BMH Blog

Create a CV that stands out

How to create a CV that grabs attention…

I made mention in a previous post about the importance of getting your CV perfect and ready to send out. Sadly, many students have a bog-standard CV that they send out to any and all job postings and wonder why the spray-and-pray approach is not working.

Having the benefit of being a Public Relations lecturer as well as someone who works in the PR industry, I read CV’s with a very critical eye because I know how the studies should translate into usable skills for our industry.

I also understand how hard it is to put a CV together when you are just starting out and you need experience to get a job but no one will give you a job so you can get experience!

There is good news! If you have studied at a reputable college or university, you should have many of the skills we are looking for when we look for interns and junior PR practitioners.

Here are a few tips to improve your PR CV.

  • Get the basics right!

There is nothing more annoying than reading a CV or cover page that talks about how good your spelling and grammar is, but it isn’t! The devil is in the details and we cannot employ someone who can’t get the basics right. Ask a parent, a friend, a lecturer or a professional to read your cover letter and CV before you send it out to make sure it is perfect.

  • Read and understand the job you’re applying for

Before you send a CV, you need to have researched the position you are applying for as well as the company who is offering the job. You can’t send a generic document. Make mention of some of the accounts they work on or some of the awards they have won and why that is interesting to you. Match up the skills they need with the skills you have.

  • You cannot just have one CV

Since no two PR jobs are the same, one CV cannot accurately convey your skills and interests. You may need a CV that focusses on your knowledge of Social Media. You may not have managed social media before but, you surely manage your own social media account. Talk about how you have learnt the value of storytelling, how to use pictures appropriately, and how you research and follow all the top brands on social media to see how it is done. You could even mention some of the posts and social campaigns the company you wish to work for has done and why they resonated with you.

You should have CV’s ready that cover eventing, internal communications, media relations, writing skills, CSI, crisis communications etc.

  • You need us more than we need you – so tell me how you can make my day better

Sadly, there are hundreds of recent graduates out there and we are spoilt for choice. Sometimes having an intern is hard work for us because we don’t really have the time to provide on-the-job training and we expect you to have learnt the basics at college or varsity.

But, if you tell me (and maybe even provide an example) that you are good at writing media motivations, researching and updating media lists and can compile strong editorial angles then I’ll be able to see how you can help me and the team and I’ll be more inclined to want to hire you.

  • Avoid the Platitudes and Clichés

To be honest, it is not a skill to say you are hardworking, professional, always on time and willing to work late hours. That’s the job of PR, day in and day out. No one is here to help you better your skills and help you become the best version of yourself. Don’t waste the reader’s time with these clichés. Get to the point and tell me what you can do for me.

  • Don’t forget the small things

It may not be something you studied or majored in but it may just be what we need. Are you able to shoot and edit small videos, take good photos, MC at an event, DJ, use PowerPoint or have skills in graphic design or Photoshop? These skills can be invaluable so don’t leave them off your CV.

  • You do actually have experience

For internships or junior positions, we don’t normally have the expectation that you will have experience in the position you are applying for. However, there might be other work or positions you have held that taught you several skills. Your Saturday or holiday job still gave you experience but don’t just say where you worked. Rather mention what you learnt while you worked in that position. Perhaps you learned how to cash-up at the end of the day, deal with demanding or difficult customers or you help out with events at church or your community centre. Look closely at what you did and you will find it gave you some experience. You just have to word it correctly for your CV.

  • Don’t be a robot

Imagine having to read through 20 CV’s all in black and white and all in the same boring format you were taught at school? It’s soul-destroying and sometimes just puts the reader to sleep. We are in a creative industry and we need to stand out and get people’s attention for our clients. Use your CV to show me who you are and what you can do. It may be the one and only opportunity to get my attention so do it in a creative and professional way.

  • Have a realistic understanding of your skill and your worth

Be humble – do not call yourself a guru or an expert. There is no possible way you can be a guru if you have just finished your studies. Even those of us who have been in the industry for 25 years don’t call ourselves that. You need to be aware that you have a lot to learn. Show that you are willing to learn and do whatever is needed to be the very best.

Also, don’t talk about how you need this job to help you grow and learn. Rather talk about how you will be an invaluable asset to the company and plan to learn and grow every day under the guidance of an expert team.

Looking for a job is hard work and can feel like a full-time job on its own. But just remember, your CV is the first bit of work you are showcasing to a potential employee. In the words of Eminem … “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow …this opportunity comes once in a lifetime …”

Good Luck!

*Claire Jackson-Bernardo is a Public Relations lecturer and is MD of Alerting the Media, a Public Relations consultancy started in 2006. She has over 25 years of media and communications experience in South Africa and has a passion for educating the PR professionals of the future.

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