Do you want to get a new job, get promoted or get a pay rise? Then now's the time to dust off your CV and really get it battle ready, because it's currently the 17th annual International Update Your Resume Month.
You might think that your CV is okay as it is - but, as someone who has seen thousands in my career, I can tell you there's always room for improvement.
Crafting a CV that really helps you stand out from the crowd and wow the reader takes a long time, so it's never a good idea to wait until your dream job pops up and then have to rush it.
Here are my tips to whip your CV into shape to be prepared for the next stage in your career.
First things first...
Having the words 'Curriculum Vitae' at the top is the most common mistake of all - talk about stating the obvious! It's a waste of valuable space, too. Unless you've decided to go with an inadvisably unrecognisable CV style, no one needs to be told. You simply need your name at the very top of your CV in a larger font than the rest of the text, in bold and centred.
The next thing to look at is how long your CV is - if it's more than two pages, it needs serious editing.
The only possible exception is if you've been in project-based roles, where one extra appendix page is allowed for past projects. If not, start chopping...
Typeface and layout
Avoid anything wacky for either - it needs to look neat and professional. You can download conventional CV templates from a host of sources online.
With font, stick to something that's easy to read like sans-serif and go no smaller than 10 point.
Include a personal statement at the top
After your name, location and contact details, you need one or two sentences which brilliantly sum up your skills and experience. Use eye-catching, active language which puts your background in the best light and really sells you as a candidate. Think about your USP - what qualities do you have that make you stand out from others?
Achievements not responsibilities
All CVs nowadays need to be value-based - that means not merely listing your responsibilities in the roles you've undertaken, but also the outcomes you've achieved.
The worst CVs are those that state "my responsibilities included". Your CV needs to be about the value you have already delivered. This is the best indicator of what you're going to deliver in the future.
It's hard for many of us to sell ourselves. We're all much better at talking about what we can't do, but everyone has achievements - you just might not realise because they're part and parcel of your daily role. Think about what tangible differences you've made - problems overcome, savings made or value added. Or what about those times you went the extra mile? Use figures to quantify your success wherever possible.
Use key words
Key words are essential today, if only to get past the software scans and in front of an actual human being. So, cram your CV with ones relevant to your industry - if you're not sure, they're easily Googleable.
Avoid hackneyed words and use natural, conversational language that shows what you've actually done, rather than boasting about what you're capable of.
'Results-oriented professional' and 'solution-focused' are meaningless phrases, because every professional is.
'Excellent communication skills', 'strong work ethic' and 'exceeded expectations' without examples are just vacuous, overused CV clichés. Instead, describe achievements or success stories which shows how you are prepared to go above and beyond. Saying you're 'dedicated, committed, highly motivated', etc without evidence is utterly pointless.
Avoid using the word 'supported' where possible, as well as 'helped' or 'assisted'. Your CV should be about what you can do on your own - focus on your solo achievements.
Good words to use include "demonstrated", "developed", "improved", "instigated" "negotiated", "supervised", "advised", "achieved" and "organised". Don't exaggerate, or worse, lie. You must be able to back up everything you say.
Sometimes what you leave off is more important than what you include. Don't ever reveal why you left a job or were fired and don't include any previous roles no longer relevant to your career.
If you've been working for a long time, there's no need to detail every job you've ever had.
Similarly, if you've got professional qualifications and/or a degree, there's no need to list every GCSE and A Level.
Keep your personal interests, well, personal
Listing the likes of 'reading and socialising' in the personal interests' section is a no-no - nearly everybody likes reading and socialising! Instead, include interests that really highlight the best elements of your character.
If you send off your CV and are eventually offered a post, it's only then you'll be asked to provide details of referees. No need to take up space on your CV with them.
There's simply no margin for error on a CV - check, check and check again for spelling, grammar and typos.
Now you have a perfectly polished CV, perhaps this autumn really will be a season of fruitfulness - for your career at least...