How to keep up with today’s CV trends

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Unemployment rates are still unacceptably high in far too many countries: with the official numbers often far below reality. With so many people desperate for work, it’s no surprise that there are so many job applicants for every position. Job seekers are constantly under pressure to stand out from the crowd: and this means keeping up with today’s CV trends.

(1) Prepare your CV for ATS software

Many large companies use ATS software – designed to filter through a pile of CVs and pick out worthwhile candidates. Despite the fact that both HR managers and developers acknowledge the software’s shortcomings, it continues to save recruiters hours of time and for this reason, it is unlikely to go away any time soon. Consequently, if you’re applying to an FTSE 200 or Fortune 500 company, there’s a fair chance your CV will go through the software.

ATS software can be confused by the use of tables and graphics so for these companies, it’s better to pick a simpler CV layout that focuses on content. Plenty of sites have templates you can download and fill in and to help you with the choice, here are two suggestions: Cvtemplatemaster.com and prospects.ac.uk. Of course, feel free to browse some other websites as well and the find the one that you like most.

It’s also vital to analyze the job advert and pick out keywords and phrases that the software will be scanning for. If, for example, they specify a BSc in Computer Science (and assuming you have one!) make sure the exact same words are used on your CV. Take care if a past employer used a more obscure job title such as ‘Customer Relationship Liaison’ rather than ‘Account Manager’ – it’s better to use titles that the employer is expecting because these are the ones that the ATS software will be searching for.

(2) Write a keyword-rich personal statement

A CV used to have just a few basic sections: personal details, work history, education and references. Now employers expect to see a personal statement at the top which should follow a very definite format, as follows:

  1. Explain who you are.
  2. Explain how you meet the requirements of the job.
  3. Explain what you’re looking for.

The best way to understand how this works is through an example. Here’s an extract from a real-life job advert from Recruitment Site ‘Indeed’:

“Customer Service Advisor:

To excel in your role, you will need:

Face-to-face customer service experience

Strong communication skills

A passion for delivering excellent customer service

Ability to remain calm when under pressure

Basic IT skills”

So how would you write a personal statement that matches this advert? Here’s an example:

“I am a Customer Service Advisor with three years of face-to-face customer service experience in the motor repairs trade. Working at a highly reputable, very busy repair shop in central town, I am highly capable of delivering excellent customer service in a high-pressure environment. I have developed strong communication skills through liaising between customers, suppliers and mechanics. I also have excellent IT skills, having worked with various systems in the shop. I am looking for a full-time role in the motor industry.”

Note how the above example uses the EXACT keywords from the job advert – this is crucial for two reasons.

Firstly, if the employer IS using ATS software, that software will be scanning for those keywords. Don’t try and use alternative synonyms – this may fail the ATS test.

Secondly, if the employer is manually reviewing your CV, they will only spend a few seconds scanning it to see if you meet the requirements. In fact, according to Cambridge Network, the amount of time spent could be as little as 6 seconds!

Your personal statement needs to immediately demonstrate to the employer that you have what they are looking for. If you try to make them work harder by reading further into your CV, they are likely to give up and dismiss your CV altogether.

(3) Understand the F Pattern

Paper CVs are a thing of the past – now it’s all about technology and the majority of CVs will be sent digitally. So what does this mean for job seekers looking to design the perfect CV?

Back in 2006, the NN Group released a study that showed how people read content on the screen, demonstrating that peoples’ eyes tend to move in an F pattern. Many experts got pretty excited by this and encouraged people to design their online content around that pattern. Unfortunately, they had misunderstood the study.

Put simply, the F pattern is bad. If the content forces people to read this way, it means the content is poorly designed and the user is not fully engaged. The last thing a job seeker should do is deliberately design their CV to meet the pattern.

Fortunately, the NN Group’s  Senior Vice President Kara Pernice put us straight with an updated article explaining the mistake in 2017. She also listed off the ‘the Best Antidotes to the F-Shaped Pattern’  which are essential reading for any job seeker looking to stand out. You can read her update here.

Finally…

Understanding today’s trends is essential if you are to make any impact at all in a saturated and highly competitive job market. By preparing an ATS-friendly CV with a strong personal statement that avoids the dreaded F-pattern, you will give yourself the very best chance of winning that all-important first interview. Good luck!

 



Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the foreignpolicyi.org started.

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