CV makeover: Q&A

Posted by | January 20, 2017 | CVs and cover letters, Job hunters

CV makeover: Q&A blog header


Ok, you’ve made the resolution. It’s a new job for you this year! It’s time to dust off your CV and give it some TLC – it’s makeover time!

We sat down in a Facebook Live chat with Antonia from Blue Dot HR a few months back to help answer some of your CV related questions. You can check out the video of this chat or read the Q & A’s below .


Q: Should I tailor my CV to each job, or keep it standard?

TAILOR IT! If you REALLY want the job, make sure you show it by going that extra mile.

You need to align the skills and talent required for the job in your CV and cover letter  –  but more so in the cover letter. You will need evidence and examples from previous employment that highlight these skills too.

The first page of your CV should highlight your functional skills (e.g what are you great at?),  the following pages should highlight employment history, using an achievement based approach (tell us what you did so well at your last job!)


Q: I want to make the move into the not for profit sector. What should I do to best tailor my CV to this move?

Highlight your experience. The transferable skills you have and problem-solving abilities. Make it easy for the employer to see the clear links between the skills that they require and the skills you have.

Highlight your passion.  Showcase what you are passionate about, interests, voluntary stuff, involvement in the community and what drives you. Be sure to tell this story in your cover letter, along with your core values and the alignment between your values and the organisation you are applying for.

Light in skills? Your interests, volunteer work, what you do in your spare time is also valuable. Bring your personality through into your cover letter and social media. If you are still struggling to break through, look at volunteer work in your spare time to boost your experience. Build up your profile and what you can contribute. It’s not all about your work history.

Tone down your jargon. For example, if you’re are coming from the corporate world, don’t say things like “I really like what your company does” – not for profits are not companies. They are more likely to identify with the term “organisation” or “charity”.  Using the right kinds of words for the industry you are getting into can be the difference between the yes and the no pile.


Q: How should I shape my CV when there are gaps in my work history? 

Some reasons for the gaps in your CV are more accepted than others (you’ve been travelling, raising a family etc).  To get around this, use years instead of days and months.

You can also make a CV more of a functional CV (focusing on the skill),  rather than chronological. have some great skills-focused, or work-focused CV templates here for you to start from.

If you feel like you have too many gaps, you could approach a recruitment agency – in a way they are like your broker, they are there to give and highlight your best attributes. Read Anita’s post on tips for job hunting with recruitment agencies.


Q: I’m applying for a job but do not meet one of the requirements – should I mention this fact?

You may need to re-evaluate going for the job if there are too many requirements that you can not fulfil.

However, if it is just one or two requirements out of a long list, you don’t really need to bring it up at this point if it is not essential to requirements. Employers might note this, but accentuate the positive instead.


Q: How far back should I go with my work experience?

The most recent experience is the most relevant. You don’t need any more than 10 years worth of work experience – we don’t need to know you were a barista in a cafe 25 years ago when you are applying for a senior management role. Unless you are a school leaver, you don’t need to put where you went to high school or any certificates either.


Q: Should I include referees?

Yes and no. For the initial CV and cover letter you can just put “please ask for referees”. If you get put in the yes pile and get interviewed, make sure you have a reliable referee – use your current place of work if possible – and give them the heads-up that someone might be ringing.


Q: Should I include social media links – e.g LinkedIn, Twitter etc? 

Definitely add your Linkedin profile. Make sure it is up to date and aligns with your CV (see our post on creating a Linkedin all-star profile).

Be mindful that employers might look you up on Facebook, so have a respectable profile picture. If you have a lively Facebook life that you wouldn’t want a potential employee to see, adjust your settings on Facebook to private and strictly limit who can see things.


Q: What is the best layout?

Remember simple is often best.  Be professional, clean and nice. Stick to one to two basic fonts, and make sure you focus on readability. Use bullet points, headings, bold (but sparingly) and paragraphs to really highlight features.

It seems obvious, but include your contact details! Put in your email addresss (use something professional), and your contact phone number.

Use page numbers and put your name in the footer – this way if one of your CV pages goes astray, they’ll know it’s part of yours.

PROOF READ IT. I have seen so many glaring mistakes “I am a multi-tusker” and more.  Spell check is good and tools like are great. Also make sure you read it back to yourself (out loud is best) for flow, and get someone else to read it.

Before you hit send, PDF your CV and cover letter (your beautiful formatting work might get lost if not). Make sure the file name is suitable too – for example: “John Smith – CV” and double check when applying for a job that you have exactly the right title of the job and organisation.

Also, check out our blog: 12 things you MUST do before submitting your job application

Q: I always feel stuck with CV length – should it be longer or shorter?

The ideal length is under three pages. A cover letter should be one page maximum.  It’s about quality over quantity and needs to impress from the very beginning.


Q: Should I include a photo?

Nope.  If you use Gmail or an email provider which has a user photo, make sure you have a professional profile picture. Ditto with most social media platforms, make sure it’s professional.

We also don’t need to know your date of birth or ethnicity.


Q: What should I expect after sending my CV in?

Fingers-crossed your CV hits all the right points and makes it to the yes pile. Prepare for phone screening – it’s an opportunity to impress even before your interview. If they ring when it’s not convenient, tell them to ring back when it is.

Sometimes it can take a few weeks for decisions to be made on who to interview, but you should hear from them one to two weeks after closing if you are going through to the interview stage. If they are a good employer, they should also let you know if you haven’t made it through to the next round pretty soon to manage expectations.


More CV advice…

  • Check out what achievement based CVs are all about on Google
  • Visit for bigger, better resources specific to the not-for-profit space.
  • Look at our other blogs on this topic on Do Good Jobs….

Be confident and just be your amazing self OK!

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