A CV should be a factual document which represents you personally. It should be free flowing, easy to read, snappy and to the point.
Follow these five steps to produce an effective CV that is totally personal to you.
Step 1: Perfect your introduction
The executive/skills summary is the all-important preamble to a personal CV. It appears at the top of the first page and will list the points that you believe make your experience truly relevant to the role that you are applying for. It is the initial stimulus for the potential employer or recruiter to decide whether time studying your CV in more depth.
Remember, time is a precious and expensive commodity so this has to be right on the button. It takes about one minute to decide if a CV is relevant.
It all adds up to this simple question: what makes you so special?
When you apply for a job you will be in direct competition with many other people. You need to stand out from the crowd. Remember that the reason for the vacant position is that the employer is facing an obstacle that needs to be overcome. They are not looking to simply employ a person, they are seeking a solution to a defined problem or set of problems. It is down to you to demonstrate how you can solve the issues that they have and possibly show how you can make/save the company money.
To do this you have to develop a detached and realistic view of your attributes. When you look in the mirror, do you see what others (colleagues/clients etc) see? Your view of yourself will differ from the image that others see. The skills you view as important may not be as significant as other attributes that you consider to be mundane but are in fact much more highly prized by others than by you. Find out what your peers and contacts value about you and ensure at the outset that you major on those points.
You need to consider skills and abilities in depth and tease out the areas where you are especially good at solving complex and relevant problems. You need to find some concrete personal selling points that must, if not individually, be truly unique in the combination of assets that you bring to the table.
From there you will need to add some really concrete benefits to your aggregated USP.
For instance, you could take some time to consider how much money you have generated for your current employer both directly and indirectly and paint the picture. Or you could describe in detail how much you have saved while working in your current role. Alternatively there may be other measures of success – press coverage, share prices, contract negotiations etc – no two jobs are exactly the same, but you should be able to spot the areas where you have made a significant contribution and how that can be applied in other contexts. In other words, you must paint a realistic picture of what return you can generate for a potential new employer.
Show some imagination; empathise with the plight of the organisation and demonstrate graphically how your unique blend of skills will provide the best solution. Don’t just tabulate your unique selling points, sell them and demonstrate what a singular impact you, personally, will have on their business.
But as ever, in this busy world, it pays to be brief and incisive…
Step 2: Tailor your CV to your audience
Tailoring your CV to suit the requirements of each job that will greatly increase your chances of securing an interview.
Write your ‘Master CV’
Your first CV is your ‘master copy’ it should be used as a template that you can tailor to each audience by choosing the points that are relevant and of interest to the receiver
Take a good look at their corporate website, social media pages and biographies of directors and current employees. Research their products, look at their advertising material and try to read their annual report, especially senior executives’ narrative reports. This will give you a greater insight into the company, the role, and what they may be looking for from an applicant. Try and tailor your CV to match their company ethos and do not be afraid to use their own words in your CV, the more you align yourself with their culture and aspirations the more you improve your chances of reaching the first interview.
Here are the main areas of your CV that should be adapted to meet the exact requirements…
Keep it snappy and to the point. With your research you have a good idea of what the employer wants to hear.
Summarise the key qualities you hold which are relevant to the application. Do not include strengths that are irrelevant to the job that you are applying for. Ensure you write a brief career aim stating that the industry that you are applying for is where you want your career to be heading in the long term.
Write a brief sentence identifying what makes you the ideal candidate, stating your accomplishments and how they will help you to succeed in the job you are applying for.
If the new role is a sideways step, highlight ways you have achieved success in your current/previous role to show your competency. Make sure that the prospective employer knows that you can do whatever they want and need.
If the role is a step up from what you’re doing now, ie: a managerial position, and you have never worked as a manager previously, ensure you emphasise the relevant responsibilities you have had in previous roles. Concentrate on decision making duties, delegation, training staff, chairing meetings etc.
Although most of the positions that you are applying for may require a similar skill set, you should still look at the section with each application.
Place your skills in the same order that the company has listed on their job description/application. It makes life a lot easier for the recruiter, and allows you to double check that you haven’t missed a key skill from your CV.
You cannot alter who you worked for or how long for, but you can edit your role and responsibilities within those companies without the need of fabrication. Think about the job you are applying for and what the employer wants. Then highlight areas or projects from your previous positions that required you to use those skills, emphasising how successful you were at achieving results.
Hobbies and interests
Your interests and what you enjoy doing say a lot about your personality. Most job advertisements stipulate certain personality traits that are required for positions, identify what they are looking for and see how your hobbies may be able to relate with the requirements.
If you’re applying for a managerial position and play sports that require you to participate in a team should be emphasised. Employers may also look for cultural diversity and worldly awareness – if you like to read, define what types of reading materials you enjoy and instance your favourite authors. If you are interested in the arts, add this too.
Interests add dimensionality to your character and demonstrate that you are a rounded and interesting individual who does not just live to work and who can bring experiences to bear on your future roles.
I suggest that you do not include references on your CV unless a company requests them. Be selective and try to suggest referees appropriate to the role in question. For example: if you are applying for a job as an analyst don’t add the supermarket manager from a job you had at school!
You only have a few seconds to make an impact so make sure your CV packs a punch!
For the remaining steps please read part two...