As we approach the end of another academic year, very soon, the job market will prepare for an influx of fresh and enthusiastic academics looking for their first career break.

I am already seeing ‘Graduate Pending’ CVs land regularly in my inbox, along with school leavers too. And, staying mindful that Covid has denied young people the part-time work experience opportunities that usually prove how dependable and responsible they can be, the current crop of up-and-coming job seekers will be presenting to the market with little or no practical experience in the professional world.

Even with the high volume of vacancies we are seeing across the UK right now, it can be extremely hard to stand out and be shortlisted for an interview if there is nothing on your CV to link you to the job you have applied for. So how do you begin to tell new graduates apart?

One of the crucial areas I explore in any CV that helps me to decide whether someone stands out from the crowd is the ‘sport and interests’ section.

As a recruiter familiar with CVs of all shapes and sizes, my advice if you are preparing a graduate resume – or helping your children to compose theirs – is that while academics are important, what people look for most is what I call the ‘extra bits’. It is the volunteering, the charity work, or the discipline and dedication it takes to reach a certain level in sport.

I believe that the skills young people learn in these pursuits contribute greatly to their overall development. Especially through sport.

Not only does sport instil resilience and improve emotional intelligence, but it also helps to shape values and improve interpersonal and teamwork skills. Offering demonstrable examples of this in your CV is how you can shine as it offers recruiters an insight into the personality of the person they could be hiring.

Having spent a not-insignificant amount of time volunteering CV advice and hosting mock interviews in schools on behalf of Founders4Schools, I have found that it is the children who regularly do out of school activities that have the most to talk about. Often, they are more confident than their peers and, for the most part, are better communicators.

Only last week, I was sitting poolside at 7 am on the outskirts of Leeds while my son prepared to compete in a regional swim competition. Watching the children interact freely with others from their club and those in neighbouring cities and boroughs reassured me that all the early starts are perhaps not such a bad idea after all.

Perhaps my weekend spent sweltering on plastic seats amongst the blistering heat of a packed spectator gallery was a reasonable trade if it teaches my son skills that will build his character, shape his outlook toward a challenge, and be incredibly useful when the time comes to join the workplace.

Having recently helped a graduate who competed at a professional level in his chosen sport, not only did his CV shine out to me, but when I spoke with him, he was a long way ahead of others in terms of his attitude, professionalism, maturity, and drive. In many ways, he had seen more of life, and it has helped him immensely. He found a career opportunity very quickly.

Regardless of the activity, competing at an elevated level in anything takes a lot of commitment, dedication, and time. If you see this on a CV, remember that it also means people have more than likely missed events with friends to ensure they still are dedicated to their training routine and if they can do that, they can go the extra mile in the workplace too.

While the majority of recruitment is on hold until the coronavirus crisis plays out, the search to find new employment continues for a growing number of people. 

In such difficult times for us all, even with the option to furlough staff seeming to protect a large number of employees and their roles, the damaging effect businesses have felt from this pandemic has left some people looking for a new source of income. 

Facing the job market can be daunting enough at the best of times, but it is so much harder when you are competing against so many others in the same situation. 

If you are on the lookout for a new role, your first steps should always be to make sure you have a comprehensive and up-to-date CV that will help you to stand out. 

To help you put your best foot forward into the job market, and to ensure you don’t write war and peace in all of your new found free time, here are a few tips to get you started: 

Get Started
Begin by brainstorming all of the information you want to include on your CV, from your most recent responsibilities and achievements to your interests, qualifications and software package experience. In the first instance, it’s about getting the information out of your head and onto a piece of paper. People often hit brick walls when they try to make their CV perfect and, at the same time, are trying to decide what to write, so this will help you break your experience down into stages, making it so much easier.

Use the information you have gathered to create structure to your CV.  Think about the layout and design. You don’t need to write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as a heading for example, your name in bold would be much more beneficial for the reader! Also consider your font style and size . Keep it classic and regular e.g. Arial at size 10 or 11. While you want your CV to stand out, it is substance over style in this case, so your main priority needs to be presenting the information to the reader in the clearest format possible.

Contact details
Underneath your name, be sure to include your contact details mobile/e-mail. Your full address is not required, but it is always useful to include your town. More and more people are now also including their LinkedIn address, which is a great idea, as long as your profile is up to date and looks professional (including your picture).

This is a short summary so that the reader can gain a snapshot of you, your skills and what you are looking for. This is your opportunity to capture their attention and encourage them to read further, so adapt this for each job you apply for to show your suitability. It’s important to take your time and get this right, which means you might find yourself tweaking it regularly. If you are relocating, you may also want to mention this here, otherwise your address location may unnecessarily discount you.

Professional Qualifications/Education
Remember to include the name of the institute, school or college alongside your qualification, year and pass/grade. First time passes for professional qualifications along with any prize-winner awards are noteworthy. There is no need to list every module you have worked towards, however those at the beginning of their career with less experience to call upon may well wish to detail A level grades more than those who studied 30 years ago. For those who have been working for sometime with less relevant education, you can list this section after your career history rather than before if you prefer. 

Career History
Work in chronological order with the most recent position first.Remember to list the name of the company, location, dates of employment and your position. It is often useful to write a sentence about what the employer does, in case they are not known by the reader. When writing about your responsibilities and achievements it is easier to bullet point the information than it is to write full paragraphs. It’s easier to read, but do try to personalise your points so it doesn’t read like a job specification. If you happen to have a long list of previous employers think about whether details from employment 20 years ago is as relevant as your more recent employment.  It might be sufficient to simply list your earlier roles, rather than including the duties, but do include them with dates and job titles as, in my experience, employers like to follow your career from education to the present day. With that in mind, be sure to also point out what you did during any gaps in your CV.

IT Skills
Include generic packages such as Microsoft as well as bespoke or sector specific systems. Whilst some packages you have used might be bespoke to a certain sector or employer, the use of different systems demonstrates your ability to adapt.

In a world where we are recruiting people rather than robots, personality is so important. I cannot stress the benefit of adding this section to the end of your CV. Whilst your skills and experience are important, the reader wants to get to know you and this is the section to shine! Tell them about the things you like and what do you do in your spare time. People are often embarrassed about this part of their CV, but I would encourage you not to be. If you enjoy baking or playing in a brass band, or both, that is okay. Any achievements you are proud of, whether it is raising money for a charity, volunteering at a local care home, completing your Duke of Edinburgh or being an ultra runner; it all helps. Even a love for travelling has the potential to show your ability to adapt to different cultures, as well as being a potential ice breaker at interview. Above all this section can say a lot about your drive and motivation.

Hopefully, by now, you are beginning to form a CV you are pleased with, or maybe even proud of. When you have completed it, be sure to take break and look again a day later and question if everything is still relevant. Ask a friend or family member who you know will be honest to have a read for you, and take time to spell check and proofread, as there is nothing worse than misspellings on a CV. 

The aim is to make your CV two to three pages, depending upon what stage you are in your career. Please do not make it too long, save some information for the interview; your CV should merely dangle a carrot to show what you can offer. 

If anyone reading this would like me to review their CV, please get in touch and I will happily support you in anyway I can, regardless of whether you are in the accounting sector that I recruit within, or not.

There are many different ways to identify talent and it often pays to read between the lines in a CV.