17 Experts answer, ‘What makes a great CV?’ including Lou Adler’s thought provoking idea

caroline odonnell
Matt Dodgson
By Matt Dodgson
Matt is a Sales & Marketing Director. Being an inbound nerd, he's often found creating content that helps job seekers and hiring managers achieve their goals.

Whether you’re looking for a new marketing job or any job for that matter, in today’s job market you need a CV that achieves what it’s there to do. To get you a first round interview.

So what makes a great CV?

Well at Market Recruitment where we specialise in b2b marketing recruitment we have our own thoughts. But, instead of those, we thought we’d ask some of the UK’s leading CV and marketing experts to get their ideas instead.

[Marketing experts? Eh?]

Yes marketing experts too. A CV in many ways is a classic sales letter or direct marketing piece, so content and words are crucial. And that’s a marketers bread and butter.

First though, be honest with yourself, how much time do you spend on your CV?

Think about it. You’ll spend 35-40 hours a week in a job so you want to ensure you get the BEST job, and not just another job. Work is a massive investment of your time and life so we’d highly recommend you spend a good few hours on creating a great CV. Or if you’d like a professional to do it, get an expert to craft one for you instead.

Yes it might cost you a few quid but it could result in a job paying you £5k more than you expected.

How many fantastic marketing jobs are you losing out on because your CV isn’t reflecting your true ability? Is your CV making these 5 mistakes that are costing you interviews. 

So let’s hear what our experts say makes a great CV;

OUR MARKETING GURU’S

LOZ JAMES- CONTENT CHAMPION@CONTENTCHAMPION

loz_james"One thing I would definitely warn against would be sending out generic CV’s without tailoring your experience to meet the specific job role.

I’ve received many CV’s for writing positions over the years - and the candidates who take the time to customise their work history and skillsets to the job spec are always first to go on to the next stage.

This is a relatively straightforward thing to do - whether it’s a bespoke personal statement or picking out relevant experiences from each previous position to align your skills with the job for which you’re applying - it always stands out to potential employers if you’ve made the effort to tailor your CV to the advertised position.

If this sounds obvious then think how many times you may have just ‘fired off a few CV’s’ without taking the time to do this. Did you get an interview?"

Loz James is the founder of Content Champion, the content marketing training resource for small business owners, solopreneurs and in-house creatives.

IAN BRODIE - MARKETING SPEAKER & AUTHOR | @IANBRODIE

ian_brodie-150x150

  1. "Make the cover letter client focused. Rather than jumping in to your achievements and strengths, first think through what the employer needs and the end results and outcomes they’re looking for from hiring someone. Then in the cover letter tell them how you’re uniquely qualified to help them achieve those results and outcomes. You’ll have some of this from the job spec and you should be able to extrapolate to why they’re looking for someone. You may be also able to speak to them to find out more about their priorities, or even get some insiderinformation from people who know the organisation (it’s amazing how many relevant contacts you have if you look around linkedin). Worst case, you can use publicly available information to check out the overall mission, goals, challenges and recent events for the organisation.
  2. Grab the reader’s attention at the start with a headline/subject line that highlights the main benefit (to them) of hiring you.
  3. Write your cover letter like you would speak to them if you were already part of the team. Be respectful, but don’t be too stiff and formal. If the writing style sounds like someone who feels part of their team then it can only help."

Ian Brodie is a marketing speaker and author. You can read his strategies to generate leads and authority on his personal site Ian Brodie.

 

OUR CV EXPERTS

MATT CRAVEN - MD OF CV & INTERVIEW ADVISORS@MATT_CRAVEN

matt_craven-150x150"For me it’s all about transforming your CV from an old fashioned list of duties and responsibilities into more of a business case that explains why someone should hire you; pushing outcomes and achievements and the business benefits that you have delivered, using tangible and measurable outcomes linked to the KPIs that exist in your profession / job area. I recommend incorporating case studies written in STAR (Situation, Task, Actions and Result), which are no more than 6 lines long that walk the hiring manger through the biggest and most impressive pieces of work that you have delivered. Three case studies on page one work a treat but only if they are well written, relevant and if they push a positive outcome that is relevant to the target role. Failing that, make sure the Career History is packed full of achievements and outcomes.

