CV & Job searching tips for 2020

Author: Alexandra Leader, Manager of the City Business Library

So, you’ve eaten more turkey than you care to mention and drunk far too much wine and now it is post-Christmas and you’re reflecting on what your vision is going to be for 2020.  New year’s resolutions are not always kept but if you are job searching or want to change career make 2020 the year that you make a difference.

How many of us moan constantly about our current job?  Who is plodding along hoping and wishing that a promotion might come our way?  Or, you might be unemployed and just feeling tired of the constant rejection that happens when you job search. If this is you, then read on. I am not a complete expert but having worked in recruitment for seven years before managing the City Business Library I have a few CV and job searching tips that I think are worth sharing.

Creating a killer CV

Did you now that recruiters decide about your CV in less in that 3 seconds?  Scary thought.  Most recruiters will have hundreds of CVs to sift through and I know from my own experience in recruitment that they are looking for key information and if they can’t find that information quickly then sadly your CV will end up in the shredder!

Make sure your CV uses key words from the job advert, this means you will need to tailor your CV for each job that you apply for.  It’s no good just creating one standard CV and sending it out ‘willy nilly’ as sadly it’s very likely that your CV will be binned.  Recruiters need to see that you have read the advert and job description and that you know what they are looking for. I have a skills-based CV which I use to showcase my transferrable skills and so when I apply for a job, I amend the key skills section to reflect the skills highlighted on the job advert. You can also amend your personal/professional statement to reflect the key skills as long as they are showcased at the top of your CV so the recruiter can instantly see them.

So, what’s a skills CV? I recommend this CV layout for most people but especially those who have a long career history as showcasing your key skills at the top means the recruiter does not need to read through all your job history to see if you have the right experience.  Remember, they decide about you from your CV in less than 3 seconds. Here is a useful summery of how to write a skills CV on the website along with a free template to get you started.

It is good to use bullet points to highlight main duties under each job, so you keep the CV clean and easy to read. The skills CV is also great for people who are just starting in employment after school or education as it’s likely that you will not have many jobs to list but you will have lots of skills that have been developed through part-time work or through education that should be highlighted.

I have a few more tips for CVs that I want to share with you that are useful for all CV layouts:

Top tips for any CV layout

  • Recruiters are a law unto themselves at times whether they are in-house recruiters or in an agency as they are working to targets so they want to get a job vacancy filled quickly. Make their job easier by sending them a great CV that they won’t need to alter and please run spell check. This was one of my pet hates.  If there was a typo or poor grammar, then that CV was binned.  Get a friend to proofread your CV too as sometimes spell check does not always find every error.
  • Do not under any circumstances have an unprofessional personal email address like!! If you have an email address like this, create a new email address for job applications that is professional and includes your name i.e.
  • Do not put a photo of yourself at the top of your CV unless you are applying for a modelling job! It’s completely unnecessary and it will mean that the recruiter may form an opinion of you from your picture.
  • I would advise against including your hobbies and interests in your CV unless they are pertinent to the job itself. To be honest, recruiters don’t really care what you do outside of work.
  • Make sure that you list every job you have worked in and quantify any gaps in your employment history. If there any unexplained gaps in your employment history, doubts will be raised in the recruiters’ mind. I went travelling for a year in my early twenties and so I literally have that explanation and the dates I was away included on my CV.
  • Do not provide names and contact details for your references section – simply state that ‘References are available upon request’. Including your referee’s details is outdated.
  • Keep your CV to 2 pages if you can. The maximum length should be 3 pages. If it is longer than this, then it is likely that your CV will be thrown away.
  • Do not get someone to create your CV for you. The CV is about you and so you need to own the information and create it yourself.  There are so many free templates that you can use that it’s not necessary to pay someone to complete the CV for you. From January 2020, I will be running some 121 CV sessions in the City Business Library and during this session I will suggest changes and alterations to your CV and provide you with personal guidance to improve your chances of securing that dream job!

So, I have covered a lot of information already about CVs and the ‘do’s and don’ts but I also wanted to give you some hints and tips about job searching that you may find useful.

Job searching tips

  • Even though I worked in recruitment for 7 years – I have sourced all my jobs myself by applying directly to employers. Sadly, I have not found agencies hugely helpful.  I am not suggesting that you don’t use agencies, but I do think it’s important to use a mix of approaches.  Statistically only 40% of jobs are advertised and so being speculative is also a good approach.  In the City Business Library, we have a UK company database called Fame which lists every limited and some unlimited companies across the UK.  You can filter your company list by sector, location, size of company, etc and use the generic company contact details to spec your CV out to.
  • I would also suggest that you connect with key contacts in your industry via LinkedIn too to ensure that you are visibly networking. However, do not list your status on LinkedIn as looking for new opportunities as this looks like you are desperate and unable to find a job which doesn’t send out the right message in my opinion.  Your LinkedIn profile is so important and acts as your online CV and so make sure that your profile is up to date.  The City Business Library has a great LinkedIn seminar scheduled for 16 January 2020 and so I advise that you book on this seminar to ensure you are really selling yourself in the right way on this platform.
  • Create a job searching plan and track what jobs you have applied for. It’s important that you have a structured approach to job searching.  I used to keep my applications listed on an Excel spreadsheet so that I could see when I had sent off an application form or CV.
  • Please follow up. When I was job searching a few years ago, I would look at my Excel list and follow up a week later with all the previous week’s job applications.  The follow up is important as it shows you are organised and keen to work for that organisation.

So that’s it, these are my key tips for CVs and job searching.  If you want some advice, then take a look at my upcoming 121 CV sessions where I would be delighted to help you.  I get a real buzz from helping people realise their career dreams.

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