5 Signs Your CV is in Job-Winning Shape

4 minute read

You’re about to apply for that perfect job in the charity sector. You get one shot, so it’s absolutely imperative that your CV appears impeccable.

Is it ready for submission? How can you be sure? Put your CV through this gauntlet to see if it’s ready to go!

5 Signs Your CV is in Job-Winning Shape

Test 1: Is it easy to read?

Anyone reading your CV is short on time. They’re not looking forward to processing a pile of applications. But if your CV is ready to go, you’ve used some tricks to make it easy to process. You’ve carefully weighed what to include, where to include it and how to word it. You avoided large blocks of text because this isn’t a uni paper. Instead, you distilled your experiences into bulleted lists.

For example, let’s say you volunteered for two years as an Admin Worker for small international development charity based in London. If someone came up to you in person and asked, ‘What did you do there?’ you might say something like this:

‘Basically, I started out as an IT person when people were having problems with their computers. Later I figured out that some of the source code was messed up on the software they used to manage volunteers, and they let me go in there and fix it. I also had an idea for a better way to track donor information so I helped with that.’

But this isn’t right for your CV. There are too many irrelevant words, not enough details, and it doesn’t properly separate your experiences as skills. Here would be a better way to word it:

  • Provided IT support to a staff of 30, which included setting them up for remote working.
  • Optimised volunteer management software, which resulted in better volunteer retention.
  • Diagnosed and manually resolved a problem with the donor tracking software’s existing source code.

See—you’re highlighting responsibilities while also emphasising the impact you made. And the fewer words you use to do it, the easier it is for recruiters to take in.



Test 2: Does it have a professional-looking design?

Let’s start with aesthetics. Whether you design your CV using a purchased template, a specialised program or a simple word processing software, design mistakes are possible. If you want your CV to be readable, you have to design it well. That means text placement, text size, white space, font type, font effects and whatever features you end up integrating: columns, colours, etc. You can make things as fancy as you want, but every element must be executed flawlessly.

Let’s move on to CV sections. While every CV has the basic sections—contact info, personal profile, work experience, education, skills—some CVs benefit from additional sections. In the charity sector, especially, hiring managers like to see things like relevant courses, hobbies and volunteer experience.

If you want to highlight some of these items, you don’t have to make a separate section. Sometimes you can file these things into already existing sections, saving space and keeping things simple.

Maybe you received an award was for a company-sponsored innovation contest. Instead of making a section for ‘Awards’, you can list it in the ‘Work Experience’ section as an accomplishment.

Or suppose you took some additional training courses that are relevant to what you’re applying for. It’s fine to file them under ‘Education’.

5 Signs Your CV is in Job-Winning Shape

Test 3: Does your CV highlight your transferable experience?

When many people compose their CVs, they ask themselves this question: ‘What were my duties in this position?’

That’s a good place to start. But a better question to ask is: ‘What demonstrates skill to the reader?’

The person reading your CV is less interested in every task you performed than in the skills you can do as a result of performing those tasks. And not every skill you have needs to have been gained in the charity sector. Many soft skills can be transferred from jobs in the private and public sectors, you just need to know how to frame them as relevant for the charity role you’re applying for. Did you work in customer service or sales? Then you’re a good fit for fundraising. Do you have years of management experience? You could manage volunteers or work with support staff.

And here we come back to volunteer work. If your volunteer work demonstrated skills and accomplishments, like the example above with the admin worker, then definitely include it!


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Test 4: Does it include volunteering experience?

Earlier we talked about how you don’t necessarily need a ‘Volunteering’ section on your CV. But you do need charity work on your CV. The only thing to decide is where to list it.

As mentioned before, if it demonstrated transferable skills, file it under ‘Work Experience’.

But what if you didn’t develop any skills applicable to your field? What if you unloaded trucks at a food bank every week, for example?

This is where you need a section titled ‘Volunteer Experience’. It demonstrates that you’re a good citizen and proves that you have a good work/life balance.

5 Signs Your CV is in Job-Winning Shape

Test 5: Is there a link to your LinkedIn profile?

In a recent study conducted by ResumeGo, they found that job seekers that have a comprehensive LinkedIn profile have a 71% higher chance of receiving a call for a job interview. Taking the time to create a fully functional LinkedIn profile will allow you to set yourself apart from other candidates who have no LinkedIn at all or simply spent a couple of minutes to throw something half coherent together.

So, to pass test five, you not only need a full LinkedIn profile, but you need to link to it on top of your CV. It will take some time if you haven’t done it already, but it’s worth it! And don’t forget to connect with your past and present volunteer coworkers on LinkedIn. Those are some valuable connections to make!



Has your CV passed the test?

Then go ahead and submit your application. You’re already set up to stand out from the crowd, so just find the roles that speak to you and start applying. Best of luck to you!

Peter Yang

Peter Yang is an entrepreneur and career advice blogger. As the CEO of ResumeGo, a national resume and CV writing service, he’s always on the lookout for new groundbreaking ways to help job seekers further their careers. You can find his work on sites such as CNBC, Inc., and Glassdoor.

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