When I review CVs, my first questions is usually “how can I tell that you are good at your job from reading your CV” – this tends to be a light bulb moment when people realise that the recruiter / hiring manager isn’t going to find out that they are good at their job from using telepathy or some kind of osmotic force. The bottom line is if the CV doesn’t tell the reader that you are good at your job (by providing real-life evidence) then how will they know!!"

Matt Craven is the MD of CV & Interview Advisors which provide professional CV Writing, Interview Coaching and Outplacement services across the UK.

SAM WATERFALL - FOUNDER OF OBVIOUS CANDIDATE & PERSONAL BRANDING EXPERT | @SAM_WATERFALL

Sam-Waterfall-150x150"1) Always include a professional headline on your CV. Make sure this both sums up your experience as well as positioning you for the role to which you are applying. Don't waste time with titles like "Curriculum Vitae" or "Profile" - use that prime space for your professional headline.

2) Always tailor your CV for every application. Never send a generic CV. That isn't good enough for anyone. If you're interested in a role, take time to understand what they want. Then frame your experience in the context of their ideal candidate. This is basic marketing. Failing to listen and tailor your message is why most candidates' searches go on too long."

Sam is the founder of Obvious Candidate, who help position you for the best roles. For more advice and information on accelerating job searches check out Obvious Candidate's website.

STEVEN GREEN - CV & INTERVIEW GURU | @CVINTERVIEWGURU

Steven_Green-150x150"Candidates should:
  • Detail 5 or 6 results-orientated achievements and list these in a 'Career Highlights' section, making sure that these are relevant for the job or job sector the CV is being aimed at.
  • Start all sentences with a blend of different action works such as initiated, designed, devised, developed, implemented to ensure the CV has punch and power.
  • Include a keyword section listing the top 8 or 9 areas of real expertise, aligning this to the job criteria listed for the job or job sector in question"
Steven is an accredited MCIPD executive coach, and co-Founder of the CV & Interview Guru.  You can find out more about their tailored CV writing services at http://www.cvandinterviewguru.co.uk/.

CAROLINE O'DONNELL -  CV WRITER, ADVISOR & CONSULTANT 

Caroline_Odonnell-150x150"In such a competitive recruitment market as we find today, where every vacancy is being inundated with numerous applicants, making your CV stand out from the crowd has never been so important. When you are applying for a position, it is no longer enough to have the right experience and qualifications for the role – if you don’t have the right CV to impress the hiring manager you unfortunately won’t even make it to the interview stage!

Everyone knows the basics of what general mistakes to look out for - accuracy, spelling and grammar - but there are so many other important elements that will help your CV stand out from the crowd, and get you through the selection process to the interview stage. So what are the fundamentals that you need to focus on?

  1. Tailor your CV for different jobs – This is really important and often overlooked. Whilst you should have formed a generic CV as a base, each application should be tailored for the role in which you are applying.
  2. Get the basics correct – every CV is different, just like every person is different and that is normal. What is important is to get the basics right. Things to ensure you include are – name and contact info; personal summary; education and qualifications; work history and experience; other skills and/or hobbies
  3. Presentation – this is key. Remember your CV is provided with the purpose of securing you an interview with the company / job in question. You need to present your CV in a professional manner, the layout should be easy to read and formatted correctly, and should make the person want to read it!
  4. Negative and Positive Language – Ensure you stay away from words with a negative connotation such as “quit, punished, argue, aggressive, failure” and instead focus on positives such as “delivered, achieved, mentored, surpassed, promoted”
  5. Demonstrate your achievements – ensure you back up your achievements in a tangible way and give clear concise figures and explanations where you can.
  6. Never lie – it’s amazing how often people still try to embellish a CV. Don’t include anything on your CV that you cannot back up and is not 100% accurate. Remember employers will check with your referees, conduct background checks, verify education certificates, and also generally probe you at an interview - so make sure you have accurately described your accomplishments.
  7. Review, review, review – it is easy to make a simply mistake on a CV, and it could be that one mistake that stops you from landing your dream job. Review your completed CV numerous times, then take a break and review it again! Also have friends and family scan it for a second opinion.

