do the job: This might work out best if you are applying proactively without a job ad or if your profile would normally not fit the requirements. Then you can hand in a pre-interview project that is similar to the actual assignment profile without being asked for it, proving that you are actually able to do do the job.
Templates for your CV Makeover 2018
Feel free to download one of our customisable and modern CV templates as .docx and update the design of your CV or resume.
Here is one template tailored for graduates…
… and another one for young professionals. Good luck with your applications!