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How to write a job-winning CV
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By MyBudget Editor

Are you looking for a new job? A good curriculum vitae can be the difference between getting an interview and being overlooked. But what goes into a good CV? MyBudget’s head of people and performance, Paul Southgate, has a long career specialising in recruitment. He’s our guest blogger this week and here to share his insider tips on writing a resume that gets recruiters’ attention.

Post-pandemic employment

We’re cautiously coming out of lockdown. Life is returning to a new sort of normal, but there’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us. In just a few short weeks, almost a million Australians found themselves jobless and the economy teetering on recession. It’s fair to say that there is a sense of uncertainty everywhere. 

Even under normal circumstances, business owners are faced with tremendous responsibility. But now that responsibility has never been greater. Business strategies for 2020 are being reviewed and changed at lightning pace in a constantly evolving economy. For many employers, tough decisions have included letting go of loyal, committed, high-performing employees.

We’re here to help anyway we can

At MyBudget, many of our clients have sadly lost jobs or had their work lives put in limbo. In terms of budgeting, we have been here to help them navigate the changing landscape and to get through the challenges together.

Our mission, however, is not just to help our clients survive the economic fallout of coronavirus, but to set them up for the sort of success that will help them emerge ahead of the curve! And we know that for many people, that means finding work, rekindling careers or exploring new job directions.

I’ve been a human resources specialist  for 15 years and, in that time, I’ve seen literally thousands of resumes in every shape and form. Some handwritten, some 50 pages long, some leatherbound, and some with fonts so small I needed a magnifying glass.

The important question is: which one were winners? I’ll give you a clue: none of the above!

Short, sharp and shiny

Before you embark on writing your curriculum vitae (CV), keep in mind that the average hiring manager will spend 120 seconds reading it before deciding if you’re suitable for the interview shortlist. 

You have two, short minutes, therefore, to clearly summarise your career experience, strengths and relevancy to the role. That may seem a daunting task, but there are some easy ways to ensure your CV stands out from the crowd. 

Attention to detail

First and foremost, attention to detail is everything. The hiring manager will be scanning quickly and looking for obvious reasons to cull applicants. Not surprisingly, around 75 percent of CVs are rejected due to bad grammar, spelling or poor visual layout. 

There are a number of websites that offer free CV templates. These are a great starting point and save you reinventing the wheel. One I recommend is Express CV

Another awesome tool is Grammarly, which is free to use. It’s a quick and easy way to help eliminate spelling and grammatical errors. 

Length and fonts

There’s no set length for a CV. I have seen examples that range from a Post-It note to a bound compendium. The guiding principle here is that recruiters only have a couple of minutes per resume. My advice, therefore, is that anything beyond two pages risks not being seen.

Now, this does not mean squeezing four pages of content into two by using six-point font. It means being selective and targeted about what you include.

Speaking as a hiring manager, standard fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman, in 10 to 12 point size are easiest to read. Please steer away from the more creative font styles. They hurt recruiters’ eyes!

Personal details 

Given that space is precious, there is no need to include “Curriculum Vitae” or “CV” in the heading. The recruiter knows what the document is. Instead, include your name in bold, centre-aligned at the top of the page. This should be followed by your home address, email and telephone number. 

When it comes to your email, err on the side of professionalism. Having a funny email address is great for using with friends, but it may give potential employers the wrong impression of you. It only takes a minute to create a new free email address. 

It’s important to remember that age discrimination laws mean you don’t need to disclose how old you are, so don’t feel a responsibility to include your date of birth. 

Personal statement

Your personal statement is a paragraph that explains who you are and why you’re perfect for the job. It’s usually five to eight lines long and is tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. It should appear directly under your contact details and is your moment in the spotlight to demonstrate why you are a good fit. 

Let’s imagine, for example, you were applying for a retail assistant job. You might use your personal statement to say: 

I am a happy, friendly person who takes pride in delivering excellent customer service and satisfaction. In my most recent sales assistant role at ABC, I was promoted to team leader in recognition of my strong communication and listening skills, good organisation, high work ethic and reliability. I operate very well in a team or I can be trusted to work on my own. I am able to confidently deal with problems and use initiative to overcome challenging situations. I have eight years’ experience in retail sales and my love of [fill in the blank] makes me the perfect candidate for this role with XYZ.

Employment history 

Most people know to start with their most recent job title, along with the company name and dates of employment.  A common mistake, however, is to copy and paste the job description straight into the resume without adapting or personalising it. 

When it comes to describing your current and previous jobs, be specific, precise and focus on factual information about how you positively impacted the business in terms of achievements. Consider the role you’re applying for now and include any key points that would resonate with your prospective employer. 

If you have a long career history, supply only minimal details for any roles that date back more than 10 years. This will help to ensure that your CV doesn’t exceed two pages. A brief summary with top-level details is enough.

Education and qualifications

If a job demands certain qualifications or professional accreditation, make sure that these are clearly listed in the education section of your CV. 

Most importantly, don’t embellish qualifications in an attempt to land a role. It’s common for employers to ask for copies of qualifications as part of the final stage of reference checking. Some will even call the institution to check that your enrollment or academic transcript is genuine.

Aside from qualifications, help yourself stand out from the crowd by listing any additional skills or information that will strengthen your application. This could include self-education, language skills, relevant awards or membership of professional bodies.

Professional references 

You should expect that any potential employer will request to speak with a number of your previous supervisors to confirm the dates provided in your CV, as well as your role, responsibilities and achievements. 

I recommend that you list two to three professional contacts in your resume and be prepared that the recruiter may also reach out to any organisation you claim to have worked for. 

It pays dividends therefore to be open about any challenges you faced in previous roles. 

For instance, there may be a supervisor you didn’t get along with. Be honest about it. That way, both you and the hiring manager is prepared.

What makes you “you”

Finally, you can end your CV with some brief information about your interests, hobbies or passions you have outside of work. These inclusions tell the recruiter something about you as a person. 

For instance, if you love reading, list a couple of books that have positively impacted your life. If exercise is your thing, describe your biggest sporting achievement. Don’t be generic—try to show what makes you the person you are. 

LinkedIn and social media

Once your CV is complete and you’re ready to start your job search, I strongly recommend creating or updating your LinkedIn profile and including the link in your CV. 

Globally acknowledged as the go-to source for professional networking, LinkedIn is essentially your digital resume. It’s a great way to build and engage with your professional network and the LinkedIn job board is a good source of job opportunities.

Finally, it’s important to ensure that your personal social media is either carefully managed or set to private mode. Reviewing a person’s social media activity is now a standard part of many companies’ candidate selection process. 

Take the next steps

As well as applying for advertised positions, don’t be afraid to knock on doors. As a recruiter, I value candidates who initiate contact with me. It shows motivation and tells me that the person is a self-starter.

The same applies to your finances. Please don’t hesitate to speak with one of our money coaches about your current financial situation or future goals. Our team is committed to making tough times easier and our door is always open!


Read more about COVID-19 financial relief, download a budget template, discover how MyBudget works, sign up for money tips on the MyBudget Blog or follow MyBudget on Facebook.


About our guest blogger

Paul Southgate is head of people and performance at MyBudget. He has a long career in the fintech industry, specialising in recruitment, human resource management and developing top-performing people and cultures. His professional mission is to create transformative environments that attract and retain talent, while building teams that are truly passionate about changing people’s lives.

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