Getting the most out of a CV template

CV’s tend to come in two varieties: one is individualised and tailored to apply for a specific job, while the other is a ‘one-size fits all’ CV, to keep on file with recruiters and job boards. For the latter, some job seekers opt to use a pre-set CV template – a structured form, many varieties of which can be found online – and just fill in the blanks.

These can be useful in concept, but we’d suggest you select the template carefully, if you opt for this method. And if you can’t find a template that’s right for you, you could easily craft your own using the following guidelines as well.

In our experience as recruiters, we have handled more than a few CV’s over the years. And based on their direct feedback, we know what employers look for in the first few crucial moments when they scan a CV.

That’s why we recommend your CV template follow this format:

  • Personal details
  • Personal statement
  • Summary of software that you’re familiar with
  • Work experience (most recent first)
  • Education
  • Interests

Appearances matter

By customising your information in a clear and organised way, you can quickly draw attention to the relevant highlights of your CV. Use a clear, simple font (e.g., Arial, Tahoma, Verdana) – and stick with just one. Too often we see CV’s that, in an attempt to be visually interesting, are in fact distracting and difficult to read. However, the use of bold and italic typefaces, underlining and bullet points can all provide a clear visual framework and instantly draw the reader’s eye to the most useful information.

A template doesn’t have to be generic

In terms of the content, keep in mind that just because you’re crafting a non-specific CV suitable for any number of job searches, that doesn’t mean it has to be bland. You can still inject some salesmanship and personality to make yourself stand out from the crowd. First, use your personal statement to look forward – not to the past – with a look at how you could benefit any company in the coming year. Don’t say something obvious such as ‘I’m looking for an opportunity to use the skills I’ve gained.’ Take the opportunity to sell yourself, and state why you are worth considering.

One section that is new in our ‘template’ guideline is the summary of software that you’re familiar with. This is a more recent trend that we see with savvier CV writers who understand that certain keywords should stand out. It’s a good way to quickly highlight such specialist skills as, for example, Hadoop, and bring them to the immediate attention of the reader.

Subsequently, the details of your work experience, citing the most recent first, should back up any software experience you are claiming and put it into context. In other words, a list of qualifications or certifications is not enough. You’ll want to use the work experience section to highlight the accomplishments you’ve achieved using the software skills you’ve listed. Staying with Hadoop, for example: ‘I re-engineered data storage and analytics through Hadoop design and implementation, resulting in 35% cost reduction and improved data integrity.’

After you’ve updated the education section, the next thing we suggest highlighting is a section for interests or hobbies. You may find many templates do not offer this section, as some CV advisers are not convinced it’s useful. However, we at KDR see a trend towards the importance of fitting in to corporate culture, and as such, a glimpse into your personality is no bad thing. It can even serve as an icebreaker in an interview.

Don’t go overboard, of course, be professional and appropriate – but showing a bit of personality or humour could make the difference in getting the call over similarly qualified candidate. Just because you’re using a templated CV doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stand out.

Finally, edit and proofread. (Then proofread it again). Of course, we are always here to help you in your search and an experienced recruiter would be happy to review your CV.

KDR Recruitment is the home of the best data, technology and analytics jobs. For more career advice follow KDR on LinkedIn.

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