Making your CV stand out

Nick Bird – Account Director at Spreckley

Stop anyone on the street and ask them what they know about the PR industry, and the response will probably centre around air kisses and long champagne-filled lunches, with those working in the industry addressing each other as ‘Sweetie’ & ‘Darling’ (thanks for that Eddie and Patsy!)

For those looking to break into the industry, this image might be part of the appeal, but the idea of moving into a nice, relaxing, fluffy environment, which allows you to mingle with the rich and famous and also pick up a nice tidy wage for your troubles, is not really an accurate picture of what lies ahead for those looking for a career in public relations.

As an industry, PR is notoriously challenging to get into. Employers want to see dedication, tenacity, an eye-for-detail, enthusiasm, excellent written and spoken qualities, and lots and lots of creativity – and trying to cram all of this into two sides of paper can represent quite a challenge in itself. With this in mind, for those looking to break into the industry, where do you start when putting your CV together?

In my time at Spreckley I have come across all sorts of CVs – some very good, a lot very bad. If you are looking to stand out from other applicants there are certain things you can do:

  • In a highly competitive industry like PR it is important to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, some see this as an opportunity to stand out for all the wrong reasons. Silly gimmicks such as posting your CV in a pizza box might raise a smile, but if that is all it is and the content on it does not match up, it will quickly find itself (along with the box) in the recycling bin. Also, Clip-Art, while I’m sure served a purpose during secondary school is not best applied on a CV. Pictures of horses, stars and rainbows, or lots and lots of pink will catch the eye, but only for the wrong reasons. It might sound clichéd, but keeping it simple, clean and relevant demonstrates so many skills in itself – it shows organisations, structure and excellent presentation – all qualities we look for in potential employees.
  • One of the biggest things we always look for when first reviewing a CV is experience. A person might arrive with a strong academic background, but it’s the experience that will stand out. Internships present a fantastic opportunity to get first-hand experience and also allow you to develop your industry skillset. It gives you the basis of what is expected from an entry-level position and an opportunity to learn from a cross section of industry professions.
  • Social media is the biggest window into a person’s life. Including links to your Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile and any personal blogs allows us to see what interests you and what you are passionate about. By engaging with different groups and following individuals allow you to gain an understanding of the issues impacting your chosen industry. It shows potential employers you are engaged and demonstrates your understanding of the subject matter that potential clients are involved in.
  • When it comes to the cover letter there is a temptation to establish a generic template in which you only change the name of the company and the position but the rest remains the same each time. Take time to research the company you are applying for. What about them stands out? What experience do you have which meets their needs? Why does their client portfolio appeal to you? Your CV may be the shop window that displays your skills to a potential employer but a covering letter is the sign that attracts them in the first place.