Why you should invest in a professionally-written CV
Most people apply for jobs in the same way. They submit their CV to a job board or to a recruiter.
And because it’s very often a tick-box type exercise (“done that job before, can do it again”, or “got most of those skills, no harm in applying”) not much thought goes into making your CV really stand out. After all, if you’re applying for a number of jobs in this way (and that’s what people typically do), it is too time-consuming to tailor or design your CV each time for the job.
But time and again, companies tell us that they want to see a specific, tailored CV rather than a generic, catch-all one. Companies want evidence that job seekers have researched the role and the company, matched their talents to the requirements, and more often than not, attached a compelling cover letter to the package too. Of course this takes more time and effort, but your CV will probably stand out for the care you’ve put into it.
The problem still remains, though. If you’re applying for an advertised vacancy, you’ll be competing at ever-increasing odds. A tailored CV should get you in the top 10% of applications. But to improve your chances even further, invest in a professionally-written and designed CV.
I’m not talking about the CV companies who will format your CV into the same template they use for everyone else. Those sorts of CVs generally cost from about £45 to £100 (though some, remarkably, cost even more). While your CV will look neat and tidy, it will probably only stand out by virtue of not looking dreadful.
I’m talking about those companies (or writers) who interview you at length, get to know your career goals, understand your strengths – and then weave them into compelling, beautifully-designed and easy-to-read marketing documents. (Which, essentially, is what a CV is.)
These CVs break the rules. They include graphics, photos, splashes of colour and other design elements. They are often more than two pages long. They exude confidence, promise and give the hiring manager no choice but to pick up the phone to set up a meeting. They’ll cost you more than £100, but they’ll cut your job search in half.
These are not CVs that you’ll typically upload onto job boards. They’re unlikely to work with ATS software. They’re far better for in-person meetings – when you have been able to network in – or “warm” prospects – people you have already talked to on the phone, for example.
Here are some of the elements of professionally-written CVs that will make yours stand head and shoulders over the rest. The examples are all from Career Directors International 2012 Resume Winners.
1. Images and visuals
Use graphs to show financial information, such as sales growth. It’s much easier to get over remarkable increases in an image than it is in text. An example here.
You can also use logos, and in an inevitable blurring of LinkedIn and CVs, your photo might not be out of place either. (This is more of an executive biography than a traditional CV, but I expect to see photos being used more frequently.)
You can adopt colours for a branding theme. This CV uses company colours (such as gold) to striking effect.
This one – the cool blues – uses colours for two different effects: for “smart art” or stylised logo to match the applicant’s industry, and then the colour scheme to highlight the applicant’s KPIs.
This one, along with logo and colours, actually looks like a marketing brochure. Stylish, expensive, and completely on-brand.
3. Focus on numbers
You must get your value across, and including metrics and achievements is the obvious way to do it. This CV includes a “success by the numbers” side bar.
4. Keyword rich
Make sure that your wording mirrors what people with hiring authority want to see, as in this example.
5. Speak to your strengths
Focus on what you can offer, not on what you don’t have. These two CVs are written for graduates, lacking much experience. In the first one, the “Qualifications in Action section” shows off on-the-job training, further bolstered by endorsements. It’s also a great example of how to show technical education and skills without using up too much space.
This CV highlights project work.
This one is fun and quirky without losing sight of the target role. Both appropriate and compelling.
While in this one, the interviewer has space to write notes.
7. Tell a story
Almost a magazine format, this CV has “Fast facts” sections.
There’s been quite a lot of reference to modular CVs recently, and this is a lovely example. Three stand-alone pages, with the emphasis 100% on experience and results – you’ll find it hard to find many employment dates. I’d say, though, that it doesn’t really matter as the rest of the information is persuasive enough.
Of course, it stands to reason that all the CVs are beautifully-written, in a lean, concise style, but with the precision of language you’d expect from an expert writer.