When it comes to putting your Curriculum Vitae together, cheap CV writer software can be a tempting option. It is useful especially if you are not a word processing genius.

One of the dangers though is with most people using it there is a certain sameness about the layout of much of the software. You run the risk of your CV sitting in a pile of applications and looking a bit like processed cheese  – hard to tell one block from another and a bit bland. Find someone to help with the word processing if  you if think your skills aren’t up to it.

For such an important document it is scary how little (or how much) is included by many applicants in their CV. Our CV is supposed to be a masterly presentation of all we have achieved and experienced in our life to date. It’s the proof to back up the dynamic covering letter that has already grabbed a recruiter’s attention.  If we get it right (assuming our experience and skills match the job requirements) then the ‘yes’ pile is ours for the making. 

Tip #1 Tailor your CV. Gone are the days of one CV fitting all. Our CV needs to be tailored to the job we are applying for. I am not talking about embellishment, just editing. A recruiter will want to see immediately what skills and experience you have for the specific role they are considering you for. This means the good stuff needs to be obvious and up front. They don’t want to have to look too far. If they do, you are not just toast – you are burnt toast with the smoke alarm going off.

The school science fair certificates, and how much you like reading and walking in the park will have to take a back seat for now. It is often good to have a master CV stored in your hard drive that has all your information in it. Then save a copy and start editing it for the particular role you are applying for.

Put yourself in the position of the person looking at your application, and think about the information that they would want to see at a glance.  Don’t be afraid to get someone with some experience in recruitment to give your work the ‘once over’ to make sure it is optimised for getting recognised as ‘yes’ pile material.

It is just like creating a website, to make it stand out we will optimise the content and wording to make it as attractive as possible to search engines.  Think of the recruiters as a google-bot crawling over the applications. Just as a google-bot will ignore poorly structured and badly written websites a recruiter will ignore a poorly presented and written CV. 

Tip #2 Pitch your CV at the level of the job you are applying for. When the job market is a bit tight, often we are applying for roles that we are overqualified for. Any job is better than no job. There is a danger here because many employers are wary of overqualified applicants. We are thinking that they will like the look of us because we are offering a higher standard of experience and qualifications than the role requires. But often employers will be thinking things like; ‘what’s wrong with them if they are applying for this?’ ‘They are going to want more money than we can afford, and they won’t stay for long’.’ As soon as something else comes a long at their level they are going to be gone.’

Don’t be afraid to dumb down your CV to make it a better fit to what you are applying for. It is not dishonest, you are just chosing to omit some things that might be a distraction to a recruiter.

On the other hand don’t be afraid to talk it up if you are applying for something at the edge of your range. Just look at job adverts written by employment agencies if you want excellent examples of something sounding a lot flasher than it really is.

The ‘self promoting’ editing you do needs to all be grounded in fact but amplified a bit and heavily marketed to the specific role you are applying for. You are taking more of a ‘based on a true story’ kind of approach, than a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary. 

Tip #3 – Add a bit of colour. It will immediately make your CV stand out. When email became the preferred method of job applications, the rule used to always be to make CV’s black and white to make it easy for potential employers to receive your CV and print it off. Now with faster internet speeds (on a good day), file size and downloading is not an issue. Also the cost of colour printing has dropped dramatically. Many employers have colour laser printers now so colour reproduction is no problem for them.

Don’t go crazy with the colour though. Use conservative colours consistently and resist the temptation to add tacky clip art and frilly borders. It’s like selling a home. More neutral tones will appeal to a wider range of buyers.   

Tip #4 – Photos on CV’s are good but like all good things – conditions apply. Using a photo on your CV cover is a good idea. The right photo will set you apart and give you an edge in making your application more personal in a way that several paragraphs of text can’t. It gives a visual reference for the recruiter to hang your skills and experience on.

If you are a female applicant thinking that a wider angle shot taking in a braoder canvas of your body is a good move, then you will have correctly guessed that the majority of recruiting managers will be men. Some managers like surrounding themselves with ‘trophy’ staff. If he looks at your CV and there you are – smiling back at him like a Russian mail order bride ad, then its going to get you noticed. Remember though, that the majority of HR advisors deciding the fate of your application in its early stages are females in their 20’s and 30’s. Many of these females will look at your centrefold attempt and phrases like ‘skanky cow’ may be uttered as they consign you to the scrap heap. So moderation and neck-up only shots are the best way to go.

The same goes for men. Exposed chest hair, gold chains and smoldering looks are out. If you look like an ‘up himself dickhead’ then you probably are. Its best they find that out after you are safely employed. 

If you are making an electronic application, make sure the photo is in jpeg or similar low resolution format that will not hinder your files progress through cyberspace. IT guardians in larger organisations are like Third World border guards – they like to stop things getting in and out, just because they can.

Tip #5 Make your CV Concise. For those of us who have been strolling the earth for a while our CV follows the long and winding road of life almost back to the dawn of time. CV writer software usually gives equal space to work experience regardless of how long ago it was. Don’t be afraid to be different and summarise a whole lot of past jobs, putting more detail into the most recent ones. Remember it is young people who decide your applications fate in its initial stages and to them 40+ is seriously old. Detail about stuff you did in the 1970’s will only remind them of their parents. This is not good. 

So now that your CV is recruiter friendly and compliments that dynamic covering letter, and lovingly filled out application form, hopefully you have now safely arrived in the ‘yes’ pile. Only the interview now stands between you and the job you are after.