7 ways to make your CV stand out from the crowd

Writing your CV might not be much fun. It may also take more time than you think.

But if you’re looking for a new manufacturing or engineering job, you can’t afford to ignore your curriculum vitae.

If you’re not sure what you should be aiming for, here are some essential tips to make your CV stand out from the crowd:

Important CV writing tips

1) Tailor your CV to the role

Don’t just have one CV. Take a look at the specific job you are applying for. What can you do to show a prospective employer that you have read and understand their job description?

Take steps to directly relate the job description to your accomplishments, experience and skills. Don’t waste time on skills that aren’t relevant. Harsh as it is to say, your prospective employer certainly won’t.

Tailoring your CV for each job application does take time. But if you want yours to get you that coveted interview, it’s worth it.

2) Have a strong opening

Typically, you have somewhere between five and ten seconds to persuade a prospective employer or recruiter that your CV is worth reading.

This means your opening needs to be powerful. A summary of all of your relevant skills and experience in the form of a well-written personal statement is often the best way to put your best foot forward.

Try to answer the most important questions quickly and succinctly:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you offer?
  • What do you want from your career?
  • What do you want from this role?

Don’t go overboard on this. Somewhere between 120-200 words should be a good target.

3) Create a mental hook

Your recruiter or prospective employer will be reading hundreds or possibly thousands of job applications. If you want yours to be memorable, you need at least one point that makes you stand out.

This needs to be something both relevant to this role and that showcases the skills, abilities, mindset or approach that will make you perfect for it. This might include:

  • Relevant volunteer work
  • If you are at the start of your career, relevant extracurricular activities
  • Having your own blog on a relevant subject
  • Relevant work or posts you have had published or displayed
  • A strong social media presence where you network with relevant people

This detail will form a “mental hook” that your prospective employer can “hang” the rest of your CV from. You can imagine them saying something like, “oh, the one with the interesting blog?” when discussing your application with other members of their team.

4) Use keywords

Keywords are one of the tools you can use to more clearly match your CV with a role and create a strong opening for your application.

Many employers will actively search for keywords. Either by eye or when using Applicant Tracking Systems (recruitment software).

On a basic level, this means you need to include key phrases from the job description and your intended employer’s website. At a more advanced level, you might consider synonyms of the most important terms too.

5) Be a STAR

That strong opening and CV tailoring work much better when you do more than simply say you are good at something.

One of the best methods to make sure you are saying something worth saying – something that is supported by at least the evidence of the words that follow – is to follow the STAR model for every statement:

  • Situation – where were you?
  • Task – what did you need to achieve?
  • Action – what did you do to achieve it?
  • Result – what happened? How well did your approach work?

6) Show insight and connection

One element of a successful strategy that Ernest Gordon sees in manufacturing and engineering recruitment is for candidates to at least briefly highlight that they are:

  • Insightful about the industry – even if it’s just a single line, mentioning a current trend or changes in the industry is seen as desirable by many employers.
  • Connected to a network – it might be your fellow university graduates and lecturers or all the people you know through your previous positions. Either way, a good network is a way to show off your communication skills. Much better than simply writing “I have good communication skills.” Remember – STAR.

7) Don’t overlook the basics

All of the ways you can make your CV stand out from the crowd will only work if you make sure you have the basics in place in the first place:

  • Clarity – two A4 pages is the traditional maximum for a reason. Be clear. Be concise. Don’t waffle.
  • Layout – make sure your CV follows a sensible, logical layout.
  • Include – all of the standard information. Your personal statement, personal details, work experience, education, achievements and hobbies.
  • Check – for spelling and grammar errors. Use a proper grammar checker. Have a friend or family member actually read your CV for you too. Don’t let an obvious typo harpoon your brilliant CV before it gets you that all-important foot in the door.

Need to make sure your CV is working for you?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering recruitment company.

Every day, we help our candidates perfect their CVs. Then we put them in front of the job opportunities they are looking for.

Let’s see what we can do for you.