When applying to jobs through official channels (e.g. a company's careers page or LinkedIn), HR will typically scan your CV in less than 30 seconds before deciding whether to add it to the pile of potential candidates, or dismiss it.
More often than not, companies will employ CV scanning softwares and AI recruiting tools (also known as applicant tracking systems) to weed out the least qualified applicants. These are built on algorithms that assign higher scores to candidates that meet certain criteria and include specific keywords in their CV.
In order to pass this first screening and land your first interview, you will need to present yourself in the right way on paper. Here are our tips for making your CV stand out from the crowd.
The Ten Commandments
When drafting your CV, swear by the following golden rules:
A CV is made to be skimmed: stick to the 1-page limit, unless you have well over 10 years of experience.
A CV must be error-free: spelling and grammar mistakes are inexcusable.
A CV must be kept impersonal: do not use pronouns like I or we.
A CV must not include a picture of yourself, unless explicitly requested by the hiring company.
A CV must not include your age or gender.
A CV is not a cover letter: use bullet points, keep sentences short, and use action verbs.
A CV must be consistent in formatting, spacing, and alignment. Use bold and capital letters for category headings, and bold or italics for subheadings. Do not underline text.
A CV must not include abbreviations.
A CV must include quantitative details and be consistent with units throughout.
A CV must be sent exclusively in PDF format.
When it comes to font, we have a preference for Verdana, but Arial is also a good choice. Here's our blank CV template for your reference and use:
A standard CV is made up of 5 main sections: let's go through each one.
Section I: Name and Contacts
These are typically included in the Word header, to avoid taking space away from the rest of the information. Write your full name, along with any relevant title or designation you may have earned (e.g. CFA, PhD, CPA, etc.), the city and country in which you currently reside, phone number, and e-mail address.
The e-mail address must be professional. If you are a student or a recent graduate, put down your university e-mail address. Never use your current work e-mail address (unless you are self-employed).
Section II: Summary
This section, positioned at the top of your CV, gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself in a couple of sentences. This is your chance to attract the hiring managers' attention: make their job easier by telling them why you are the best candidate, or at least worth a shot. It's important not to come off as arrogant, otherwise it will have the opposite effect.
We suggest you stick to presenting the following information in your summary:
years of professional experience,
key areas of expertise & relevant know-how, and
key industries & markets.
The last 2 bullet points should always be written with an eye towards the job and the company to which you are applying.
Section III: Professional Experience
Start from your most recent job, and work backwards. Tailor your experience and project list to the skill set and know-how required for the specific position you are applying to. Graphic elements, like charts and images, will be lost on the bots, so stick to bullet points, action verbs, and keywords you can identify in the job description.
Here's our list of the most relevant and suitable action verbs to use for writing up your main day-to-day activities and key projects:
Remember to provide specific details and relevant quantifications wherever possible (e.g. deal size, cost savings, loan book price, etc.), and always be consistent with the units used throughout your CV.
Section IV: Education
Start from your most recent degree, and work back to your high school diploma. Do not include your GPA, unless you graduated with distinction, and/or it is expressly requested by the hiring company.
If you have no work experience, you may add additional details to this section, including:
Relevant courses and exam results
Membership to club(s) and/or team(s)
Volunteering, community and fundraising activities
Section V: Skills, Interests & Other Information
This may be the most interesting section in a CV, and the one that will spark up a conversation during an interview. Include the following information about yourself, among others:
Language skills and proficiency level (e.g. native/proficient/intermediate, or C2/C1/etc.). Do not include languages in which you have a basic or elementary proficiency level. If you have taken language tests, add the exam name, result and date
IT skills and proficiency level, e.g. MS Office (proficient), Bloomberg Terminal (intermediate), Power BI (intermediate)
Certification(s) and date of completion, e.g. CPA (Apr18), CFA Charterholder (Jun19), ACCA (Dec20)
Publication(s) name and date
Relevant training(s) you have attended
Strong personal interests, and sports in which you excel.
We hope you found this article useful. For questions or clarifications, feel free to reach out. Thanks for reading, and good luck!