Top 7 CV improvements - UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Your CV is your most important tool for landing your dream job, but is yours letting you down? Here are our top 7 CV improvements to help you take your CV from average to amazing!

1. Keep it short & sweet

Advice regarding CV length varies between countries, industries, and jobs.

For example, the University of Adelaide College recommends:

  • Limiting your CV to one page if you are in the US or Europe, regardless of the role you are applying for.
  • Limiting your CV to two or three pages if you are in Australia – a figure which is backed up by Indeed.

SEEK elaborates on this topic further - they suggest:

  • Keeping your CV to one to two pages if you have less than 10 years of professional experience.
  • Having a longer CV, that is three pages or more, if you are a senior applicant or in academia.

Ultimately, there is no strict rule for CV length, so you should use your discretion to decide what length is most suitable for you. Think about the person reading it - with fifty other applications to go through, they will likely lose interest if there is too much information. Your CV needs to be clear, concise, and memorable - a good rule of thumb is to keep it short enough that the hiring manager can easily digest the key information.

Top 7 CV improvements | Keep it short & sweet

Professional photo

On your front page, include a professional photo of yourself to personalise your application. See section 4 for details.

Suburb

Employers want to get an idea of where you are located relative to their office, so there’s no need to list your full address. A suburb and a postcode are sufficient.

Contact information

Your contact details are a crucial element of your CV, as they allow the recruiter to reach out to you if they are interested in your application. As such, you should put this information somewhere obvious (not hidden in a header or footer).

LinkedIn profile

With digital technology continuously growing, most people are now on LinkedIn. This is a great platform for professional networking, and it's worth including a link to your profile on your CV, as recruiters often look you up on LinkedIn before reading your CV.

LinkedIn allows you to customise your URL. Ideally, your URL should just be your name or your name with a number if it is taken. This looks much cleaner and more professional on your CV compared to the default jumble of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Top 7 CV improvements | Example of the information to be included in the contact section of your CV

Example of the information to be included in the contact section of your CV.

Profile 

Include a brief paragraph about your career objectives. For example, “Driven sales professional with a proven record of achievements. Currently seeking permanent full-time employment with a progressive firm within the pharmaceuticals industry.”

Education

Only include education that is relevant to the role you are applying for. Your highest level of education is usually sufficient - employers don't need to know where you went to primary school!

Employment

List your employment history in chronological order, with the most recent at the top. For each company, include a link to their website and/or a brief description, so the recruiter can look up the company to find out more.

Referees

Have your references' contact details available upon request. There is no need to have them in your application unless specifically asked to. The last thing you want is for a recruiter to contact your current employer!

You can check out or blog on managing your references in your CV by clicking the button below.

Top 7 CV improvements | Example of the information to be included in the main section of your CV

Example of the information to be included in the main section of your CV.


2. Formatting matters

A well-formatted CV makes all the difference when reading through applications.

Space is your friend

Recruiters don’t want to see a CV with too much information squished together. As such when formatting your CV, you should:

  • Highlight the entire text of your CV, right click and select "paragraph".
  • Change the value in the green circle to about 1.2 and click "ok".
  • Use the correct page margins – Indeed suggests 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres for optimal readability.

This may seem like a small change, but it will make it much easier for the recruiter to read and skim through your CV.

You should also remember to:

  • Space out information by using headers between sections.
  • Use bullet lists to separate individual statements within a paragraph, as this will draw the recruiter’s focus to important information.
  • Use the correct page margins – Indeed suggests 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres for optimal readability.
Top 7 CV improvements | Space is your friend

Go easy on the colours 

Fancy fonts and bright colours can easily become a distraction – if there are too many shapes or colours, the reader won’t know where to look!

Traditionally, CVs are black and white to show a level of structured professionalism. However, for more creative jobs such as advertising or media roles, it is good to show some colour and creativity in your resume. Just don’t go overboard.

Using a professional and neutral colour for headings is a great way to draw attention to the different sections of your CV.

Simple and easy to read font

Extravagant fonts are completely unnecessary and, like excessive colours, will detract focus from what matters. We recommend using Arial in size 12.

