Your résumé is your shopfront: You need to make a good first impression; otherwise, no one will bother to stop and look.
Research shows that recruiters spend just six seconds scanning a CV – so you need to make yours scream DREAM EMPLOYEE. If you’re still using Comic Sans and listing your work experience from 2006, it might be time to give it an overhaul. Founder of Strategic Leap, Tash Johnston, has seen thousands of CVs and sat on countless interview panels during her time in recruitment. She reveals how to get a recruiter calling you in for an interview faster than you can say, ‘When do I start?’
1. How should I format my CV?
With a job market where employers and recruiters are receiving hundreds of applications every day, you need a clean, well-formatted and readable résumé. Ditch the Times New Roman and scripted font and use an easy-to-read font such as Arial or Calibri. Make sure your name and contact details are at the top and have a link to your LinkedIn profile (go to linkedin.com/public-profile/settings to customise your public URL). You’d be surprised how many people make it hard to find their contact details or leave them off altogether. Keep your CV to one page if you have less than five years’ experience and two pages if you have more than five.
2. Is it a big fat no-no to use a headshot on my CV?
If you think it’s relevant to your job, or you’re in branding, do it. But most people just add a link to their LinkedIn profile. Also, make sure all your social-media profile pics look professional – if a recruiter Googles your name and a Facebook profile pic of you doing a beer bong pops up, they might think twice about calling you in for an interview.
3. What are some simple tweaks I can make to get ahead of other job seekers?
Having a LinkedIn profile link is essential. Recruiters are also actively searching for candidates on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and turn the ‘Let the recruiters know you’re open’ on (click on ‘jobs’ at the top of your newsfeed, then ‘career interests’).
Craft an ‘elevator pitch’. Instead of launching into a bullet-point list of your current job skills, write a snappy blurb that summarises your qualifications and highlights your most marketable and relevant skills. This will reframe your experience and set the tone for the rest of the résumé.
Add the title of the role you are applying for under your name. This will plant the seed in the mind of the recruiter or hiring manager of you holding this position. For example, under Jane Smith, add Project Manager, if that’s the role you’re applying for.
4. Should I be using fancy templates (e.g., designing my CV in Canva)?
It depends on your industry. If you’re going for a creative role, this is your opportunity to show off your skills. If you’re applying for an administration role, this is your moment to show off your formatting skills. If you’re applying for a role requiring excellent written communication, then take this opportunity to show your ability to tell a story. You can get some great creative CV templates on Canva. There are also a lot of inexpensive résumé templates on Esty (etsy.com). Word also has some simple and easy templates. Microsoft recently acquired LinkedIn recently, and there’s a new feature called Resume Assistant that links your LinkedIn profile and Word and helps you create a killer résumé.
5. Is it ever OK to, ahem, lie on your CV? Or at least exaggerate?
No to lying. But if you need inspiration, I don’t think it hurts to look at other LinkedIn profiles with a similar background to you and see how they word their day-to-day role. Resume Assistant also has a feature that can help you look at other profiles and job ads to find the best way to describe your role.
6. What’s the best way to tailor our CV for a specific role we’re applying for?
Often, big companies use application systems that scan your CV looking for a specific word from the ad in your résumé, so make sure you’re using similar language to the job ad. If the job ad is asking for a software skill you have used but have not listed in your résumé, list it at the top of your skills list and add how you have used the software in the past in your cover letter.
7. Say you’re a mum who’s just about to jump back into the workforce after a while, or you’re a small-business owner who’s decided to go back to the corporate world. Should you include this info in your CV? How do you make yourself still sound relevant after you’ve been out of the game for a while?
I get this question all the time, and I receive a lot of CVs where women have a gap with no explanation. Whether you were on maternity leave, travelled the world for a year, or you took some time off to care for your ageing parents, you should always mention this in your résumé.
As for parents returning to work, I always suggest adding any volunteer work you may have done. It could have been reading at school, helping at the school canteen, organising the school fête or school disco. These are all transferable skills in the workforce. If you’re a business owner returning to the workforce, highlight all your transferable skills to the role you’re applying for. Don’t add everything, just what’s relevant to the job.
I also suggest to people returning to the workforce to try a few temp roles to get you back into the workforce to give you some experience to add to your CV; it’s a good way to trial a few roles and companies before you decide what you want to go back into. There are some great resources out there for mums: try flexcareers.com.au or workingmothersconnect.com.au.
Tash Johnston is a premium member and founder of Strategic Leap, which supports candidates and hiring managers through the often-tricky recruitment process. Connect with Tash here and to find out more about Strategic Leap head to their website.