Style vs Substance: Your CV

It’s impossible to ignore the amount of competition your CV faces. We’ve all been told horror stories about recruiting like ’employers will only spend 0.001 seconds looking at your CV’ which has lead people to believe that the only way to get your CV noticed is by making a fold out 3D CV that sings like a musical card.

In reality, yes there is a lot of competition and a potential employer won’t spend hours - or even minutes - looking at your CV. So, the art of designing a CV that will stand out is a good skill to possess… but that doesn’t mean it’s a job for the glitter and fuzzy felt, unfortunately.

Before you get carried away on InDesign trying to demonstrate how great your design skills are by creating an entire CV through icons and graphs, remember that your CV is a functional document. 

You already have a portfolio that’s solitary purpose is to show off your work - and as we’ve already established, a recruiter doesn’t have a lot of free time, so why would they ask for two separate documents that illustrate the same thing? They wouldn’t - which means your CV isn’t for showing off your design skills.

If you were applying for a job as a retail sales assistant, you wouldn’t spend hours working on the design and appearance of your CV. Instead, you would open Microsoft Word and write down all your previous retail experience and how passionate you are about customer service. 
So why is that as soon as you apply for a creative role you assume the purpose of your CV changes? 

That isn’t to say that how your CV looks isn’t important, but always remember the function of your CV - to convince a recruiter that they need to contact you. What experience do you have? What skills have you learnt? Why do they need you? And most importantly, how can they contact you? 

When a potential employer looks at your CV, it’s a tick box process. They want to pick up your CV and see if the skills and experience you have matches what they need, that is all. So when it comes to the design, your thought process should be ‘how can I present this information in a way that is impossible to miss?’ 

We often see people who have spent hours upon hours creating the most perfect looking CV, incredibly intricate designs to prove how great they are at their job. However the problem is, all that design does is distract from the actual information.

It becomes a task in itself trying to find the relevant information - and returning to the issue of time, the recruiter doesn’t want to spend time figuring out your bar chart of adobe softwareknowledge. As a result, they will ring the person who’s CV has their contact details clearly labelled alongside their bullet pointed past experience list.

I will reiterate that I’m not suggesting you simply do a plain black and white list of previous employment! By all means induce colour and interesting layouts, it will of course work in your favour if the recruiter notices your CV out of a pile based on it’s design - but it is a common mistake to focus so much on design that you forget about the content. 

All too often we see CV’s that have skimped on information to fit into a small allocated area so it doesn’t ruin the aesthetic. But, not only are you likely to be missing out information that may help you land a job, it can also look like you’ve not got enough to fill a bigger space which will make the employer doubt your credibility. 

You need to impress the employer with your achievements, skills and experience in a matter of seconds. This means your CV needs to be as digestible as possible, the employer should be able to look at the document and immediately know where to find the information they are looking for.

Don’t feel pressure to demonstrate on your CV that you are the best creative in the industry, your portfolio will show your quality. Your CV is your opportunity to tell the employer everything you have done and what you are capable of - it’s an opportunity to land a job that is often missed, so it is worth reviewing your CV!

Not sure how to display your portfolio? Check out our blog post ‘Digital vs Print: How Should I Present My Portfolio?’ for our advice!

Got any questions? Something you’d like us to explain further? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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