Whether you’re looking for your first job gig or already have some years of experience under your belt, you can’t do without a great CV. However, we all know that’s easier said than done: the job market is tough as you strap your boots and race against hundreds of other candidates who are all applying for the same job. Talk about being under pressure!

So, what can you do to stand out from the crowd?

#1: Start with some research

Before you can write your CV, you need to have a clear understanding of the job requirements. This means reading the job description and making a list of the most important skills, qualifications, and experience required for the role. You should also note down keywords and phrases that are repeated throughout the job posting — it’s likely those will be the things that your prospective employer will value the most.

EXAMPLE: If you’re applying for a marketing manager position, the job description might mention skills like ‘SEO,’ ‘Google Analytics,’ ‘content creation,’ and ‘social media management.’ Make sure to write these down as they will be important for tailoring your CV.

#2: Choose the right software

At this point, you would probably fire up your browser and hunt for a template CV that best fits your requirements and style. And while that’s a valid strategy, you should also know that most of these templates come in PDF format. This can be problematic since you can’t really edit them on the spot without a dedicated PDF editor. Therefore, it’s worth spending some time looking into some free or paid options until you’ve found the right software for your needs. Another option is to forgo templates entirely and start from scratch.

#3: Keep it short & sweet

Recruiters are busy people, so it’s important to make your CV easy to read. A 2018 eye-tracking study done by Ladders Inc. showed that recruiters spend an average of 7 seconds looking at the first page of your resume.

Here is what you can do to make those seconds count:

  • Use bullet points and white space. This will make your resume easier on the eyes and therefore more likely for recruiters to read until the end.
  • Write in short sentences. Two pages are plenty enough — the last thing you want is to write a modern-day Odyssey.
  •  Stick to what works best. Avoid weird fonts, overuse of bold type, texts smaller than point size 11, and image-rich CVs.
  • Act professional. Jargon words, internet memes, and acronyms have no place in your CV.

#4: Add your contact details

You have to start somewhere, so you might as well check the easiest box on the list first. Ideally, your contacts section should include your full name, contact number, and email address (only professional-sounding emails here, please). Once you’re done, pin these to the top of your CV so that your prospective employers can quickly contact you, if needed.

#5: Tailor your CV to the job

According to data analyzed by the folks at CareerBuilder — a popular recruitment firm in the U.S. — 84% of resumes get rejected due to impersonal applications. This is why tailoring your CV to the job you are applying for is probably the best decision you can make. In plain English, this means highlighting the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job.

However, simply including a bunch of stuff in your resume is not enough to make a good first impression. What you’ll also have to do is back your qualifications with specific examples and quantifiable achievements in order to clearly demonstrate your value.

EXAMPLE: Instead of writing a generic summary like ‘experienced marketing professional with a track record of success,’ you might include ‘results-driven marketing manager with 5+ years of experience in SEO and content creation with a proven track record of increasing organic search traffic by 150%.’

#6: List your education

While your education may not be the primary focus of your CV, it’s still important to tailor this section to the job requirements. Include any degrees, certifications, coursework, or even extracurricular activities that are relevant to the position you’re applying for, and consider emphasizing specific courses or projects that showcase your relevant skills.

EXAMPLE: If you have a degree in marketing, include any coursework related to SEO, analytics, or content creation.

#7: Proofread, proofread, proofread!

If we are to believe the CV builder platform StandOut CV, about 8 to 10 resumes get rejected by hiring staff due to spelling mistakes, bad grammar, or various typos. So, before hitting that ‘Send’ button, make sure to run it past several spell-checker tools or, better yet, ask a friend or a colleague to read your PDF front to back and provide feedback.

The bottom line

Writing a great CV takes time and dedication, but it’s worth it in the end. By thoroughly analyzing the position you’re applying for, picking the right software for the job, starting with your most relevant skills and experiences, and sticking to a few basic formatting and grammar rules, you should end up with a CV that blows the competition out of the water and hopefully helps you land your dream job.

Good luck and happy job hunting!