What do employers look for in a CV?

Keeping your CV updated regularly will save you a headache, if and when you need it. Like cleaning the oven, tidying the garage or visiting the dentist, it’s never something some of us do until we absolutely have to. The jobs’ market is a highly-competitive landscape and making an impact isn’t always easy. Today we look at what recruiters are looking for and how to make your CV profile stand out from the crowd.

Striking a balance

A CV is the blank page that allows you to impress and convince potential employers that you’re the perfect candidate for the role available. Sensible employers will look at CVs as a guide to what the candidate’s capabilities are. In some cases the best person for the vacancy won’t necessarily be the one with the best qualifications. It’s sometimes about assessing a candidate’s suitability and striking the balance between being an impressive, interesting candidate – who is capable and qualified for the job – and an appealing personality who will be a great addition to the company.

Making introductions

Try and sum up in a short introductory paragraph who you are and why you’d be the ideal fit for the role. Keep this profile updated, to include new skills and areas of expertise. If you attend events such as networking, you can also use an adapted version of this profile as an introduction, to sum up who you are, what you’re about and your skillsets. But never create a standardised CV that goes out time after time. Your CV should be subtly tailored to each individual role you apply for.

Avoid clichés like the plague

Try to be original in the way you outline your skills, so you avoid the clichés of CV writing. If it’s possible and appropriate to, demonstrate your skills in action with actual examples. Write well and with clarity, without being too clever. Most importantly, make sure there are no basic grammatical errors or punctuation mistakes. They will automatically put off any potential employer and undermine your credibility.

The personal touch

Other factors affecting the employer’s decision might include the applicant’s personality – and that personality must also be highlighted in the application. Potential employers won’t get a feel for a candidate’s personality until they secure an interview, so you must present yourself in a positive light, without waffling and without being boastful or misleading. Employers will ask themselves, “Do I want this person to work for me?”, “Would they fit in with the existing staff?”, “Would they change the team’s dynamic?” or “What advantages would they bring to the business’s outputs and goals?”

Also where appropriate, establish your outside interests beyond work. This demonstrates a knowledge of a wider range of subjects than those required for the job, and an awareness and experience of the world at large. Through practice, think about what works and what doesn’t. Use this understanding to further hone your profile into an attention-grabbing, job-winning CV.

Remote control

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All aspects of our working lives have been affected by the worldwide spread of coronavirus and the challenges the resultant lockdown has presented. Many people are working in places that are usually their homes, their ‘break from work’ spaces. Meaning that any associated stress and pressures of these times are centred on their own residences. This can become damaging for mental health and general wellbeing. Managers will have to adapt their management styles to consider new behaviours and conditions.

Home vs office

Self-discipline is very important in these uncertain times. Employees who possess the ability to self-manage will be a huge asset to managers, who themselves are having to evolve to meet the changing face of work. More people are still working from home and many will continue to do so – either by choice, trepidation, or necessity. Until there is a recognised protocol or an immunising vaccine, many workers will probably prefer to remain working from home.

Even if offices are spacious enough to accommodate a large workforce, it is aspects outside of workspaces that can impact employees’ decision-making on home versus office. Travel on public transport, for example, will be a big stumbling block for many people. Mixing with work colleagues and family outside the household is one thing. But sitting next to complete strangers and touching door handles, handrails and other equipment will not be acceptable to some commuters.

Managing the challenge

In this way, management styles will need to change and adapt. For one, the days of micro-management are over. Managers will need to manage and trust their teams to do their jobs, without being constantly observed and without supervision. A great deal of trust will be required on both sides. However, this is being seen as one of the positives that will need to come out of the current situation. Leadership is important in this period – listening, trust and collaboration will all form part of a manager’s role.

It’s also important to embrace technology to make communication easier and teamwork smoother. Whether it’s platforms such as WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, there are many remote collaboration tools out there. Some managers will find relinquishing this degree of control difficult. But coaching can help them understand their management style and adapt to new ways of working. Coaching sessions can be carried out over the internet, via video conferencing. The lockdown restrictions needn’t be seen as a barrier to this taking place. Coaching can help to identify areas where managers are needing to adapt their management style to suit the situation.

Testing times

Talking to someone else can enable managers to see the big picture. This overview can prove very helpful is assessing exactly where a business stands during lockdown. Are the staff happy, are their outputs being sustained, and are they delivering on deadlines without the day-to-day contact with colleagues and management? If the answer’s yes, then great. But if there is room for improvement, this will have to be addressed.

This is where self-discipline will prove invaluable. If you have been furloughed, then you will not be working anyway – but contact with management is still important and a weekly or bi-weekly connection should be retained. Of those who are still doing their jobs from home, some staff may be used to self-motivating. Others may struggle to find a format and routine that works for them. Similarly, adapting a  management style will come naturally to some, while for others talking to a coach will be beneficial. Even the most seasoned manager will have something to learn during these testing times that have become a learning curve for us all.

