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Getting your CV to the top of the pile

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
Photo by Lost Co
Photo by Ambreen Hasan
Sam Grover is on the case, here he tells us how you can stand out as a candidate


There are all kinds of ways to make a living as an artist, but the most reliable is also the most ordinary: going out and getting a job. Of course, this is often easier said than done. When you apply for a job, your CV is probably going to be one CV out of dozens, or hundreds. To get an interview, your CV needs to stand out from the rest of them. 

But how do you do this? I have no idea, as I haven’t had a job for a while. So to get to the bottom of this, I spoke to Claire Neville. Claire’s an account manager at recruitment firm HainesAttract, and she’s seen more than her fair share of good, bad and downright weird CVs. Here are her tips on how to write a CV that gets you to the top of the pile.


Get the basics right

This tip may seem obvious, but Claire told me that basic mistakes and omissions are far more common than you’d think. For example, lots of CVs don’t have contact details on them! They’re an easy thing to forget, because you probably sent your CV by email, or included your contact details in an online application form. But your CV will often be printed out and put in a pile with other applicants  - the other information you provided is separate. So make sure you have your email address and phone number on your CV. 

On top of that, make sure you nail your grammar and spelling - particularly if you’re going for a role that involves writing! It’s pretty easy to miss a typo or a a repeated word when you’ve been working on your CV for ages, so get someone else to take a look at your CV before you send it off. 


Highlight the relevant information! 

You want to make it as easy as possible for the recruiter or hiring manager to see why you are qualified for the job you’re applying for. To do this, have a read of the job description, and the job ad, and think about which aspects of your career are the most relevant. Then, tweak your CV to make these aspects the most obvious. 

For example, if you’re applying for a video editing job, and your last job was a 50/50 split between video editing and graphic design, then edit your CV to really highlight the video editing bits of that job. That way, people who read your CV will immediately see that you have what it takes to do this specific video editing job.

Photo by Lost Co.


Remove the unnecessary detail

Did you get straight Excellences in your NCEA Level 3 exams in 2004? Good for you! But I have some bad news for you: nobody cares. Well, your mum might care. But a recruiter or hiring manager who is reading your CV almost certainly does not. They want to know whether you have the skills and experience to do this particular job; your achievements and job history from years and years ago don’t really help them answer this question. 

So be ruthless about culling details. Claire told me that some CVs can be 8 or 9 pages long! This is far too long. Remember, the only purpose of the CV is to get an interview - if they want more detail about anything, they can ask you in the interview. 


Show your creative flair - but don’t lose sight of the goal

A common problem Claire runs into is an applicant who has clearly put a ton of effort into making their CV stand out from the crowd, by designing it in a funky way. This is certainly eye catching, and a bit of this is worth doing, but you want to be careful not to overdo it. At the end of the day, recruiters and hiring managers need some specific information: what kind of skills do you have, and what kind of experience do you have? If you overdo the creative side, and write each of your skills as a leaf on a tree or something like that, you’re making people work too hard. 

That said, don’t be afraid to show some creativity, especially if you’re going for a job like graphic designer or illustrator. Just don’t lose sight of the overall purpose of the CV. 


Be honest

This is another one that feels obvious but comes up time and time again. If you don’t live in New Zealand and need a visa, make that clear! After all, the recruiter or hiring manager is going to find out if they progress your application, and if it turns out you’ve misled them, it’s going to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. 

So be honest about who you are, where you live and what you can do - it’s the best way to build a great, long-term relationship with recruiters and hiring managers. 

Photo by Ambreen Hasan. 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

15 Jul 2019

The Big Idea Editor