CV Success in 2020: put your skills on show!

Image showing a laptop with Octopus Personnel logo on it: Targeting your CV for success in 2020: skills-based or chronological format?

How can grab an employer’s attention and effectively market yourself? What are the secrets to CV success in 2020?  To be competitive in a client-focused market, your CV needs to stand out and really show who you are, your key competencies and skills quickly engaging a possible employer.  Alice Weeks, Octopus Personnel Recruitment Consultant, shows how using some of the strengths of a skills-based CV can enhance your chronological CV to secure that perfect role.

Man in suit thinking: Which format of CV is best? Targeting your CV for success in 2020

Which CV format should people choose?

A chronological CV is still the best format, but a skills-based section of your CV can highlight the experience and skills you have accumulated across your career, laying them out for an employer to recognise what you are bringing to a role.  This can pay dividends for those who are changing careers, returning after a break or just starting out in their working life.

As we move to a client-focused market post COVID19, self-marketing through a CV becomes even more vital a skill.  Here are my suggestions for efficiently strengthening your CV to make it work effectively for you.

Want CV success?  Make headline news!

You have  8.8 seconds to impress – that’s the average time someone reading your CV takes to decide if they should read on, so first impressions are everything.  Use a clear headline at the top of your CV, stating your professional identity in light of your career target.

Woman thinking with glasses on her head - Write an engaging headline to hook your reader - Targeting your CV for success in 2020

Hone in on your Target

You should then write a powerful, targeted profile that sums up what you can do for your target employer.  Your profile should concisely and effectively display who you are, your skills and strengths relevant to the sector and the job role as outlined in the advert and your career goals.

An effective profile will position you as a strong fit for your desired role and persuade the reader to keep reading your CV.  Avoid buzzwords, clichés and irrelevant information.  Try to give the reader a sense of your passion and drive for this particular role, and how this fits with your experience.  Your profile should be around four sentences in length, and no more than six, that’s somewhere between 50 and 200 words.

You need to state:

  • Who you are and what you are looking for – e.g. ‘A recent graduate with a 2:1 degree in Creative Writing from the University of Bournemouth seeking an entry-level position in…’
  • What you can offer the company – your absolute top skills and strengths, backed up with evidence. Use the job spec to create your statement, e. g. ‘Knowledgeable engineer with a wide skill-set, including condition-based maintenance, through working on automated systems such as…’
  • What your career goals are – e.g. ‘I am looking for a challenging, fast-paced environment within media to utilise my written knowledge and develop my creative skill set further.’ 

Be clear, truthful, concise, and don’t be afraid to market yourself.  Recruiters ultimately want to know you as a person and what you can bring to the table.

Woman drinking coffee at a laptop - Write a clear and concise profile to hook employers in - Targeting your CV for success in 2020

An example profile

‘I am an effective and hardworking purchasing manager looking to progress into a senior purchasing position within the industrial sector. With over 10 years experience working in managerial positions for large companies within the sector, I have honed my communication skills and nurtured successful working relationships that have been at the heart of my success. As a result, I possess an advantageous professional network and a proven track record for bringing strategic vision and value to the business.  I am now looking to develop my career in a market-leading and progressive organisation after a short career break to take care of a new-born.’

If you are changing career, you can draw out positive matches in your existing work history, voluntary roles or hobbies, carefully aligning them to the job description.  If you are returning to work after a break, present your most pertinent experience in a positive and compelling manner, explaining your career gap concisely and simply. This approach also works for job seekers whose relevant experience is earlier in their career.  If you are a graduate or early in your career, you can showcase university projects, part-time work, or community roles to demonstrate your skills and suitability. This is equally applicable for more-experienced jobseekers whose relevant skill base has been developed outside the workplace.

Feature your skills

Underneath your profile, create a an easy to read skills table and pack it with target role keywords that reflect the transferable business skills you can bring to the table.  A well-put-together skills section can help an employer quickly ascertain you have what it takes for the job – CV success! Your research will already have outlined many of the key skills needed, but you can further ensure you hit those key areas by putting the job description through something like wordclouds – what are the words which keep coming up?  How does your skill set dovetail with those needs?

Man working on laptop outside - Feature your skills - Targeting your CV for success in 2020

CV success through skilled selection

Put simply, a skill is an ability to perform certain tasks well.  A skills section should focus on actual skills, rather than industries you’ve worked in or grouping experiences together.

You should only choose between 3-5 skills to illustrate in this section – so make sure they speak exactly to the job description of the role you are applying for.  Balance your chosen skills between hard, learnt skills and soft, interpersonal skills – recruiters and employers give weight to both.

Hard skills can be learned, taught, and measured, such as English, Spanish, HTML, Python, copywriting, data analysis, SEO, etc.  Soft skills are equally valuable, such as leadership, communication, or other interpersonal skills such as soft skills include: problem-solving, negotiating, multitasking, time management, presenting, and others.

Dictionary open on page defining expert - Feature 3-5 key skills which are your personal strengths

Laid out for ease of reference in a table, make sure there are 3-5 skills listed.  Each one should be constructed in meaningful and descriptive sentences, contain facts such as numbers, figures and statistics (where possible) and real-life examples to illustrate your point.

Proven Sales Track Record

I am an excellent sales professional, demonstrated in my previous role as a Sales Representative where I exceeded my sales targets by at least 25% for six consecutive months.

Programming/coding experience

I have a strong knowledge of object-oriented programing and application development tools using Microsoft VB.Net, C#, .Net, C++, ASP.Net; Python and VBA.

Advanced Communication Skills

Reflected in my ability to explain complex design systems to colleagues and clients and liaising effectively with a range of departments.

Attention to detail

Adept at dealing with multitudes of information and data, some nearly identical, without any mistakes or omissions.

Black screen showing coding - Shine a spotlight on your key skills and experience using bullet points

Shine a spotlight using bullet points

Now you will go on to present your work history in reverse-chronological order, but using bullet points to highlight projects and activities that showcase your relevant skills in action. This way you can show you have the experience that’s needed, even if it was gained in a different context.

Reframe everything you have done so far in terms of what you want to do next, like an arrow pointing to a new mark!  Use the job advert, person specification, and job description for your target job role as a starting point, then make sure every line of your new CV speaks to those requirements – guaranteeing CV success!

Man holding CV - Reframe your experience and skills in terms of the role you are applying for - Targeting your CV for success in 2020

Finally to ensure your CV success, complement your revamped CV with a strong cover letter explaining your motivation, readiness, and fit for your target role.  Demonstrate the research you have done about the company and the value you bring to the business.  As above, back up your statements with facts, numbers, statistics and real-life examples.

Need more CV advice?

At Octopus Personnel, we are experts at presenting our candidates to ensure the employer is able to see all the skills and experience you are bringing to a role.  Years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, and grasp of the needs of their business, means we are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to your new role, be that through CV advice, interview tips or helping you make the most of your experience.  You can sign up here and call the office on 01747 825568 to arrange an interview.

Alice Weeks

About the author

I specialise in temporary recruitment and I’m always planning ahead, but manage to fill those last minute gaps! I really enjoy the buzz of the Octopus Office and no two days are the same. For me, it’s really important to get to know my candidates so I can support them on assignments and get the best from them.

I love baking so working in the Octopus Office with a monthly bake-off is a dream come true. I am a great listener and I know the power of a well-timed cup of tea and a biscuit!