How to make your CV stand out
Category: Personal Branding Strategies Comments: One Comment 0

Make Your CV Stand Out With These Top 5 Tips

Your CV is often the gateway to landing your next exciting role. Think of it as your own personal sales brochure. If you’ve been applying for loads of jobs but not getting any reply, then there’s a huge chance your CV is the bottle neck. Here’s a list of my 5 top techniques to make your CV stand out from the rest.

1. Make Your CV Stand Out With a Clear Opening Statement

The first page of your CV is crucial when it comes to making an impact. In fact the top third to half of the first page is really the ‘sweetspot’ when it comes to your CV. The very top of the page is reserved for your name and contact details (don’t forget to include your LinkedIn address here too). The next section needs to be your personal summary and this is where you get to make a bold impact. Your summary needs to be sharp, snappy and to the point and should convey the following information:

  • Who and what you are.
  • What you do and how long you have been doing it.
  • Your top 3 skills (relevant to the job application).
  • The value you can bring to a company.
  • Ideally you want to have 2-3 short paragraphs in this section.


2. Make Your CV Stand Out By Avoiding The Fast Food Skills

Too often CVs are cliche-ridden to the point where they lose all impact and meaning, especially in the personal summary and core skills sections. Below is a list of the most common cliched phrases and skills:

  • A ‘can-do’ attitude
  • Results-Focused or Results-Orientated
  • Ability to prioritise
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Dynamic
  • Ability to ‘Think Outside the Box’
  • Can work in a team or autonomously
  • Team orientated or team player
  • Attention to detail
  • Work in a fast-paced and pressured environment
  • Problem solver


I call these the ‘Fast Food Skills’ as they are pretty much the same skills you need to have to work in a fast food restaurant. Not that there is anything wrong with woking in one mind you but if you are not planning a career in speedy meals, then you need to up your game when talking about your skills and strengths.

You see, what most people don’t realise, is that they are so much more than the skills listed above but it is as if someone, somewhere along the track said that a CV MUST have all those skills and phrases. In other words, avoid using these phrases if you really want your CV to stand out.

When it comes to listing your core skills, make sure they are industry specific and relate to the job you are applying for. Use the job advert or job description as a guide and if you don’t have those, then do a search on the job board for the type of role you want and look at the skills they require. If you have those skills, then list them.


3. Make Your CV Stand Out By Using a Logical Order

Because recruiters and hiring managers scan CVs (and not always read them word for word), they need to be able to quickly ascertain whether your CV has the right skills and experience they are looking for as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to set your CV out in the following order:

  • Name & Contact Details
  • Core Skills and Strengths (in bullet format)
  • Professional History/Career History
  • Education
  • Interests (optional but make sure you give some interesting detail here and not just one word descriptors e.g. cricket)
  • References – if you are only going to say, ‘Available on Request’ then leave this section out. If you are going to include references then list the name of the person, company where you worked with them, their position and email or phone number). It is a good idea to have at least 2 people listed and they must be people you reported to.


4. Use The Right Language

This is a the area that most people get tripped up on as they use the wrong language in their CV. By language, I mean the language of that particular industry. If you are applying for a role that is a step up from your current role, then you need to be using the language of that role and not the role you are currently in. The same goes for a transition into a new industry. You need to be using the language that would be typically used in that new industry. For example, if you worked in banking and finance and you recently re-skilled into a completely new area such as software development, then you need to be talking the language of a software developer and not of someone in banking.

Remember the recruiter is looking to match phrases and terminology relevant to the industry/role they are looking to fill and so their brains are trying to tick the boxes in those 10-15 seconds to see if you have what they are looking for. This is why you need to be using the right industry language in the personal summary and skills section.


5. Use Optimised Formatting and Spacing

If you want your CV to stand out from the rest of the applicants then you need to pay special attention to the format, style and layout of the CV. If your CV is a just a mass of black text on a page with little white space, then it becomes very hard to read, let alone scan, so try to set your CV up so that is can easily be scanned from the left of the page to the right and then down. See how your eye tracks along when proofreading it. It should be easy to read and not too much of a strain on the eye.

Use a maximum of 2 fonts on your CV and make sure the text is not all crammed up and that there is a good balance of white space on the page to break it all up. Throw in a bit of subtle colour to make it stand out from the rest of the applicants but don’t go overboard. Envato ( have a great selection of CV templates that can be downloaded and customised to help you stand out. Remember, your CV does not have to be black, white and boring and it could be a nice and refreshing break for a recruiter who has just read 50 badly formatted black and white CVs in the last hour.

All the very best in your job search if you are looking to make a change and here’s to a great 2017.

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