Your CV or resume can lead to your dream job. So you want it to make a big impact when recruiters and SME owners get round to seeing what your skill set is. Here are 10 ways to ensure you’ve got the best chance of landing an interview.

1. Update your design

If you’re still using Word for your CV, then it’s time to take advantage of the many free tools available.

Canva has software that can transform your CV into an eye-catching modern wonder. You don’t want to go over the top with your design. Keep things simple so it’s a welcome step above a black and white CV, but not overpowering—remember, an SME owner will only spend a short amount of time checking out your details. You need to grab their attention.

2. Be concise

To ensure you do catch their eye, it’s essential to keep your CV short. Have all your details on one page, if possible. Be brutal with your employment history—only include the most important details relevant to the business to which you’re applying.

If a business is keen, they’ll read the rest of your career in full over on LinkedIn (or call you for a preliminary interview).

3. Get an ePortfolio

SMESMEs want to see what you’ll bring to their business. So complement your LinkedIn profile with an ePortfolio. An ePortfolio is another example of a time saver—a busy SME owner doesn’t want to wade through a vast physical portfolio. It’s far better to have a concise digital presence.

Pathbrite is a great choice. With it, you can assemble a professional portfolio in minutes. Again, it’s about grabbing a business owner’s eye, so show off your best work—essential if you’re in a creative industry.

4. Don’t be predictable

Recruiters and SMEs come across the same tedious buzzwords daily: “enthusiastic”, “dedicated”, “hard-working” etc. Get creative with your approach instead. Use natural, flowing language that doesn’t make you sound like 99% of all other applications. The result? You can overcome the predictability of others through individuality.

5. Use active voice

Active voice is where the subject performs the action that’s stated by the verb (e.g. “I lead the team”). Passive voice is the opposite (“The team is led by myself”).

The business world views active voice as sharper and more compelling. A quick way to get around this? Paste your CV and cover letter into the Hemingwayapp—it’ll point out your errors in green. Adapt your copy from there.

6. Get sharp on social

It’s fine to show off your personality through social media accounts. But don’t turn them into a salacious or narcissistic disaster zone. If you’re self-absorbed (i.e. one too many selfies) or profane, and SME owners see this, the chances are it’ll affect your hopes of an interview.

7. Tailor your CVs


Tailor your CV for every job even though some things will be common to all. In your career, you may apply for all manner of organisations. Some of them expect the utmost levels of professionalism, others will have an informal policy.

Do your research before applying to any. You can find out what they’re going to be like after glancing at their website and social media profiles. Take a look at the language used, along with their website design, and create a CV that’s in line with their expectations.

8. Don’t overdo personal details

A headshot, age, date of birth, and marital status aren’t required. With SMEs more diverse after the Equality Act 2010, excessive personal details can make them uncomfortable.

Keep your CV about your education, employment, and personal achievements—if a business is keen, they’ll find out more about who you at a later date.

9. Show off your personality

Remember, other candidates are applying. They may have more experience than you. They could be outright better at the job than you. But they may be lacking essential components, such as likeability.

Coming across as enthusiastic, talented, magnanimous, and personable can start with your CV. Embrace humility and showcase what makes you a standout candidate.

10. Have a desire to learn

If you finished your degree a decade ago, consider adding more to your CV. Professional development courses are an ideal option, whether it’s through Udemy or late night classes in your nearest city or town.

To stand out in this era, you need to make yourself indispensable. It takes extra effort, but in the long-term, you’ll reap the rewards by capturing the attention of SMEs who want an exceptional candidate.

Our thanks for this post go to Peter Done, group managing director and co-founder of Peninsula UK. The global human resources and employment law business consultant provides HR services for small businesses with industry-leading advice and solutions.