Top 7 CV improvements | Go easy on the colours

3. Proofread & spell check

Recruiters often reject CVs due to incorrect spelling or grammar. A common mistake we come across is ‘Manager’ being misspelt as ‘Manger’. We suggest you ask someone else read over your CV to make sure it is up to scratch.

If you find that you are using the same descriptive words repeatedly, use a thesaurus to help change things up. At 11, we use WordHippo.

Top 7 CV improvements | Proofread & spell check

4. Include a photograph

There is some debate over whether you should include a photo in your CV. At 11, we like it when applicants include a photo of themselves, as it allows us to put a face to a name. It also helps to personalise your application.

If you do decide to include a photo in your CV, Novoresume suggests that you:

  • Wear professional/smart-casual clothes and dress to reflect the company’s culture. 
    For an executive role, wearing a suit in your photo is perfect. For a general business role, business casual is ideal. If the role you are applying for is more specific such as a chef role or a trades role, it may be a good idea to wear the uniform of the profession.
  • Consider hiring a professional photographer.
    Although not necessary, this gives you a variety of high-quality photos to use in various professional settings.
  • Match your CV photo with your LinkedIn profile picture.
    Employers who look you up on LinkedIn will quickly recognise your personal brand.
  • Don’t use a selfie.
    Have someone else take the photo for you or set your phone up on a tripod. The front camera compresses images, so it is best to use the back camera to take photos.
  • Keep yourself and your background neutral.
    Don’t try and make any fashion statements with crazy hair and makeup. Also, make sure the background isn’t distracting. Taking a photo against a plain coloured wall is ideal.
  • Don’t make your photo too big.
    The photo isn’t the star of the CV – you don’t want to distract the reader from skills and experience. A passport-sized image in the top corner is enough.  
Top 7 CV improvements | This is not an appropriate picture

This is not an appropriate picture for a CV. This kind of photo may show your personality but it is not appropriate for a work related image. A cropped group photo is also not appropriate.

Top 7 CV improvements | It is not appropriate for a CV

A selfie with a distracting background might look nice but it is not appropriate for a CV.

Top 7 CV improvements | This is an appropriate photo

This is an appropriate photo. The background is plain and doesn't detract focus from the person's face. The clothes are also business casual and are suitable for a variety of roles.


5. Tailor your CV

Tailor your CV with your prospective employer in mind. You want to demonstrate how they will benefit by hiring you instead of someone else.

Focus on matching your skills and experience to the selection criteria or requirements they have listed in the job advertisement.

For example, if a job ad lists the criteria of "demonstrated ability to regularly achieve sales KPIs", you might state "consistently achieved monthly sales targets, with a customer retention rate of 80%, and 20% new business each month" in your CV.

 When writing applications, you should also write a tailored cover letter as opposed to a generic one. You can read more about how to write great cover letters by clicking the button below.
Top 7 CV improvements | Tailor your CV

6. Position yourself

Play to your strengths and put the important information first. Work experience should be in reverse chronological order, as your most recent employment is most probably your most relevant. You should also include all your achievements and accomplishments.

Top 7 CV improvements | Position yourself

7. Be specific & quantify

A proven record with percentage figures and targets will attract attention, so make sure you quantify your skills and accomplishments.


8. Five critical CV don'ts

Don't lie

The truth will always come out, whether it’s through reference checks, mutual acquaintances, or a slip of the tongue further down the track. Be honest about your reasons for leaving, employment gaps, and achievements.

Use a professional email address

Don't use your childhood email - an address like [email protected] will not make a good first impression. Use an email address that is simple and professional.

Don't include certain details

Leave out any information that could be used to discriminate against you. It is illegal for employers to ask about your age, marital status, religion, sexual preference and nationality in Australia. These details do not impact your ability to do the job, and therefore do not need to be included in your CV. Stick to the basic personal information of just your name and contact details.

Don't include referee details

The purpose of your resume is to secure you an interview. Referees do not contribute to this and should come later in the process.

Don't leave unexplained gaps

Include dates on all jobs and explain any gaps in employment. Leaving dates out may suggest you have something to hide.

Top 7 CV improvements | Five critical CV don'ts


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