10 Tips for a Successful CV … How many can you tick?

1. Keep it real!⁠

Usually, a CV should be no more than two pages – and that’s two pages of A4 paper! ⁠

Employers spend, on average, just 8 seconds looking at any one CV, (we can vouch for that as we have done the same here at RFS!)⁠

And we know we have plenty of life stories that military life throws at us but a surefire way of landing yourself on the no pile is to send them your entire life story. Keep it punchy, to the point, and save those niggly little details for the interview.⁠

2. Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for…⁠

Come on, admit it. We’ve all done it. Whizzed the same CV out to lots of employers to save time… Stop!⁠

Take the time to change your CV for each role that you apply for. Research the company and use the job advert to work out EXACTLY what skills you should point out to them. They will appreciate the obvious effort.⁠

Don’t re-use the same words as you did in your personal statement. Use the tips in our previous posts.⁠

⁠3. Addressing the gaps⁠

Ok, trust us on this one…military spouses really worry about all the gaps – but remember – employers are savvier to gaps in people’s careers and employing military spouses, they are actually realising that having a gap is a positive.⁠

We are wrong to think that leaving obvious gaps in your CV immediately makes employers suspicious – and they won’t give you the benefit of the doubt.⁠

If you’ve been out of work it can be a worry but just put a positive spin on it. Did you do a course, volunteer work, develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork or project management?⁠

Your communication skills will be off the wall as a military spouse – seriously, think about it, how many times have you had to knock on your neighbour’s door, find a local school at a minutes notice, attended events, use these communication skills to build your CV.⁠

4. Addressing the job-hopping⁠

Some fields are prone to short periods of employment, and job-hopping might not be a concern. For many other occupations, there is less of a stigma regarding job-hopping than in the past. With Covid, employers have been forced to change so this is good news for military spouses.⁠

The best way to handle job-hopping on your CV depends on your specific job titles and companies. You may be able to lump two or more similar positions under one heading (for example, Sales Representative, ABC Company and DEF Company, 2/07-4/09).⁠

You can list your combined work experience’s highlights. Independent contractors and temporary workers should consider grouping their experience under one time period (such as IT Consultant/Network Specialist, 4/05-present) with project highlights.⁠

You don’t need to include every job you’ve ever held. Short-term positions that don’t do anything for you can certainly be omitted. ⁠

Keep in mind: A CV is a marketing piece, but you will need to provide a complete work history if you are asked to fill out a job application, which is a signed legal document.⁠

So instead use your cover letter to explain your work history and put a positive spin on your circumstances.

5. Keep those errors in check⁠

We all make mistakes but employers DO look for mistakes on CVs and if they find them, it’s not great.⁠

David Hipkin, head of recruitment and resourcing at Reed Business Information, warns, ‘With most employers experiencing massive volumes of applicants right now, giving them the excuse to dismiss your application because of avoidable errors is not going to help you secure an interview.’ If you’re unsure then use a spellchecker and ask someone else to double-check what you’ve written.⁠

And don’t ignore the most common CV mistakes – which we will come to soon…….

6. This may sound dull but by backing up your achievements with numbers it makes selling yourself much easier.

​When writing your work history, don’t just say that you increased sales; tell them you increased sales by 70% over a six month period. Get it? Big numbers are especially good….but stay honest!

​Credit @totaljobs

7. We live in a world where image is everything, and that also goes for your CV.

​Take some time to pretty it up…

👉🏼Use bullet points and keep sentences short.

👉🏼Use the graphic design trick of leaving plenty of white space around text and between categories to make the layout easy on the eye.

​Alternatively, get creative with your job application!

​Head to our Career Academy for access to our CV template.

8. If you’ve uploaded your CV to a job site so recruiters can find you, keywords are very important.

Job titles and job buzzwords will help a search engine pick out your CV from the pile. Confused? Don’t be.

​A marketing candidate might mention SEO (Search Engine Optimization), direct marketing, and digital marketing among their experience and skills… If you’re not sure, have a search online and see what words are commonly mentioned when you input your job title.

​Credit @totaljobs

9. Personal Statements 

Don’t just assume an employer will see how your experience relates to their job. Instead, use a short personal statement to explain why you are the best person for the job.

Check out our recent posts on Cover Letters and Personal Statements where we have covered everything you need to get you started with writing them.

10. You should keep your CV up-to-date whether you’re looking for a job or not.

Every time something significant occurs in your career, record it so you don’t later forget something that could be important.​