by Lisa Mortini, Recruitment and Admissions Manager, Early Careers
When you apply to business school, you may find yourself facing this age-old problem; how do I make my CV stand out from the competition? In this article we aim to look at some tips that will help you create a lasting impact on your readers, the Admissions Committee members.
- It’s also about ‘THEM’
Logic dictates that a CV would be ‘all about you’ but it’s not quite so simple. Remember that CVs are written for someone else to read so you want to take into consideration your audience’s needs and the kind of information your reader wants to find.
Member of the Admissions Committee will ask themselves:
- Are you a capable student? Do you have the academics, skills, and knowledge needed to cope with the programme?
- Will you be a successful student? Will you have the right drive to get results? Are you providing evidence of taking positions of responsibility? Are you motivated to do well?
- Will you fit in? Are you well-rounded? Are you showcasing activities that will make you a contributing team member? Do you come across as genuine?
Thinking first of your readers’ expectations will help you tailor your messaging more effectively.
- It’s about RELEVANCE
The recruiter’s perspective is that many CVs and cover letters appear mass-produced and generic: “Students need to include information that helps to differentiate them and demonstrates their motivation.” Every CV you send should be individually tailored to its audience.
My advice is to write up a full list of all of your projects, skills, and experiences on a blueprint CV. Use this list to pick and choose which elements should feature more prominently on your final iteration (without creating time gaps or omitting important information).
Do decide which achievements are truly significant to your audience.
Is a swimming competition won as a child crucially important information? You may want to highlight more recent examples of success instead. Could a three-month, stellar extra-curricular project previously omitted from your CV actually be of interest? Always showcase your more pertinent experiences.
Universally in-demand skills, such as analytical, inter-personal, teamwork, leadership, and creativity skills should always be featured. Once you’ve assessed what the audience needs to hear, add more relevant elements based on the specific soft skills, hard knowledge, technical aptitude, and commercial awareness you possess.
Do provide actual evidence and examples. It’s never enough to say “I am a good communicator, I am a leader” on your CV; let your achievements speak for themselves instead. You want to highlight specific projects or internships within your sector of interest, examples of challenges or risks undertaken, international exposure gained, languages spoken, etc.
- It’s about CLARITY
Did you know that many employers use scanning software to ‘read’ CVs because they receive so many applications that using human eyes would be counter-productive? Recruiters told us the “best applications are structured and succinct.” This applies to business school applications as well. Your CV should be easy to read at a quick glance to capture our human attention and keywords and achievements should pop from the page.
To achieve this, you should:
Feature measurable achievements and quantify experience: use amounts or percentages to establish targets and assess results. “Designed a social media campaign which helped increase our customer base by 8% over three months” is more effective in demonstrating accomplishments than “participated in a social media project.”
Use ‘action verbs’ to showcase your personal contributions. Don’t forget to highlight your own input, initiatives, and innovations. What did you increase, decrease, implement, produce, report, create, support or develop? Simply emphasise YOUR genuine added value and don’t just copy/paste the job description of your internship.
Keep the timeline easy to follow and the layout clean. Do use reverse chronological order (most recent first) in all sections, explain any time gaps, and give your exact internships dates. Saying you interned at Google in ‘July 2015’ is unclear: were you there for one, two, three weeks? At this level in your career, how much time has been spent in these experiences is important information. Do keep the CV layout simple: avoid photos (not needed in the UK), logos, links, and tables. Finally, do spell-check everything, from the name of your university to your email address.
Remember that your CV directly represents you as a successful student and an aspiring young professional so taking good care into crafting it will impress your audience.
Happy writing and we look forward to reading your impactful CVs!