Free CV Advice - Do your research; What does that actually mean and how do you do it?
Updated: Jun 2
Free CV advice is great to have.
You may have downloaded a CV template or looked through various CV examples. If you have been doing any kind of on-line search on how to write a CV, you will undoubtedly have come across various articles, videos or social media posts offering Top CV Tips to help guide you as well.
These are all great resources to turn to, but to really improve a CV, it all comes down to how well you are able to actually apply the advice you have been given.
My CV Guide are here to help with that. Through a series of articles, we will look at some of the most common CV tips out there, exploring what they actually mean and offering advice and guidance on how to truly apply them so that you can make significant and meaningful improvements to your CV.
In this, the first article, we start with the Top CV Tip:
Do Your Research
Doing research is key to creating a really strong CV. It is how you can elevate a CV above others by really connecting with not only a role that you are applying to but also organisations, teams and current trends in your profession or industry. It underpins being able to tailor a CV to each application (another Top CV Tip we will cover in this series) and so is incredibly valuable when done well.
What should you research?
There are a number of areas of research you can undertake when writing a CV.
Are you up to speed with the latest news and trends within your profession? What are people talking about? Have there been recent changes, current areas of high demand or future trends being forecast?
Being familiar with these types of details will allow you to demonstrate your currency of knowledge and your level of commitment and genuine interest in your profession. It will also allow you to start identifying areas of ability, achievement or experience that may be in higher demand and therefore of particular interest to a potential employer.
Do you work within one particular industry sector? If not then how much do you know about the different industry sectors you are applying to?
Like your profession, understanding what is going on in your industry or those you are looking to work within is a great way to understand the types of opportunities and challenges that companies may be facing. This allows you to focus your CV onto elements that will be particularly valuable or of interest to them. It will also be a subtle indication to a reviewer of your level of interest and commitment to working within their particular industry and that you truly understand what it is that you are putting yourself forward for.
What do you know about the companies you are applying to? Do you know their history, the type of organisation it is, how big they are, how they are owned and managed and what services or products they provide and who to? What is their latest news and are they going through any change or transition? What are the organisational values and which elements of their business or culture do they most actively promote through their branding and marketing?
By understanding these details you can make connections throughout an entire CV by highlighting comparable information from your professional background. This may be with regards to previous organisations you have worked within, elements of experience that will translate well or insight into your own values and passions that will connect with theirs.
What team structures are you looking to work within or avoid for any reason and what is the team setup for the roles that you are applying to?
Understanding the sizes of the team, the management structure (who will you be reporting to and/or who will be reporting to you for example) and factors such as where you and others will be based, are all really important details to understand. It allows you to demonstrate your experience or abilities of working within that type of context, but also to pitch your CV at the right level. This is key to creating a CV that demonstrates that you would fit well into the team set up and match the requirements of the role.
Understanding what is important to you in a role, but also looking into the details of each role you are applying to. What are the responsibilities of the role, what appeals about it but also what are the challenges of it? Why has the requirement come about and where is the role likely to go in the future? What are they asking for you to be able to demonstrate in order to be considered for the position?
These considerations will not only allow you to understand whether a role is right for you, but will also allow you to focus your CV onto the information that is most relevant and therefore of particular interest to the potential employer.
How to do the research
There are various ways in which you can carry out your research and you may find this is different for you each and every time. The following however are some good starting points for you to consider.
Fire up the trusty search engines and start looking. This can be for your profession, industry or the organisation you are applying to. If you are struggling for inspiration, type in the most obvious key words you are interested in and see what auto suggestions come up. Similarly, if you are searching on Google, scroll to the bottom of the search results page and look at related searches. Clicking onto the news tabs and ordering the results on recency will also ensure you have currency of information so there are lots of avenues for you to go down to discover relevant and useful information.
Industry or Professional Publications
Are there certain publications or governing bodies for the industries you are applying to or for your profession? Are there businesses, organisations or individuals that lead the way or who's views and opinions you respect or hold in high regard? They will often produce regular publications or have a strong on-line presence through articles, podcasts, events and blogs which can all be great sources of information for you on what is current and being most talked about in their particular field.
An obvious source of information to be explored. Make sure to dig deeper than just a quick scan of the ‘About Us’ page though. You can get a feel for what the company considers important about themselves through the website, as well as find out about the background of the business and what is happening with regards to their latest news.
Social Media Profiles
Take a look at the Social Media profiles of organisations. This is information that they are choosing to share about themselves so again offers a great insight into what they hold in importance. Creating connection between your CV and elements about their brand identity that they are proud of and most actively promote can be very powerful. These platforms may also give you a better internal or ‘human’ perspective of the business than the website does, particularly if the website is very customer or consumer focused.
Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn are also really useful for understanding the profile of the business better. This can be through the companies own page, but also getting a feel for the number of employees they have, the people who work there and therefore an understanding of factors such as team numbers, structures and locations. You can also explore the professional backgrounds of individuals who work there, the companies they joined from and their career paths since being with the company. There is a huge wealth of information to potentially delve into.
Job Adverts and Descriptions
An obvious place to research, but look across all job adverts if there are different ones posted for the same position as there may be variations or similarities that are worth noting. Are there social media posts promoting them that offer further insight as well, or job boards that offer a different format for information and so additional insight that you can use? Are there other adverts such as those of recruiters that are clearly for the same position but can offer you further levels of detail and understanding and always make sure to look at the Job Description itself as well as any Job Adverts. By being more thorough and digging deeper with your research, you will begin to identify the key requirements of the role more clearly and so can really connect your CV to them with greater confidence and clarity.
Who do you know who may be worth talking to? Do you know anybody who works or has worked at the company or is familiar with the type of role you are going for? Is there anyone in your network who understands that industry or profession well? They may be a great sounding board for you or be able to help with any questions you may have.
It can be as simple as picking up the phone and asking some questions. Does the job advert invite you to get in touch if you have any enquiries? Then do! Even if it doesn't, don't be afraid to make contact to find out more. Ask for the types of details that would be appropriate to know but which haven’t been specified on the job advert. Approach your enquiries from the perspective of being interested and committed to the opportunity so looking to know more, rather than a ‘what’s in it for me’ perspective where you just ring up and ask how much you can be paid and what benefits you get!
There are many different ways in which you can carry out research to help you write a CV. This will be slightly different for every person, every profession and every role, but the above pointers should give you a solid foundation from which to do some in-depth research. This will help elevate your CV above the others who have been seeing the same advice that you have, but who haven’t been able to apply it as well as you are about to.
So once you have conducted your research, what do you do with all your findings? Good research underpins your ability to tailor a CV and this is the next Top CV Tip covered in this series.
Related Article: Free CV Advice - Tailor your CV; how to master the art
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