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How to make your CV stand out to get the IT role you want

Aaron Serrhat
Have you heard the story about how recruiters spend only six seconds reviewing CVs? Six seconds? Yikes. Well, let’s not panic. First, the “six seconds” story surfaced after research conducted way back in 2012, and second, here at Capita IT Resourcing we definitely put more than six seconds into matching the right candidate to the right role. 

But there’s a reason for dragging this unsettling rumour out of the archive: in a sector where competition for roles can be really high and recruiters are under time pressure, what can you do as a candidate to make your CV stand out from the crowd?

Start at the top – your personal statement, profile or mission statement. This is your chance truly to sell yourself in only a few sentences; it’s a summary of your relevant skills and what makes you the ideal candidate. Be positive, but also specific. While it can be tempting to “pad out” sentences with business-speak, ask yourself whether your extra words really add to your employability or just sound like a bunch of clichés. Using key words such as “adaptable”, “innovative” and “achievement” may attract attention to your CV, but also make sure these are backed up with actual proof of what you’re able to do. 

Think about what your employer is looking for – can you provide examples from your current role of use of relevant tech, improved performance or successful team-building? If you’re adept at staying ahead of the curve – particularly in the fast-moving world of IT – say so. Perhaps you’ve spoken at an event or authored a blog predicting upcoming trends. Add a link to your personal statement, or connect to your LinkedIn profile.

Then consider the content itself. Standing out from the crowd doesn’t mean using bright colours or odd fonts. Think “clarity”; create an easy-to-read document that tells an employer what they need to know. List role-appropriate core skills and qualifications first. Make sure your career history is pertinent (yes, you worked in a pet shop when you were 16 but it’s not important to your current role as a data architect) and contains the right information. It may be tempting simply to list your responsibilities, but would actual concrete achievements be more appealing to a potential employer? Can you quantify any of the progress you made in your job – for example “a 30% increase in productivity”?

Ensure your list of qualifications is relevant. It’s worth listing your personal achievements and interests on your CV, however, the main focus should be on the IT competencies. Also, don’t forget to check spellings, use of grammar and – most importantly – that what you’ve written actually makes sense. Proof-read the document or get a fresh pair of eyes to take a look.

Finally, don’t forget to customise your CV for each job you apply for. While the core may stay the same, tweak the personal statement to show you’ve researched your potential employer and brought the right skills to the top of the pile. 

Read our related blog: The value of a strong personal profile on your CV

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