Whether you’ve got time on your hands and you’re giving your CV a ‘spring clean’ or whether you’re actively pursuing a new role, there’s no doubt that investing time and effort into crafting a CV that you are proud to have your name atop, is energy well spent.
The skill in writing an eye catching, relevant and representative resume of your achievements and capabilities is not one that many of us find easy. After all, writing about ourselves whilst not appearing arrogant or over-egging our experience is a challenge. And of course, there is the fact that most of us are our own worst critics so find it difficult to work out exactly what it is that we are great at and how we should be depicting our key skills and successes.
But get over this we must if we are to craft and share a CV that we are proud of and that gets us onto the shortlist for interview. Read on for some top tips to help you on your way.
Tip 1) Make two lists.
The first is ‘things I’m GREAT at’ and the second ‘things I’m GOOD at’. In the ‘things I’m great at’ list, write all the things you do brilliantly, that people might say about you if you weren’t in the room, the achievements you’ve had, the successes you’ve played a crucial role in. Keep going. There are lots.
In the ‘things I’m good at’ list, write all the other stuff that you know you do well but you don’t feel, for whatever reason, quite makes the ‘great’ list. Again, keep going. There’s plenty!
Now, delete the titles. Change the ‘things I’m GREAT at’ title to ‘Why I’m awesome’ and change the ‘things I’m GOOD at’ to ‘Why I’m brilliant to work with’ – or other similar words of your choosing. This subtle reframe will help you align with what you bring to a team/role/organisation and how you in fact will be helping them once you’ve secured the job.
Use these lists as a check point as you craft your CV. You want to be weaving these in throughout the personal profile and the career history sections of your CV to showcase your achievements and contributions.
Tip 2) Tell me what you did AND how you did it
Now that you’re in the zone, it’s tempting to proudly recite your key achievements, supported with facts and figures. By all means do that, but don’t stop there. Add depth and substance to your claims by also showcasing the skills you deployed to achieve what you did.
For example, ‘I delivered projects on time and to cost’ is great, but it doesn’t tell me the skill that you brought to be able to do that. ‘I delivered projects on time and to cost by creating strong relationships with my stakeholders and communicating with them in their preferred style’ is a much more compelling version and one that as a recruiting manager I would want to explore more at interview.
This approach demonstrates that you have delivered (tick) that you have the skills to be able to do it again (tick) and that you are self-aware enough to know what skills are needed to repeat this success (tick).
Tip 3) Master and bespoke
Every time you apply for a job, you need to tailor your CV to that role. You need to match the language that they use in the job description and link your experience to the key competencies that they are looking for. Failure to do this will likely result in you not getting past the first scan, especially if the recruiting firm uses automation for screening.
To make this as painless for you as possible, create your master CV first. This is the CV that has everything in. Don’t worry about the length of it. It won’t ever go anywhere. This is the basis for all the bespoke CVs that you are going to create and will be your reference point.
Tip 4) Draft, Review, Tweak, Refine … and Relax
Your personal profile is the area that you should spend the most time on and is usually the part that people find the hardest to do. Reference your lists from tip 1, use a thesaurus if it helps, avoid jargon and getting over zealous with the adjectives and aim to write something that summarises who you are as a person, what you will bring to the role and how you will make a positive impact (by virtue of the fact that you have already done this elsewhere). Aim for it to be around 6-8 lines long and feel free to include in this why you are looking for your next career challenge, if it feels appropriate to do so.
Then leave it.
Come back to it a day or so later and review it. What reads well, what doesn’t. What’s on your lists that you haven’t included. How could you incorporate those things?
Send it out for feedback. A friend, a trusted colleague, a recruitment firm. Ask them if they think it’s a fair reflection of you and what else they would encourage you to include (if you don’t ask specific questions the feedback you get may be too vague – or more than you were bargaining for!)
Tweak it. Refine it. Then leave it.
This is a section that you could endlessly modify so there must come a point where you decide it’s good enough and relax, knowing that it’s the best you can do.
CV writing is not easy. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do keep going back to it and tweaking it. And when you’ve got a version you’re happy with – keep it up to date! Good Luck.
You can also watch this short video here.
Nicola Callan is the founder of Boost HR which offers a range of learning & development, coaching and consultancy services. For more information on career coaching, including CV review and interviewing skills, go to www.boosthr.co.uk/twentysomething or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention code DJCV15 for a 15% discount on 121 support.