Figuring out what employers want isn’t always easy…
This is especially true when it comes to your CV. Aside from understanding the necessary skills (and adapting your CV in line with the job) – you also have to prove that you have them. In other words, you actually need to back yourself up.
We’ve already revealed five lines that are killing your CV, but here’s a quick list of skills employers look for in every application (and our advice on how you can demonstrate them effectively):
No matter what industry you’re in, almost all hiring managers value commercial awareness.
This means showing an understanding of market trends, the business, their competitors, and their products is vital. And although extensive work experience and/or study will help you to develop commercial awareness, it’s not the only way you can get it.
Working part-time, doing an internship, or carrying out extra-curricular activities are all great ways to gain a better understanding of the industry you want to work in. However, actively following and reading social media feeds, company emails, and journals will all help you to stay in the loop.
The most important part? Give practical examples to demonstrate times you’ve actually shown your commercial awareness off.
Do say: ‘An active follower of business trends with a great business acumen and commercial awareness – proven by the implementation of a new marketing strategy based on competitor insights and comparisons, resulting in an ROI of X percent for the business.’
Don’t say: ‘Good commercial awareness.’
Almost every role will involve some level of teamwork, so being able to demonstrate it well in your CV is absolutely vital.
Teamwork skills can be developed through a variety of jobs, hobbies, and study – whether it’s from working alongside others in a shop, taking part in group projects at uni, or playing in a local sports team.
Once you’ve thought of some unique examples to prove your skills, all you have to do is find a place for it in your CV. This could be in a section of its own (for example, if you have a skills based CV), or listed underneath your work experience, hobbies, or education.
Refer back to the job description to see how much precedence the employer places on teamwork, and adapt your CV accordingly.
Do say: ‘Excellent at working in a team. Skills demonstrated by a recent group project which resulted in improved website function and a better user experience. The change delivered an X percent increase of monthly revenue back to the business.’
Don’t say: ‘I’m a team player, who also works well alone.’
Whether the role involves interacting with customers, clients, or just other members of the organisation, never underestimate the importance of effective communication.
The problem is, making these essential skills sound less generic.
This could mean referring to a job where you showed excellent customer service, or a successful project that involved input from various members of the team.
But it’s not just verbal communication that employers are looking for. They might also want to know you can express yourself on paper – both clearly and accurately. If you’re applying for a job that involves written communication, always include examples of your skills in your CV.
Do say: ‘Able to communicate in a variety of ways, both verbally and on paper – demonstrated in various presentations and essays, as well as seminar and lecture contribution. Also a confident communicator on a range of social media platforms – as shown when managing my university publication’s social accounts.’
Don’t say: ‘I have excellent communication skills.’
Good organisational skills means more than simply being able to work to tight deadlines.
They also signify effective prioritisation and excellent time management, not to mention being able to show your prospective employer that you’re self-motivated and proactive.
Back up your abilities with real examples, and make sure they focus on achievements as well as the tasks you carried out.
The amount of focus you place on this skill will also depend on the job you’re applying for. For example, employers looking to hire in creative and fast-paced industries (e.g. media, publishing, graphic design) will be particularly interested in candidates who can demonstrate this.
Do say: ‘Able to manage time effectively and prioritise tasks in line with the needs of the business. Recently implemented an improved prioritisation system for raising tasks (including a backlog), which increased average completion time by X%.’
Don’t say: ‘An organised worker with an ability to prioritise tasks.’
Although many of the key skills employers look for are transferable from industry to industry, others focus on your specialist expertise.
These abilities are often required in addition to other essential skills, and their importance will be based on the type and level of job you’re applying for.
For example, those applying for jobs in programming may need to have proven skills in coding, whilst someone looking for a position in graphic design will need to draw attention to their industry-specific computer proficiencies (e.g. skills in Photoshop).
Other industries requiring specific job skills include construction, transport, nursing, engineering, and accountancy.
And whatever you do, don’t be vague (see also: sell yourself short).
If an employer is looking for a Truck Driver with a specific type of license – someone who hasn’t specified what kind of qualifications they have is unlikely to get a second look.
Do say: ‘Expert skills in web design, shown in the development of a variety of websites – all of which have resulted in improved functionality for businesses and their customers. Also proficient in print, logo, and layout design, as shown in my portfolio of successful commissions. Intermediate user of Photoshop, InDesign, and Dreamweaver.’
Don’t say: ‘Able to use a range of specialist software.’
Need more CV advice?
It takes an employer just seven seconds to save or reject a job applicant’s CV. This means creating a succinct CV is absolutely vital if you want to land that all-important interview.
To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.
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