Sharpen your CV to switch sectors

During this lockdown period, which has once again been extended, some sectors will be struggling, while others are booming. The challenges companies are facing, big and small, are being faced not just by isolated businesses but by whole industries – the hospitality sector for example, or leisure. If a business was struggling prior to lockdown, then the ongoing situation may have exacerbated things. Cash-rich companies are safer. However, no one is exempt from feeling the uncertainty and pressure of these unfamiliar times. If you currently work in a sector that is in decline or you can see problems on the horizon in the near future, this is a highly opportune moment to take a look at your CV and consider switching sectors.

New challenges

With an ever more competitive employment market, the first impression you make with that speculative email and CV is more important than ever. It has to be both an accurate reflection of your skills, but also interesting enough to stand out as distinctive. If you are used to writing, then pulling together a CV will come as second nature. Unfortunately many roles do not feature precise, concise writing as a primary skill and articulating your knowledge, experience and enthusiasm may not be a simple task. Think about how you’d like others to see you. Identify areas where you can highlight your particular strengths. Demonstrate too how skills that you’ve accumulated over your career so far have been adapted in different situations. This shows how your aptitude can be transferred to new industries and new challenges.

There are arguments pro and con on which style of CV is more effective. A functional one, or a reverse chronological one. Reverse chronological CVs are the most common form of presenting your work experience. They allow you to highlight your skills and experience, particularly within the same or similar sectors. But this might be the time for a change. The relevance of longevity in a single sector is less important than your skills themselves. A functional CV looks at key skills, abilities and achievements. This format will be far more useful than a reverse chronological one, particularly if you have worked in the same sector for an extended period.

Transferable skills

Most job titles, roles and functions are transferable. Companies will be on the lookout for the most talented people, regardless of the sectors they are from. This is particularly true of roles like sales, marketing, IT, HR and finance, to give a few examples. The medium or product changes, but the role is the same. As a result of this pandemic, some ‘boom sectors’ might be new ones, driven by a demand that was previously much smaller. Where medical products are involved, a high level of quality assurance/control is required. Companies will be hiring the best in their fields to contribute to what has become a national effort.

The UK Treasury’s ‘Furlough’ scheme is available until the end July in its present format. It will remain in place until October 2020 in some form. But some companies are already starting to look at their plans for the future. If you work in a sector that has been negatively impacted by recent events and your job is at risk, you might want to look at a different sector. Post-lockdown impacted sectors will be a highly competitive jobs market and it will be more important than ever for your CV to shine.

Coaching more important than ever

In the UK’s current lockdown situation, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that at some point the restrictions will be eased and we will return to a form of normal. Many people are apprehensive of what all aspects of our lives will look like on the other side of this. From how we work, to how we socialise. It’s essential to remember that the UK’s businesses and staff are still out there – it’s just that business is far from usual.

Coaching for the future

At this crucial moment in time, executive coaching is more important than ever. Managers are having to deal with managing a team, in a situation which they have never had to deal with before. Thankfully, the standard and availability of technology has made home working a lot more feasible than it would have been 15 or even 10 years ago. Many staff work on laptops now as a matter of course. So the location of their ‘desk’ – be it in a company office or the dining room table – does not impede their ability for perform efficiently. This flexibility is key to the success of remote working and some are adapting better than others.

Leading by example

But whether staff are still working onsite – some in factories and warehouses, for example – or from home, the pressures and behavioural issues are still increased. Executive coaching provides essential reflective space and much needed clarity of thinking in times of uncertainty and upheaval.  And there has never been a time of uncertainty quite like this one. Managers need the opportunity that executive coaching provides. To deal with their own challenges, before they are able to help their team deal with theirs.

New routines

Teams working remotely are facing different issues. Isolation can be a big part of that. In an office environment certain things happen naturally. You make yourself or your colleagues a cuppa, you say hello to your team, you chat about things that are not work-related. These trivial things are part of your normal working day. In this remote working set-up, we need to remember, “Leaders now need to be more intentional about saying good morning”. These routines need retaining, they need to be in place to provide staff with confidence that they’re not forgotten about, with contact providing reassurance. Remember, booked-in 1-2-1s with the team have a massive impact. It should be obvious to tell how your team is faring in isolation, when they have to interact with someone outside their home environment.

Engagement and development

Coaching and the coaching process is essential in helping to provide a thought process for problem solving. It’s also a reflective space with structure. Managers engaging with coaches are encouraged to self-analyse. To identify strengths, weaknesses, challenges and ambitions. At this time, different sectors face different challenges, different roles face different challenges. Coaching can provide new perspectives, an external point of view, that allows a fuller picture to be drawn outside the client’s own experiences. The lockdown period is a testing time and makes some issues more acute. Leaders and managers need to be more attuned to things spoken and unspoken, and the business decisions that their companies are facing. By working with a coach, they are able to formulate how their own businesses will develop – both in the short and long-term – and the shape work and the working environment will take, as the year progresses.

These difficult times also offer leaders some opportunities to develop themselves and their teams. Whether this is through furlough or time saved from the daily commute whilst working at home.  There may never have been a more urgent time to begin an executive coaching programme focused on future business performance. Or reengaging the workforce with a very clear return on investment.