And remember that a CV is not going to secure you a new role all by itself. What a good quality written CV will provide, is to make the difference between being asked along to interview for that dream job or not. It’s there to open doors, not close them. Take your time, don’t rush the process, and if needed then consult with a Professional CV Writer who will be able to advise. It may just be that key thing to help you get one step ahead in your career."

Caroline helps to elevate people's careers to new heights with her CV & LinkedIn profile advice.  Find out more and connect on LinkedIn.

DAWN MOSS - INTERVIEW COACH & AUTHOR  | @INTERVIEWCOACHD

dawn_moss-150x150"It’s a highly competitive and challenging labour market and with the ever increasing demands and pressures on businesses, advancements in technology and constantly changing regulations this situation won’t be going away any time soon. Due to a very lengthy recession and very few career opportunities we are seeing evidence of a dramatic increase in the number of candidates now looking for a new job. CV Library recently quoted 7.7 million UK workers will be looking for a new job this year. So it’s essential that your CV stands out from the hundreds of others applying for the same job.

Hiring managers today want to be confident they are recruiting a highly competent individual and want to see evidence of how they have accomplished objectives. One of the most important pieces of information candidates often miss on their CV is their specific achievements and instead tend to write a list of tasks and duties. Achievements need to be written in such a way that demonstrates you are results driven and commercially aware, i.e. reduced operational costs, increased sales and profitability, identified new revenue channels, automated systems and saved time, retained customers or streamlined processes.

Avoid using the tired, dated and overused generic statements or just listing behavioural competencies “Hard working individual” “Highly Organised” “Good communicator” or “Ability to work as part of a team and individually”. Instead consider including evidence of how you have applied these competencies or skills. For example: ‘Excellent analytical skills’ would be much more effective written like this, “Excellent analytical skills with experience of presenting complex financial data to enable senior managers to make quality decisions.”

Dawn's an interview coach and author of 'Get the Interview & Get the Job!; Inside secrets from an In-House Recruiters!' Available on Amazon.

DEBRA MILLS  - PRO CV@DEBRAMILLS

debra_mills"A great CV is an honest reflection of the value you offer an organisation. It summarises your skills, highlights your achievements, and alludes to your good character. Optimisation for keywords and phrases is essential because a good match to the target job description will attract attention from both the unforgiving applicant tracking system and the eager-to-be-impressed human reader.

To satisfy both computer and recruiter, the great CV does not contain obstacles to readability. Although pleasing to the eye, text within headers, footers, columns, tables, and boxes could be invisible to software. However, a moderate number of bullets, borders, emboldened and italic text, and spot colour, will achieve style greatness without compromise."

Debra Mills is a professional resume writer and founder of Pro CV. You can find out more about her CV writing & editing services at www.pro-cv.co.uk.

LAUREN FORD -EXECUTIVE CV WRITER / CONSULTANT - ‎CITY CV LTD

Lauren_Ford-150x150"A good CV is utterly focused on its subject's target role. It understands that role's deliverables and measures of performance, and gives the reader a clear and succinct snapshot of how similar deliverables have been met in previous roles - and what the resulting business impact has been."

Find out more about her CV writing and interview coaching check out Lauren on LinkedIn.

 

IAN VINER - CV WRITING

Ian_Viner-150x150"Always meet your CV Writer in person and spend quality time with them drawing out your key skills and achievements"

Ian uses over 30 years of management experience to help people with their job search and even help cope with redundancy. Find out more about Ian and his CV writing services on CV Writing

HELGA EDGE - ‎LINKEDIN™ CV RÉSUMÉ BIO WRITER

Helga_Edge-150x150"Include added value achievements with evidence"

Helga Edge own A Perfect CV, which provides job and career change expertise to global clients from offices in England and Spain. From graduates to directors, see how A Perfect CV could help you with your LinkedIn profile.

LIS MCGUIRE - GIRAFFE CVS@GIRAFFECVS

lis_mcguire-150x150"Make sure that your CV is dressed for the job you want, not the one you have. Use your CV to show how you are ready for your desired next step, how everything you have accomplished, the skills you have acquired and the results you have achieved have led you to here and now. Use your CV profile to clearly explain how you can leverage your insight and experience to meet your target employer’s needs."

