This is a guest post from former SLLG Convenor, Alison Wainwright, reviewing a recent CV-writing webinar organised by CILIP. After being made redundant from her post of legal Research and Information Manager, Alison has launched a web content/copywriting, CV writing and proofreading service, Dipitus.
Earlier this month, CILIP partnered with the CV & Interview Advisors (CVIA) to host a webinar on Advanced CV Writing for Experienced Professionals. As I’ve recently been made redundant, I signed up for this session to ensure my existing skills from recent qualifications and experience as a recruiter were up to date. As with all training, there’s always something new to learn, and for me the mention of the applicant tracking systems was of most value, triggering further research into the area (these don’t just track application progress, they are used by 40% of employers to screen applicants, sometimes incorrectly)!
The CVIA hosts several such free webinars, using the same presentation but rebranding the slides. For CILIP they also used examples for librarians in the case studies. In return the CVIA hopes to acquire new customers by offering attendees a discount on its relevant services. [Note: discount may not apply at time of publication.]
The presenter was very natural and friendly and whilst an appropriate amount of plugging the services was made, there was definitely no pressure to buy. Sessions run to about an hour and twenty minutes (including attendees’ questions at the end). Some points were laboured making it frustratingly slow at times. However, the webinar contained a lot of useful tips so it’s well worth signing up for any future sessions if you want to make sure your LinkedIn profile or ‘just in case’ CV is up to date with modern practices and technology. If you want to save time, here is a much shorter summary of the CVIA presentation.
Make sure you target your application to your audience – initial screening is usually performed by junior HR members or even an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) before your application is even seen by the hiring manager. They are looking for your use of all of the exact keywords in the job description.
Tailor your CV to every position applied for.
A business case, not a list
Ensure you aren’t just providing a list of jobs and qualifications. Think of yourself as pitching for a six-figure investment sum in Dragons’ Den (ie a salary of £25k over 4 years, plus other employment costs) and present a compelling business case as to why the recruiter should interview you.
An effective first-page structure to create your business case is:
- Profile/summary. Use this to make sure you stand out from the other applicants. State what you are good at, what your core value proposition is, and align yourself to the current hot skills in your market.
- Key skills/areas of expertise. Bullet point all the core technical and functional skills required for the role (not personal attributes – more on this later) in 2, 3 or 4-word statements.
- Career highlights. Three of the best examples from your past that show your experience and ability for this role. Use the STAR method to ensure they are quantifiable (introduce the Situation, the Task required, your Actions, and your Result). Put them in order of best example first, not chronologically. They can be from any time period but avoid citing dates if they are older examples.
- Career history/recent experience (last 8-10 years).
- Briefly cover background, duties, responsibilities, and achievements.
- Ensure you don’t have any date gaps. Include entries that explain gaps, ideally adding anything you can to bridge any skills gap eg voluntary work with relevant or transferable skills, training or self-study.
- If you are currently in a similar role to the one you’re applying for but your job title doesn’t match, or particularly if it’s not clear from your title what you do, you can change it.
- If you aren’t in a similar role, it’s important to put your career history on the second page so that you can sell yourself on the first page with your transferable skills and relevant experience, rather than being dismissed because you’re ‘not the right fit’.
- Earlier career. One line for each role.
- Education/qualifications/professional development. Not every training course you’ve ever been on; only those that are relevant to the post applied for.
- Contact details
- Recommendations/testimonials. It’s good to include strong, relevant testimonial evidence rather than ‘references on request’ but ensure you have permission to use the referees’ details in each instance to cover you for GDPR.
Don’t include personal/soft/behavioural skills which you can’t demonstrate in your CV, eg conscientious, hard working, analytical etc. Many people open their application with what they think are strong statements about their personal attributes. As everyone says the same thing, they actually make candidates hard to distinguish from one another, and as the recruiter isn’t interested in these skills, they usually don’t even read as far as the candidate’s technical suitability for the job before throwing the CV on the reject pile.
Even if the recruiter requires these skills in the person specification, there is no way of demonstrating you possess them on a CV. You will be judged on them at interview at the earliest, and thereafter during the probation period. Sections headed by the word ‘personal’ will be omitted by an ATS.
Don’t include hobbies unless they help to demonstrate essential skills or experience listed in the job spec.
CVIA advised not worry too much about length, at least for ATS purposes, but it is customary in the UK to limit your CV to two pages. Academic CVs tend to be the exception.
Your cover letter shouldn’t stand alone – always ensure any key content is in the CV as they will become detached.
Again, use this to sell yourself.
85% of recruiters will look at you on LinkedIn before inviting you for interview so an effective presence on the platform is crucial. Your profile should be broader and less detailed than your CV. The bit of text under your name (‘headline’) is key so it has to be compelling. The order of skills on your profile matters so put your key skill(s) at the top. Also, who has endorsed you matters; they should have the same skills and be at a higher level.
For more information on the implications of applicant tracking systems for your CV, and other tips on how to write a winning CV, please see my recent blog.
With a free initial review and her insider knowledge of our industry, Alison is offering a basic CV creation at the discounted price of £35. She is also holding a prize draw to win a keg of Wainwright’s Golden Ale for quoting your favourite word on Dipitus’s Facebook post by 28 July.