Sport is no different to other industries; it's fiercely competitive, fast-moving and thrives on contacts and relationships. Whether you're seeking to enter the sports industry or just change roles within it, to get a foot in the door you need to make an instant impact with an eye-catching CV. Your application must to distinguish you from the mass of other eager candidates, so here are five crucial elements to make the impact you need to make:
1. A strong introduction
Your first paragraph is pivotal. If it isn't captivating enough, the reader's attention will very quickly move elsewhere. Research shows that recruiters take around six seconds to decide on which pile to place your CV, which means the first 15-20 words in it are absolutely critical.
Start by reading the job description and selecting the key words. Then try to include several of them when describing yourself in the first paragraph (some firms use an applicant tracking system to search for certain words on incoming CVs before they even get looked at by a human being).
The next (harder!) part is arguing persuasively that you're better than the other suitable applicants. Quantifying your own brilliance ("award-winning", "over 25 years' experience", "exceeded targets") gives the recruiter tangible evidence that you're worth at least a further glance down the first page.
Ask others what they consider to be your strongest attributes and include them, backed up by relevant examples. Make your intro powerful, rich in detail and avoid clichés and platitudes, such as "results-driven" or "ambitious", which could apply to anybody.
2. Relevant information
Keeping the 'six-second rule' in mind. It's important that all the information you present to the recruiter is directly relevant to the job description. If you know they're likely to be swamped by applications, it's advisable to omit anything that could be viewed as extraneous, as it will waste their time.
This could even include attributes such as a second language. It's undeniably impressive if you've learned Mandarin, but if you're applying for, say, a digital content role in Paris, it's irrelevant.
In addition, unless you're a recent graduate, it is best to omit most university and school accomplishments too. Recruiters will not be interested in what you did in your early 20s 10 years on.
Avoid mentioning influential or recognisable people you've worked with as well. Name-dropping when job hunting is much-debated , but if you think there is value in it, it might be best left for the interview.
3. Tailored content
Time-consuming it may be (especially if you're applying for numerous roles), but tailoring your CV to each job description is mandatory if you're to achieve success.
Each company, role and job description is different, and wants applicants with slightly different attributes, so it makes perfect sense to tweak your CV to emphasise the aspects of your skillset and experience that are most applicable.
It's worth researching the culture and reputation of the company too. If their brand is youthful and trendy, it gives you licence to be a bit more creative with your presentation, language and perhaps expand your 'Personal interests' section. If it's more corporate, keep it formal.
4. Up-to-date references
An up-to-date list of relevant references is vital. A potential employer is bound to be impressed if you have members of senior management from your previous companies as points of contact, if they want to find out more about you. Make sure they’re appropriate for the role you’re chasing, though. It’s no good naming the Asda branch manager if you’ve applied to join the marketing department of a football club.
Also, contact the referee before you put their name on the list, in case the recruiter emails or phones them to discuss your qualities. Just because that referee acted as a reference for your last job application doesn’t necessarily mean they are willing do so again.
5. Clean layout
Your CV is essentially a piece of marketing material – you are the product, the employer is the customer and your CV is the sales pitch. To sell the 'product' clearly and persuasively, presentation is important.
As a general rule, you should opt for a crisp, clean design template that naturally draws the eye to the most impactful and relevant information; your skills, accomplishments and qualifications.
Whether you attempt something visually intricate and creative should be decided on a bespoke basis. Generally, though, in the sports industry, unless there's a strong art or design element to the role or company, it's best to proceed with caution and prioritise content over style.
Ask yourself, does the design augment, or detract from, the key information? A graph showing how sales figures rose during your tenure in your previous role may be exactly the sort of evidence the employer wants to see. Fancy fonts and clip art are likely to have the opposite effect.
As equally important as a clean layout, is clean content – i.e. devoid of spelling, grammatical or factual errors, which would allow recruiters to dump your CV on the reject pile.
So read through your CV at least twice, preferably on separate days when you’re fully alert, as it’s amazing the number of mistakes you can pick up on a second read.
Then get someone who's a competent proof-reader to go through it. Relying on a spellchecker isn't good enough; it won't sound the alarm if you've accidentally typed "I hate numerous qualifications..." instead of "I have..."
One final tip: save your CV as a PDF so that any formatting won't be corrupted and will appear to the hiring manager in the manner you intended.
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