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Your CV: one size doesn’t fit all

Graduates often ask the Graduate Team whether it’s best they tailor their CVs to suit a particular role they’re applying to, or if it’s OK to repeatedly use one general CV when applying to a variety of roles. After a conversation with a client last week, who was of the opinion that, because a candidate’s particular research experience wasn’t detailed in her CV it ‘couldn’t be all that good’, the importance of adapting relevant experience to suit a job application was really brought home to me. Clients can see a CV, rightly or wrongly, as the candidates’ last word on their suitability for a particular role, or (as my colleague so very well put) ‘some sort of mystic litmus test’ in itself, so it really is worth getting it right. My advice to candidates actively seeking jobs - don’t be afraid to use the language of the job spec in your CV to get those boxes ticked where you do have relevant experience.

Aside from perfecting its content, how else can you improve your CV? Presentation is essential. A candidate wearing a smart suit and looking neat and tidy will make a good first impression. Similarly, an attractive and professional looking CV will stand out from the rest at first instance. Keep it short – two pages at the most. If your CV runs over this, chances are it contains material irrelevant to role you are applying for or there are too many gaps and spaces in your formatting. Avoid lengthy prose - three or four sharp dot points outlining the key responsibilities you had in each job are most effective (and will be more likely fully read over rather than skim read). Always keep the format of your CV consistent – if you’re going to bold relevant dates, do so throughout the entire document (don’t suddenly start underlining some dates and italicising others).

Improve your skill set so that you stand out from other candidates you are up against. If you consider yourself an intermediate Excel user, why not spend some time learning some new skills and boost yourself to an advanced level? There are plenty of free online tutorials, and even Youtube videos that will teach you to skills such as pivot tables and modelling. If you were at one stage business fluent in a language but now consider yourself a bit rusty – brush up! I often find myself struggling to find linguists who are commercially fluent in more than one language.

Considering the number of applicants competing for jobs in this current market, you want your CV to catch the reader’s eye (I often find myself looking over about 40 – 50 applications per job vacancy). Think of it as a personal sales pitch clearly evidencing the experience the employer is looking for, rather than a biography detailing every bit of professional experience you’ve had since primary school.

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Hannah hails from Perth, Western Australia