Master your application to make the perfect first impression with your next employer. 

Many job ads receive hundreds of applications, so it pays to make sure your CV captures attention from the get-go. But what can you do to make sure your skills and experience stand out? It can be hard to know what a potential employer is looking for, especially when jobs and technology are changing, career development is expected, and graduate employment opportunities are competitive.

We reached out to Simone Donovan, former Head of Talent Acquisition at UNSW, to compile of list of the top five ways you can increase your employability and help your CV stand out. 

How to make your job application stand out

1. Keep is clean and simple

Many employers simply don't have the time to read a CV that too many words and no visual distinction between roles, which is why a clean and simple format is best. Keep your layout clear and stick to the key selling points of your work experience.

2. Use bullet points

Using a CV template with bullet points allows you to clearly communicate your skill set to time-poor recruiters. This creates a visual distinction between the roles and skills you are listing. Simone suggests using a maximum of ten points per role, and if you prefer to use paragraphs, use a maximum of three.

3. Build your connections

Networking increases your chances of connecting with future employers or other staff members at organisations you want to work at. Recruiters are more likely to respond to you when they’ve already come in contact with you.

One advantage of postgraduate study is that it offers ample opportunities to take advantage of the university's connections and industry partners. 

4. Expand your experience

Postgraduate expertise looks great on any CV, but it will also open up a range of opportunities to build your professional experience and grow industry-relevant skills. Whether it be joining a student-run club or society, undertaking internships or work placements or building experience and connections through events, volunteering, or sport, taking on diverse opportunities will increase your employability.

A range of experiences shows tenacity, initiative, and highlights your ability to embrace teamwork.

5. Know what makes you unique

Don’t be afraid to work with your personality, the thing that makes you who you are. A great place to showcase this personal statement is at the top of your CV or in your cover letter. These allow you to tailor your words to the role you are applying for but also to really go into what makes you passionate about your industry, what drives your professional development, and what your personal career goals are. There’s only one version of you, so make the most of it. 

What should I not include on my application? 

Sometimes it seems the rules of creating the perfect curriculum vitae, or CV, are constantly changing. Is it better to condense your work experience down to a one-pager or get detailed? Do you cover everything from high school jobs to volunteer experience, or is it best to keep it top level?

Here's Simone's list of the biggest CV no-nos:
  1. Don't put your photo on your CV. They may be able to see your picture on LinkedIn, but it's better to save face for the job interview.  
  2. Avoid using an unprofessional or tacky email address. We’ve all got them from our teen years, but it pays to create a new, more professional email address for job applications and hiring managers.  
  3. Don’t be unclear. A prospective employer may work in a different role to you within the organisation, so clarity on your work history, overall experience and previous roles are paramount. 
  4. Keep it short.  Reading through CVs is a time-consuming task. This means anything over four pages can be overwhelming to time-poor hiring managers. It’s best to keep it clear, concise and consolidated to a few pages, max.
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