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How can I make my CV more effective?

You’ve got down some great examples to showcase your skills and experience, now you need to fine-tune your CV to ensure it’s got the wow factor.

Understanding your audience

Your CV is your first tool that you use to sell yourself to any potential employer. Businesses, particularly in the financial services sector, generally have the same objectives; profit, bigger market share, developing their business and creating new products or improved services for their customers. They will look for candidates who will help them to achieve these objectives when recruiting for trainee or junior graduate broker roles.

Whether you have days or years’ worth of experience, the rules are the same – show what you’ve done and illustrate the potential that you have to succeed in your chosen job.

Identifying an achievement

Not all achievements result in a certificate or a medal and actually most don’t. For some you will be able to show concrete evidence such as your degree or latest exam results; for others, you will need to work harder to show that the influence you had on a team or task had an impact and reflects the type of person you are.

Try to use at least three examples in your CV and make them descriptive if you have limited work experience. If you have more work experience to your CV than pick at least one specific example per job you’ve held and explain briefly how it improved the business or you as a person. Remember, you are applying for entry level roles in a lot of cases so employers aren’t expecting a person doing two weeks work experience to have shaved money off the bottom line or increased sales output but if you can draw on something you’ve learned and were praised for it may set you apart from every other graduate chasing trainee and junior broker jobs.  

It can’t be stressed often enough that your CV is designed to get you the interview, not the job, so remember not to delve into too much detail. Provide enough information to entice your potential employers to call you in so you can explain face-to-face the exact details of the tasks you’ve undertaken and the skills you have learnt. Do not over embellish and tell the potential employer how you helped Richard Branson turn his business into a multibillion pound company but are now looking for new experiences as employers interview a lot of graduates for trainee roles and will not be impressed if your excitement to up sell yourself leaves them feeling as if you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

Many graduate jobseekers underestimate the achievements they have made and undervalue their impact on the business as a whole. Don’t just say you were “doing admin and making tea”, when you were “responsible for ensuring the company had the necessary resources to operate efficiently and carried out your work to a high standard with references available to confirm this”. Always keep examples relevant to the role you are applying for. If you did an apprenticeship for a year before doing your A levels, the work ethic is important but a breakdown of the job skills learnt is not going to be of interest to a junior/trainee broker recruiter unless they are clearly transferable. For example, mixing cement and cutting bricks is irrelevant whereas enjoyed working long hours and was always complimented on my work ethic is.

Personal achievements are also valuable pieces to include as they often show focus and commitment that will impress recruiters. But be careful not to give valuable space to insignificant achievements. As you refine your CV, discard any content that is not selling you in the right way. Showing you have always been competitive is great, but you winning the most medals at year 5 sports day does not take pride of place over more recent achievements on your CV that illustrate better the most recent version of you.

Avoiding the obvious

From management talk to obscure abbreviations, the world of business is packed full of clichés, and most of us hate them. Do your reader the courtesy of avoiding standard CV one liners or even worse, listed one worders:

Team player

Would anyone claim the opposite, no, so make sure if you put something like this it is fully explained why it is on your CV.

Project management skills

Unless you can back it up with an example, this is just a fancy way of saying that you are organised.


No-one is stating they are unorganised. Again if it can be illustrated in a unique example then you can use it.

Results orientated

Important but also expected, make sure you explain how you thrive off of it and how it motivates you.

People management skills

Were you actually a manager, or did you simply get on well with your customers and colleagues. If your example is socialising with others it may be best to focus on different team examples to illustrate other strengths whilst getting this across.  

Good communicator

Unfortunately, the basic skills of talking is the least employers recruiting for junior or trainee broker roles expect. If you have examples of how you stand out above the rest then do use them otherwise assume your education shows you are capable of holding a conversation.

Be very careful of using abbreviations, to make something sound more than it is or because you have heard other people using it. Also be mindful that the first person who evaluates your CV is usually somebody in the HR team who may not be an expert in your field. They will be given a rundown of requirements to mark CVs against, so statements like “extensive experience in working with ETFs” may mean nothing to them, even if it’s an impressive skill that qualifies you for the job.

Explaining gaps in your CV

There are many reasons why your CV may have gaps and employers don’t look down on candidates with them. They are suspicious however when these gaps are not clarified, so make sure they are explained in a positive manner. It is much more positive to state on a CV if there are any gaps rather than having to discuss a potentially uncomfortable reason for that gap in an interview. Some common reasons for gaps on your CV:

Extended holidays

Everyone is happy for you to go on holiday or travelling before knuckling down and working hard in a new role. Make sure you get that point across and be positive about just how ready and hungry you are to start a new role.

Family issues

There’s no need to go into detail on personal reasons for taking time away from work, as essentially it’s nobody else’s business. A brief statement is fine.

Redundancy or nothing in the market

It happens, so don’t hide it. Make sure they know you were waiting for the right opportunity to come along and not just applying for jobs out of desperation to get back into work. Employers will want to know that you are choosing them for a reason and that although it may only be a trainee job initially, they have got the right person who wants to carve out a successful career.

Tailoring your CV

Through excitement and an underlying keenness to get yourself into the job market a lot of graduates seeking trainee and junior broker roles will blanket send their CV and cover letter to as many organisations as possible. Something that can really set you apart from the rest is taking the time to ensure your CV is tailored to suit not just the sector but also the employer in question. An excellent CV is written in such a way that it doesn’t only illustrate you in a positive way but also delivers your strengths custom-made for that particular company and role that you are applying for. A few areas that can help your CV be more bespoke and unique are discussed below.

To start with, decide on a format for your CV that is suited to the job that you are applying for. For example, a junior broker role involving an emphasis on sales may benefit from a performance CV where you can emphasise a proven track record if you have one. To do this, instead of listing previous jobs in a chronological way, a performance CV takes a format where steps in career progression and key targets are listed. This can help you catch the eye of the recruiting manager or HR immediately rather than listing experience that may not be as relevant at the top just because it’s the most recent.

Another option is the target CV. A targeted CV, like a performance CV does not set out achievements in the order they were gained but lists transferable skills in order of importance and demonstrates them from various points in a career history. This type of CV is a good one for people without direct industry experience and who are looking to target a new sector. It is a great way for you to draw on previous experience and relate it to the junior broker role you are applying for to illustrate how your experience gained from outside the sector will put you in good stead to perform the role. When applying for trainee roles it is extremely important to look at the job spec and relate how you fulfil that criteria. Do not copy the job spec on your CV as it will look obvious and bland but do use the requirements as the fuel to focus on your strengths that can relate to those areas.

Another format and the most widely used is the chronological CV. This is the most standard format and absolutely fine if like many people in their career your most recent experience is the most prominent for the employer to see. Remember to always have your most recent experience at the start and work backwards. We still see CVs coming through that have their oldest and least relevant experience at the top and the most up to date experience is on the second page at the bottom which unfortunately may be missed as you need your CV to encapsulate the potential employer to want to spend time to read further down the page. With the standard annual completion times of degrees and postgraduate courses, employers hiring for trainee junior broker roles have to be cut throat at times. This is to ensure they promptly get in touch with the right people that they want to organise interviews with as they get an influx of applicants that they have to swiftly cut down to a manageable workload to progress forward to telephone and face-to-face interview stages.

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