How to make your CV more professional
Writing a CV can be a time consuming and challenging process. A carefully written CV can help you receive interview invitations and a brilliant job. However, even a small spelling mistake on your CV may lead to your application being ignored. In the below article, I have highlighted some key tips to help those working in the Further Education (FE) sector improve their CV and land their dream job.
Make it bespoke – I have come across many professionals who submitted generalised CV templates for positions and wondered why they failed to receive job interviews. Recruiters and employers can very easily see if you have not tailored your CV to the position you are applying for. If work in the Further Education sector, you could make your CV bespoke by focusing on your relevant experience, skills and knowledge in education.
Think about what could make your application stand out from the crowd. Look at the job description carefully and try to come up with up to 3 experiences which add significant value to your application. It might be the number of years you have worked in the FE sector or your career progression within the sector. You may have worked in a similar role before and a natural progression would be the job you are applying for.
Start with your CV profile statement, which is the top section of your CV summarising your most relevant experience in a few sentences. Do make sure that you carefully align your summary to the application criteria of the vacancy. Do try to be specific, clear and include numbers instead of generalised expressions. Here is an example:
‘I have many years of experience in the education sector and I have completed a university degree.’ - Generalised
‘A graduate professional with over 10 years’ experience in the UK Further Education sector.’ - This is more specific as you have indicated the number of years.
Carefully structure it – Grammatical, spelling and punctuation mistakes are easy to make and they could lead to your CV being rejected in a few seconds. Do avoid broad expressions and buzzwords such as ‘always’, ‘many’, ‘extensive’, ‘hard working’, ‘team player’ or ‘self-motivated’.
Do make sure that you ask a friend to proofread your file before submitting it. For most positions, your CV should be no more than 2 pages in length. You might find it helpful to decrease your page margins as you will be able to provide more content. It is an excellent idea to include 5-6 bullet points to describe your responsibilities in each of your previous jobs.
Paying attention to the small details is important. Make sure that you name your file using your full name (e.g. Sue_Smith_CV). Do save it as an easily accessible file such as PDF. This will ensure that the recipient will be able to open it without difficulties. In most cases, your potential employer will be communicating to you via e-mail with regards to the status of your application. If you do not have an e-mail address which looks professional, you might like to set one up for application purposes. It is best not to include a photo in your application files (unless they specifically ask for this).
Try to look at your CV from the reader’s perspective. Does your file seem overcrowded with information? Are there lots of blank spaces in the page? Have you used too much formatting such as bold, italics or underlining? It is best to avoid coloured or unusual fonts. Do use standard font types such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri and select a size between 10 and 12.
Use action verbs – Using action verbs can help you describe your responsibilities in a convincing manner. Here is a list of action verbs which you could use:
Achieved, managed, led, supervised, coordinated, trained, presented, produced, researched, improved, resolved, maintained, networked, negotiated, mentored, coached, communicated, collaborated, developed, maintained, initiated
If you are applying for a management or leadership position within the FE sector, you could use action verbs related to managing projects, budgets or people. For example:
- Led a team of 5 support staff members within the department
- Managed a budget in excess of £50,000 per annum
- Coordinated 3 long term projects with external partners
For support roles, you could choose action verbs relevant to the nature of the role. For example:
- Trained new administrative staff members
- Accurately maintained the departmental databases
- Communicated with students and staff from a wide range of professional geographical and cultural backgrounds
Provide valuable content – One of the best ways to add more valuable content to your CV is via providing more diverse and relevant skills. If you have been unsuccessful in your recent applications, you might find it helpful to gain some more professional experience. Those looking to step into leadership positions could enhance their CV by taking on more senior responsibilities in their current position and deputising for seniors. For administrative roles, you could seek out not-for-profit organisations who need volunteers in customer support or administration. If you are looking to take up teaching, do consider mentoring or coaching young people.
Prioritise effectively – Recruiters tend to look at your work experience and your qualifications first. If you are applying for a FE teaching position, you might like to prioritise your previous academic studies and place the list of your completed courses towards the top of your CV. Using bold formatting can be helpful with highlighting key information such as the names of employers or job titles. When listing your current or previous responsibilities in bullet points, you could include the most relevant points at the top of your list. Make sure that you look carefully at the job description and the criteria to help you prioritise.
Polishing your CV might be a time consuming task however the benefits will be well worth it. Do invest the time and the effort to make a few improvements. It could really help you step into a new exciting position.