In the first of our new ‘How to’ series, we asked Sarah Peñaluna, Families Employment Advisor at Forces Employment Charity, for some CV tips…

I’ve not updated my CV in ages, how do I get started?

Firstly, don’t panic! Research the types of jobs you’re interested in, then match your experiences to align with them.

For the first section of your CV, create a short professional profile of who you are, that reflects your current career objective.

Next, take the main facts of your previous employment like title, organisation, dates and put them under the work experience section. List between three to five points to describe the responsibilities of each role, adding a couple of sentences to give an overview of your accountabilities.

Remember, this is a working document that you will update on a regular basis.

How do I make my CV stand out?

First impressions are key, so start strong. Use the top half of the first page for an attention-grabbing summary of your key skills and achievements. Highlight the most important areas of your expertise and make it specific to the role you’re applying for.

Be sure to mention your experience in the industry and emphasise your results using quantifiable data.

I’ve got gaps in my employment history, how do I explain these or is it best to hide this on my CV?

Generally, anything over three months should be explained. Remember to focus on the positive aspects – the skills you gained and what you have learned from the experience, even if it was a difficult situation. This says a lot about your attitude and personality.

I don’t have any specific job experience in the role I’m applying for, but I have all the skills, how do I sell myself in my application?

Focus on your transferable skills. For instance, mention any volunteering or unpaid roles, your education and qualifications, and any professional development.

Life experiences count too. Military spouses and partners may be a stay-at-home parent for a period of time, so emphasise skills such as management and organisation of the household, and multi-tasking.

You may have moved around or experienced long periods of separation, so include attributes like adaptability and resilience.

I’ve heard employers use mapping to sift out applicants, what does this mean?

Mapping involves going through the job description and person specification and ensuring you are using the same language in your application. Don’t just copy and paste though! You can embed key words and phrases into the examples you provide. This is key because there is often an applicant tracking system that recruiters and hiring managers use to shortlist which searches out these terms.

Main photo: Sarah Peñaluna

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