3 tips for a better CV

 27 June 2013

In a competitive job market, an effective CV can feel like a challenge to get right. Emily Buchanan shares three pieces of advice to help yours succeed as much as possible.

Make sure your CV is clearly, concisely and accessibly laid out.
Make sure your CV is clearly, concisely and accessibly laid out.

Whether you want to be an arts and culture journalist or a stonemason, for many people it can seem harder than ever now to break into a creative industry.

As time goes on, and more and more applications are done online, it is becoming harder and harder to get away with a CV of half-formed thoughts.

Many employers will ask you to fill in their own application form, rather than submit a CV, but lots of this advice can also apply to your application form.

Here are three ways you can make the most of your CV and impress potential employers as much as you can. 

1. Redesign your CV

For every job in the creative industries you apply for, the employer is likely to be inundated with CVs from rival candidates. Most will mechanically list the achievements of graduates, often with very similar qualifications.

Experience alone is no longer enough, and often this is particularly the case if you’re going for a creative role. 

Have a look at different ways to present your CV. A good design can vividly display the creativity and skill of the candidate before experience even comes into it.

If you don’t know how to use software packages such as Photoshop, don't panic. If you move in creative circles, you’ll likely know someone who can help you out, or you could download free trials of image software. There are plenty of online tutorials to help you educate yourself on the basics.

Whilst this might seem time consuming, think of it as an investment. If your CV isn’t capturing anyone’s attention, you might as well not apply.

2. Strengthen your online presence

An online presence is part of what makes a compelling CV successful. 

If you are using an application form rather than a CV, you won't need to consider your CV's design, but you will still find it useful to outline what kind of online presence you maintain. 

Keep your voice and your identity strong. Showcase your expertise in your creative field.

Prospective employers will probably search for you on Google – so the last thing you want is your old MySpace page appearing at the top of your search results.

Follow these steps and tidy up your digital footprint:

Check your privacy settings

Do you still have an active social media account, untouched for several years, that you’ve almost forgotten about? Delete it.

Make sure your personal profile pages on any social networks you belong to are totally private and do not appear in search results.

You can do this by deselecting a box in your privacy settings.

Social networks are often an intimate window into your life, and if there are pictures of you from a freshers' week party that you’d rather not brag about, make sure these are discreetly hidden.

Start using Twitter

Twitter can be a difficult platform to get right, but it isn't all quick one-liners. If you start to follow industry leaders, you can gain an insight into their working lives and glean professional advice.

Start blogging

Set up a blog or website that is dedicated to your work in your creative skill area. Keep it regularly updated with your work, your ideas, and your reactions to the work and ideas of others within your chosen profession.

Join LinkedIn

LinkedIn acts as an online CV that backs up your claims of leadership and adaptability by allowing ex-colleagues and classmates to add testimonials to your profile.

  • Use one profile picture throughout your public social profiles, and make sure that this is at least semi-professional.
  • Aim for a smart-casual 'head and shoulders' image of yourself against a plain background. Any pictures of you in a nightclub will not do!

By showing potential employers that you know how to harness the opportunities the web can offer, and can do so in a professional and thoughtful manner, you’ll be one step ahead.

Many candidates still do not yet realize the value of an online presence.

Keep your voice and your identity strong throughout, and showcase your expertise in your chosen creative field.

3. Get some experience 

CVs and application forms always look better if you can show you've made an effort to work in the industry you're trying to get a foothold in.

Many young people seek work experience, often during the summer holidays if they are at university.

However, if you’ve already graduated or you don’t have any work experience, consider volunteering.

Offering your skill for free can be a useful way to flesh out your CV, but make sure you know your rights.

Offering your skill for free can be a useful way to flesh out your CV, but make sure you know your rights.

The difference here is that you aren’t tying yourself to a formal internship scheme which might expect you to work full time without any pay.

By offering your craft (whatever that may be) to a variety of organizations, you can expand your portfolio whilst simultaneously working full time to pay the bills.

Although this might be tiring, proactivity, dedication and extremely hard work are often essential traits when searching for a job in a creative industry.

Maintain a section of your blog that showcases all of this in an appealing and integrated fashion, and provide a link to it on your CV.

Showing a portfolio is mainly for freelancers, or those in directly creative jobs such as graphic design. For these roles, your CV should accompany a link to your online portfolio.  

For the interview, you may want to buy a presentation folder and display it physically, too. That way, when you get an interview, you can bring evidence of your experience into the room with you.

What are your CV presentation tips?

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