 

Lis McGuire founded Giraffe CVs which offers personalised CV writing services. Find out more at http://www.giraffecvs.co.uk/

 

HELEN SANDERS | RECRUITMENT STRATEGIC PARTNER & COACH | @WT_HELEN

helen_sanders-150x150"Your CV shows off all your sales and marketing skills which you've developed so well over the past 5 years. And you're looking for a new role in marketing. It's all very well having a CV which outlines your career but if it's not relevant to the marketing roles you're targeting, then it's irrelevant. The CV you need for marketing roles needs to be marketing through and through. You risk putting hiring managers and recruiters off if you try to show your sales skills alongside the marketing experience. They may think you're too sales-y and not take a second glance at your CV. Look at the job advert and make your CV relevant. If the marketing role you're after is in pharma or the digital space, then make sure your CV clearly shows exactly what your relevant experience and skills are in marketing in pharma or digital marketing. With so many candidates firing their CVs off to recruiters and in response to job adverts, make your CV relevant or risk it being filed on the pile."
 
Helen Sanders is the managing director of Wingrove Taylor, a recruitment agency based in Bristol. http://wingrovetailored.com/

 

MEG MURPHY | RED CV WRITING | @MEGATRED

Meg_Murphy-150x150"There are so many elements to a CV, which all contribute to making it great but overall it needs to tell a story. It starts with a powerful introduction summarizing experience and skills, and then reinforces that with a solid career history. What I believe makes a CV really great, is quantifiable and unique achievements. This adds proof to the claims made earlier and really wows the reader. To add a little personality, voluntary roles, community work and fundraising activities can be included. It goes without saying that it must be clearly and professionally formatted with no spelling or grammatical errors. It must also be concise, there is no room for unnecessary words in a CV."
 
Meg's the founder of Red Recruitment and provides CV writing services with Red CV Writing.  Find out more at redcvwriting.co.uk

 

LYNN RATTIGAN |  THE CV WRITING SERVICE

Lynn_Rattigan-150x150"Your CV is a marketing tool and a great CV will showcase your own skills and experience in a succinct and balanced way. Like any good marketing document, your CV should also focus on the consumer, and what benefits they will get by choosing you. You would never market a product or service without making it really clear what the consumer is going to get, so always provide hard evidence to back up your claims."
 
Lynn owns The CV Writing Service that offers professional CV writing services.  Find out more at http://www.thecvwritingservice.co.uk.

 

AMECHI UDO | CAREER CHANGE COACH | @BIZCOACHAMECHI

amechi_udo"As a former recruiter and HR Manager there is one thing above all else that make's a CV great, even above accurate spelling; correct use of grammar; being error free; well formatted; relevant, tailored content, with a clear narrative covering your work experience; and clearly visible contact details that work (and a possible access to the best of your social media presence to boot). Above all this I would say comes timeliness. A CV that arrives at the moment when a company is facing the exact problem your precious CV holds the answer to is the moment that hard work meets opportunity. In times gone by such instances of timeliness were put down to chance, luck or fortune. However, in an era of personal branding, social media based job search techniques and data driven recruitment, more and more job seekers like you are making career changes because of the timeliness of the arrival of their CV.
 
It’s time for you to start getting noticed at the right time by the company you want to work with!" Amechi Udo is a Career Change Strategist a career path inspired by having to re-direct his own career when, at 29, he unexpectedly found himself with no job, home or clear career plan. Within two weeks he had a roof over his head, was earning more money than he had ever done before and, had embarked on a rewarding career path that used all his knowledge, talents and abilities to their fullest by helping other professional people and organisations to do the same. Amechi can be reached at YourCareerMatters.co.uk

 

AND THE THOUGHT PROVOKING IDEA...

LOU ADLER | CEO THE ADLER GROUP & AUTHOR | 

Lou_Adler-150x150"Don't send it. Instead write up a 1-2 paragraph summary of something you've done that the company needs done and send it to the hiring manager or the VP of the department. The CV, unless it's perfect, will not get read by the technosystems. This is one of 10 backdoor techniques candidates need to use to get an interview. When someone in HR invites you to be interviewed - at the request of the hiring manager - you can send them your CV."
 
Lou Adler is the Founder of The Adler Group which are specialists in performance based hiring. Find out more about The Adler Group at http://louadlergroup.com/.  You can also purchase his must read book; The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired: (Performance-based Hiring Series) on Amazon.

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