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Improve your resume - impressing future employers with copy that pops

James Clift | November 23, 2015

A new job opening will inundate human resource workers with applications. Many people applying for these jobs aren’t qualified, and many applicants that are qualified are essentially filling in a blank template instead of producing a sharp CV. Producing a CV with excellent copy catches the eyes of those responsible for callbacks and follow ups. By making a CV pop with excellent copy, a candidate is boosting their chances of being noticed and called back for an interview.

According to Keeping an Eye on Recruiter Behavior, the study’s eye tracking technology shows that recruiters spent about 6 seconds on their initial “fit/no fit” decision. That is a tiny window of time. If you don’t grab their attention immediately, your CV will have a difficult time making it to the callback pile.

There are many ways to create a great CV that will pique the interests of future employers. While there is no one certain way to do this, there are some strategies that you can follow that will make your CV stand out from the rest in the pile.

Choosing the right words

Avoid being long-winded on your CV. Avoid writing long paragraphs full of run-on sentences at all costs. Trying to jam all of your past responsibilities into a couple of sentences can lead to a CV that is difficult to read.

When crafting your past job titles, aim to impress. Avoid a general title like Writer and show off with Editor-in-Chief or Content Manager. When you have the chance to impress, take it.

Before adding descriptions to go along with the titles, ask yourself if it will be relevant to the job you are seeking. Focus on writing down your accomplishments as opposed to mindlessly scribbling down a generic job description. Organize the most important responsibilities and experiences into concise, easy-to-read sentences that call attention to your expertise.

Whatever you do, do not write in the passive voice. The active voice is more concise and confident. The passive voice is the way most people learn growing up, especially when it comes to formal writing. But with a great CV it should be avoided. Instead of writing in the passive voice, “Responsible for editing and publishing ten blog posts per week”, change it to “Produced multiple daily blog posts”. The latter will give you more credit for your experience.

Try not to fill your CV with obvious or cliche statements. For example, it is obvious you will send over additional information upon request, you don’t need to add that into the text. That is a given and with a quality CV, less is more.

You don’t need to be a professional writer to produce great copy

A great CV needs to be concise, direct, and customized to the position you are looking to fill. Great written copy is key, but don’t think that you need to be a seasoned novelist to do the job.

What you will need to do, however, is pay close attention the grammar and punctuation throughout the CV. The last thing you want to happen is to leave a typo or random comma floating around the copy. You can kiss the callback goodbye if you decide to skip over the proofreading stage.

Creating multiple drafts of a CV can help you narrow down which one will work the best. Read them out loud to see which one has the best flow. But just because it sounds good to you doesn’t mean that it is necessarily ready to go.

You are not alone

Don’t ever think that your CV is a confidential document that should stay between you and potential employers. You will want to show it off to multiple sets of eyes to make sure any unwanted typos get taken care before reaching a potential employer.

Proofreading is a difficult process, even for professional writers. This is due to what psychologists call generalization. When you read through your own written content, you know exactly what you meant to convey. So, if there is a small mistake, you will very likely jump right over it because your brain knows what words are in that sentence. You focus more on the overall meaning of the sentence or paragraph than you are on each and every word.

Aside from getting human help to double (and triple) check your CV, run the text through one of the many free apps to help with the proofreading process. Grammarly and HemingwayApp are both great places to start. They help check grammar, punctuation, wordiness, readability, and more. These apps are incredibly valuable to the proofreading experience. Use both of them every time that your CV is tweaked for a new job opening.

Make your first impression count

Your CV is your first impression. While judging a book by its cover is frowned upon when it comes to meeting new people, it is still common practice. Because your prospective employer doesn’t know anything about you, your CV will be the only thing they have to make a quick decision about whether or not you make the cut. Considering that window opens and closes in mere seconds, you need to make sure that those seconds count.

Companies receive too many CVs on a regular basis to be able to give them the time and consideration they truly deserve. In fact, many companies have such a high volume of incoming CVs that they use human resource assistants and lower level employees as filters for the process. Managers and decision makers are unable to dedicate the time necessary to go through the endless flow of candidates. Before your CV even makes it to someone that will potentially call you back or have you in for an interview, it has to go through other hands first. By making sure your CV is concise, engaging, and written in the active voice with the most relevant information pertaining to the job opening is vital.

Some final thoughts

There is nothing more important than crafting custom CVs for each and every job opening. This is all done with the written word.

The Internet has left people with shorter attention spans than ever before. But at the same time, it has engaged readers like nothing else in history. Everywhere you look you will see people buried in their phones scanning articles and reading updates about their friends. This constant barrage of written content - in various forms - has conditioned people to read quickly, searching for the content that truly stands out.

This rings true even with those reviewing CVs, even if they don’t do it on purpose. Win them over immediately to ensure that your CV puts you in the callback pile, far from the pile of candidates that didn’t focus on the great importance of the written word.

Blost post author James Clift

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James Clift

James is the CEO of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

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