You should treat your CV and cover letter as a self-promotion marketing tool, the aim of which is to get yourself to interview stage. In the competitive finance and consultancy markets, recruiters review CVs very quickly – so you need to make sure that yours stands out for all the right reasons!
The best CVs make it easy for the recruiter to quickly find what they are looking for. You should edit your CV slightly for each application to make sure that it focuses on that particular firm’s requirements.
There are five main elements to a CV that will clarify and strengthen your application:
- Your CV should be relevant to the position you are applying for; do not simply list everything you have ever done.
- The content of your CV should highlight your personal input in previous experiences, e.g. explain your particular role in a group project, not what your friend did or the group as a whole.
- Do not include links to Instagram, Facebook or your blog etc. unless the content is relevant to your career search. Employers don’t need to see photos of your last night out!
- Avoid giving excessive details in a CV – this will dilute the impact of your most relevant points.
- Use bulleted lists where possible to convey information succinctly.
- Always avoid unsupported assertions.
- Provide evidence of the impact and contribution you have made in previous experiences.
- Focus on actions taken rather than responsibilities to showcase your skills.
- If possible, use numbers and values to prove your input and give a measurable scale to your actions.
- An inviting CV is well laid out and can be scanned quickly to find the most relevant information.
- Use simple language. Acronyms and buzzwords may not be understood and could therefore devalue the content of your CV.
- Use a reverse chronological format, with dates, so that recruiters can see your most recent experience first and know where to find the information they are looking for.
- Avoid writing in paragraphs – space is limited and prose makes it difficult to find key points.
- Aim to create powerful bullet points with each bullet focused on one message.
Before you start your CV, make a comprehensive list of all your experience to date: achievements (educational or otherwise), work experience, awards, languages you are fluent or competent in, involvement in clubs/societies, your interests and skills. Once you have completed this list, take the following steps:
- Identify the skills required for the role you are applying to.
- Select the most relevant examples from your list to demonstrate these skills.
- Arrange this information in a logical format (remember, reverse chronological is typically best).
- Choose headings that are most relevant for your experience, see the CV example on the facing page for suggestions.
Make sure the general appearance of your CV ticks all of the following boxes:
- Looks simple and is easy to read.
- Text and dates aligned, no full stops and lots of white space around the text.
- No jargon or acronyms included which could confuse the reader.
Think your CV is ready to go? Think again! It is always beneficial to take a good break from your CV, preferably overnight, and then read over it with fresh eyes to check for the following:
- Check the job/opportunity description again and make sure your CV mirrors the requirements and includes only relevant information.
- Double-check for grammar and spelling mistakes – if possible, get someone else to do this for you too. In a competitive market, many recruiters will dismiss a candidate on a single typo.
- Hold your CV at arms-length – does it look cluttered or easy to read?
- Fold your CV vertically and skim read the left side to see if the reader will still get the essence of your CV. This is a great way of ensuring your strongest skills and experience are most visible.
- Ensure you have not included any long-winded bullet points, acronyms or industry jargon.
- Aim for a maximum of two A4 pages. However, some investment banks will request a one-page CV, so ensure that yours is the correct length for this application.
- Save and submit your CV as a PDF so that your formatting cannot be lost.
Keep these points in mind when creating all content for your CV:
CONTEXT: The company name, your position title and dates are usually enough information for previous experience.
ACTION: Start your bullet points with action words highlighting the skills you used e.g. led, created, analysed etc.
RESULT: Results achieved should be summarised concisely in a single bullet point.