Google CV tips and you’ll see quite a lot of stuff. From one well-meaning article to the next there can be a chasm of difference. So, just how do you decide what is the right thing to do?
Well, we’re not going to tell you that we’re right and they’re wrong, but our team have seen a few CVs in our time, and we’ve seen a couple of the same, simple mistakes over and over again.
We’d probably go so far as to say that 99 per cent of problems all boil down to the same things, and while some people might talk about getting your CV to stand out, it’s important to look at the basics first.
We’re not saying you have to cross off every single one of these things, because of course, every person, job, and therefore CV is different, but even a few small changes can make a big difference.
We’ve based this CV on someone just entering the industry, as it’s easier to mock up a generalisation, but these points apply wherever you are in your career journey. And, of course, there are sliders ahoy.
Get It All In The Right Order – And Be Ruthless On Content
Take the CV to the left, for example, which we’ve mocked up for the exceptionally named candidate Namey Name.
It might seem fairly pretty (more on that later), but immediately falls at one of the first hurdles – choosing what’s important.
You’ve probably heard a lot of terrifying statistics about recruiters only spending an average of six seconds looking at your CV – and that’s if a human is reading it at all.
We try to be a more fair at Journo Resources, and we’re sure lots of other editors are too, but the point still stands – you need to make your CV sell the important stuff first. People are busy.
Especially in journalism, your education is merely a tick box exercise. Depending on whether you’re going for an apprenticeship or graduate role, it will, at most, be a cursory check to see what you’ve done. It’s your experience that makes you stand out.
To put it another way, almost everyone going for a local reporter role will most likely have the NCTJ qualification they ask for. That doesn’t make you stand out – it’s the other things you’ve done elsewhere.
Especially once you’ve been in the business a few years, your education becomes even less important – it’s what you’ve actually done in your roles that counts – and you’d be surprised just how many people don’t get that. Basically, your experience section always goes first.
It’s also about space on the page. As a general rule, your CV should only be one page – so should you really be spending that much real estate on something which just ticks boxes?
As a general rule, if you’ve done A Levels, boot your GCSEs. If you’ve got a degree, boot the A Levels too. It sounds harsh as you’ve spend so much time working on them, but honestly, they’re not your biggest asset any more.
Similarly, if you’re using a profile or summary on your CV, put it somewhere where people will actually see it. What’s the use of a general overview if they’ve already read the rest of your CV by the time they come to it?
Show Not Tell – Be Personalised And Specific
So, you’ve changed and cut back, and now you’ve suddenly got a lot of spare space on your page. What next? Well, first things first, you’ll be wanting some bullet points in that CV.
Again, it might sound simple, but it all goes back to the six seconds you’ve got for someone to look at your CV – you want all of the information to be bitesize and easily digestible at a glance.
It’s also a good way to make sure you’re not going over the top with your information. You should only be putting together two to four bullet points for each place. Any more, and you’re most likely not being selective enough.
Your content also need to needs to go further than just saying what you did – something we call showing not telling. Instead of just regurgitating tasks, talk about the results, or the specialist skills or experience that went into it.
Did you run a social media campaign that increased engagement? Did you write a story which required sensitive interviewing or going through data?
Want to know more about this kind of stuff? Take a look at some of our previous pieces supported by the Cision Jobs team on how to make your job applications stand out, places to get free training, and what you should actually be using LinkedIn for.
Put in specific examples and links, and, mostly importantly, make sure you’re personalising your CV for every single job you’re sending it off to.
As a hiring manager, one of the biggest turn offs for me is a CV that has clearly been sent to every single job advert that’s currently open.
Take a step back, rewrite your introduction to focus on the skills the job wants, and tailor your bullet points to include the most relevant examples. You can always keep a long master CV for your inspiration.
The same goes for your skills section – if you have one, it needs to stand on its own two feet and provide something genuinely useful.
Think about whether the skills you’re listing are obvious and wasting space (I know you can use Microsoft Office, you sent in this CV), or whether they are niche programmes or skills the job is looking for.
And, finally, don’t ever do yourself or your experiences down. If you run a really cool side project that’s relevant to the gig, add it in.
No one wants to know about your side hobbies of baking and free-running unless that’s actually the focus of the magazine, but if you’ve run and scaled your own content, that’s impressive in its own right.
PS. Never, ever, call yourself an aspiring journalist. You’re doing this already and you’ve got this.
Make Sure The Design Works For You
Lastly, if there’s one thing to take from this, it’s that you really need to optimise your CV to make the most of the space. And this CV design we’ve used all the way through is not the one to do it.
In fact, as it’s one of the first templates that comes up on Microsoft Word for CVs, when I hired for an editorial assistant last year, 20 out of 100 people sent me that exact design and it drove me wild.
In some instances a custom designed CV can work well, but for the most part employers are looking for something functional and clear, which lets your work really do the talking.
The CV checklist
- Is your experience listed first?
- Have you given specific skills, projects, and results?
- Is this CV tailored to the job application?
- How concise is it? Is all the information broken into chunks?
- Does it fit on one page?
- Is the design clear?
This article was produced with the support of Cision Jobs, the leading journalism jobs board. Visit them here to find hundreds of journalism jobs live right now.