How to make a CV stand out
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes
Looking for a new job can be an exhausting challenge.
With so many details to attend to — researching prospective employers in Hong Kong, lining up professional references, practicing interviewing skills and checking the salary range for your role — it is tempting to recycle an old CV and top it off with your newest work experience.
Resist the impulse.
If you are hoping to score an interview for that dream job, you need a freshly polished, customised document that is going to grab readers’ attention from the start.
Every list of CV writing tips will tell you the same thing: Start with your contact information. Your name, phone number, email address and, if applicable, links to your website and LinkedIn profile. Then list all the jobs you have had.
But there is more to it than that.
Here are seven steps to make your CV stand out and build a resume that brings you success:
1. Create a powerful intro
The top of the page is valuable real estate.
If you want the reviewers to give your CV more than a quick scan, you need something up there that is going to make them want to keep reading – something to make your CV stand out from the competition.
Back in the day, CVs had an objective statement just below the contact info that explained the type of job a candidate was seeking.
Today, many hiring managers and recruiters in Hong Kong expect to see a short, snappy paragraph that is more like a profile.
Think of these important two or three sentences as your 30-second elevator pitch: They should quickly summarise your experience and training and highlight your relevant skills for the role you are seeking.
2. Demonstrate impact
To ensure your CV stands out, the bulk of your resume should focus on your work experience.
List your past jobs in chronological order, from most recent to oldest, and take a results-driven approach to describe your duties and accomplishments. That means including meaningful information about how you benefited a project or the company.
To show how you excelled in the position, use action verbs, give specific examples, and add quantifiable results. Do not simply say, “oversaw project management,” for instance.
Instead, give a concise, specific project description, along with your role (“Project manager for a six-person team with impeccable deadline accuracy”) and concrete numbers to show impact — the costs you saved your employer, for example, or the percentage growth in sales revenue.
If you do not have that kind of data, report the solutions your team delivered or other project outcomes.
The goal is to show you made a difference.
3. Reference your soft skills
Remember that interpersonal skills are critical to your career success.
Effective writing and verbal communication, critical thinking, time management, creativity, and problem-solving abilities are all highly prized today. It is important to add them to your CV.
But how do you show, rather than simply list, these attributes?
Building a CV and cover letter that are thoughtfully written is a start. Both documents, if carefully organised, free of grammatical and spelling errors (see tip No. 7), and tailored for the role you are applying for, will be clear demonstrations of your writing skills.
You can also frame your work history and accomplishments to show such abilities as collaboration, adaptability, and leadership.
Other soft skills might be more difficult to showcase. Few of us can point to a TED talk or other online video or podcast to prove our verbal and presentation skills, for example.
But we all have a LinkedIn profile. Ask a handful of your colleagues, former co-workers, or others in your professional network to write recommendations that include some mention of your creativity, leadership qualities, teamwork, and similar qualities.
Related: What’s the best CV font?
4. Showcase tech skills
Share your software skills and technical knowledge.
As an example, job candidates for an administrative assistant position or similar role are expected to have Microsoft Office experience.
Smart candidates would list their levels of proficiency with each of the suite’s applications, as well as any training or certification programs completed.
Many jobs will require more advanced tech skills. Using the job description as a guide, discuss your expertise with the software required for the role.
Again, certifications and training should be listed. Even better, include mention of relevant software in your work history to demonstrate professional experience.
5. Be exceptional
This tip in how to write a CV is about highlighting talents that are relevant to the position or company.
Foreign language fluency, for instance, could give you an edge in getting an interview if the employer has international operations. Your role as an organiser for a Meetup group related to your industry can show leadership skills.
Whatever your passion, use your unique qualities and experiences to make yourself stand out.
Many hiring managers like to gain a more complete picture of potential employees so do not be afraid to mention some outside interests.
Just do not go overboard by providing a laundry list of hobbies and personal pursuits. Always keep in mind that your resume is a professional document.
Related: How to format your CV correctly
6. Include keywords
Many companies scan CVs and cover letters for the keywords used in their job postings.
Tailor your CV for every job description you reply to — and that means sprinkling the document with some of the language each posting uses.
For example, if an employer is seeking an applicant with experience “maintaining executives’ calendars,” use that same wording in your resume instead of a more casual phrase like “keeping track of schedules.”
7. Proofread, proofread, and then proofread again
An employer sorting through a dozen or more CVs does not need much reason to remove you from consideration.
Meticulously proofread your resume for spelling and grammatical goofs.
In addition to running spell-check, read your document aloud slowly so you can focus on each word.
Finally, ask a friend to double-check your work. One simple typo can kill your chances of landing an interview.
How to make your CV stand out
Every job, every industry and every candidate in Hong Kong will require some adjustments of these CV writing tips.
When you consider how to write a CV that leads to a good outcome, the takeaway is this: Employers want to hire people who can make an impact.
Write a tailored resume that shows a distinctive, results-driven professional, and before long you may find yourself preparing for the job interview.