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Get CV Savvy

Small Business

Today we talk stand-out CVs with two super successful, creative businesswomen, founders/directors/owners:  Anna Ross of nail polish phenomenon Kester Black and Abigail Crompton of leading local design store and studio Third Drawer Down.

The duo divulge what they’ve learned overseeing the hiring process for their respective businesses, recall their own most-memorable applications, and share the weirdest submissions they’ve received!

9th October, 2017

Anna Ross’ inspiration board at Kester Black in Melbourne. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Anna Ross, founder of Kester Black. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Anna Ross, the founder and director of Kester Black, an Australian-made cruelty-free nail polish, has reviewed over 2,000 job applications. As a designer, her eye goes first to the layout. When it comes to simple vs highly visual CVs, Anna says you really need to consider your audience. Is it a creative job? Then here is a chance to show off your skills.

‘A CV can say a lot about someone’s attention to detail! When you have 150+ CVs to look though (very standard these days) you want yours to be clear and readable,’ explains the recipient of the 2016 Young Victorian Telstra Business Women’s Award.

A key way to ensure your CV is read, Anna adds, is to avoid putting too many generic job responsibilities under job duties, instead keeping the points succinct, giving three to five for each, with maybe a few more for your most recent or most relevant jobs.

Her top tip, however, is really about dedicating enough time to create a stellar application: you need to keep your CV up to date, and always send it with a tailored cover letter. ‘I won’t look at a CV without a cover letter, and I won’t give an interview if that cover letter is generic,’ tells Anna, who recommends this website for helping you write up your CV efficiently.

And then, backing yourself goes a long way too – Anna once applied for her dream job, and got a very quick ‘No’ response. ‘I emailed them back and said, although my CV skills weren’t great, I felt like I was the right person for the role,’ she recalls. ‘They said, “Ok come In for an interview” and after interviewing 19 people, I got the job!’

Abigail Crompton founder of Third Drawer Down. Photo – Kate Ballis.

Like Anna, founder of store, a wholesaler and a design studio Third Drawer DownAbigail Crompton, values clarity and conciseness in a CV. In the 50 plus applications Abigail has reviewed over the years, she’s devised a checklist: (1) have they read and followed all of the application instructions correctly? (2) is the CV concise and does it clearly show practical experience relevant to the role? and (3), is the cover letter warm and interesting?

Abigail has come to define some clear dos and don’ts too. In the first paragraph of your cover letter, she recommends relaying who you are, your related experience and why you will fit AND GROW with the company. Keep everything short and specific, with the CV being no more than two pages long – ideally in dot-point form if you can be that disciplined! While it should be nicely presented, the layout doesn’t necessarily have to be graphic, just well formed. ‘I don’t judge a CV by it’s design unless the candidate is applying for a design focus position,’ outlines Abigail.

If you’re applying to work at a small business, be sure to convey a bit of your personality because ‘culture fit’ is paramount – but we’re not talking a picture of your toe, though… True story: Abigail actually received a CV with a pic of one once. ‘They thought their art presented their professional qualities,’ she jokes. In other lessons from real-life CV fails: don’t write that you want to work at XYZ workplace so you can gain as many contacts as possible and start your own similar business. And it goes without saying, but still for emphasis, SPELL THE COMPANY NAME CORRECTLY (quadrulple check!).

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net