Create a CV that stands out from the crowd (part 2)

Diana Burns | September 9, 2020

After applying the techniques in part 1 of this blog, you’ll have a clear idea of your own skills and competencies. So let’s now focus on how to match your content to what the potential employer needs and wants.

Start by going through the job advert and the job description carefully. Highlight all the key words that describe the position. Then try to match them in your cover letter and CV.

Reflecting the employer’s words back to them shows that you’ve paid attention to what they want. And it will probably help you make the cut if they’re using a recruiter (or an automated system) to analyse applicants’ responses. Either way, whoever is analysing the applications will be looking for certain key words.

Image, coffee cup, plant, diary, and a pen on a table in front of a sunny window

Show extra insights in your CV and you’re halfway there. Image by Kyle Glenn / Unsplash licence

Research the role and the company

To stand out in a big batch of applications, you need to go further than other people are likely to. Look beyond what the advert or the job description says to what else may be going on for the employer.

The more you can show that you understand what they need and want in their new appointee, the more attractive you’ll seem to a potential employer.

Extra homework pays off. Do some research. Look at their website and go beyond the home page. Read articles or media releases the company has put out. Find their annual report and read the statement from the Chair or Director (it’s usually at the start of the report).

These sources of information will give you a good idea about the organisation or company: what it’s proud of and where it’s aiming to go.

Use your empathy skills to work out what the employer needs

Once you’ve gathered more information, use your empathy skills.

If you were the one looking for someone to fill this role, what would you be hoping for? What kind of person would fit with this organisation? What qualities would you want, beyond those listed in the job description?

Go back to those soft skills we talked about in part 1. How can you demonstrate those?

Convince the reader that it’s all about them

The biggest challenge in a CV is to convince the reader that it’s all about them. It’s not just you saying how wonderful you are. Everything you can offer is to help them with what they need.

Look at the difference between these two statements.

  1. I am an excellent oral and written communicator with proven skills in managing teams and time management.
  2. I’ll use my communication skills to help you get your team on board, so you can achieve your goals — whether that’s in writing or in person. I’ll use my experience with managing teams to help you get the best from your people. I know you’re often working under pressure, so I’ll apply my time management skills to help you and your team meet tight deadlines with minimal stress.

Now look at this statement.

Excellent communication skills (oral and written) combine with demonstrated analytical and strategic strengths in order to create best-in-class productivity.

It’s written in a tone that sounds distant and unnatural. And as for ‘best-in-class productivity’… what does it mean? It’s jargon — and you need to avoid jargon in your CV.

Let’s rewrite that statement a little.

I’m good at communicating with people, both in writing and in person. I can use my skills in analysis and strategy to boost productivity and make your workplace more effective.

What feels different? For one thing, the rewritten statement has human beings in it — ‘I’ and ‘you’. The language is easier to understand and feels less like jargon.

Now add the parts together.

Now you’re ready to tackle your CV

You’ve done your groundwork, and now you’re ready to produce a convincing CV. To summarise, doing these two things before you start writing your CV will prepare you so that the task is much less of a challenge.

  1. Know yourself. Work out your skills and competencies. Express them simply and clearly.
  2. Find out as much as you can about what the employer wants and needs, and match your skills and competencies to those things as best you can. Again, keep it strong and clear.

When you’ve done that work, you’re more than halfway towards creating a CV that will get you to the interview.

More help with writing your CV

Download the Write Checklist for Writing a Winning CV
Read Create a CV that stands out from the crowd (part 1)

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.