Having worked in recruitment for over 20 years I have seen a wide range of CVs. The good, the bad and the mind-numbing. Follow these tips, which share some of the better elements I have seen, to write the best version of your CV. This format is particularly relevant if applying for permanent roles in organisations at leadership or executive level.
1. Structure. Use a simple structure. My earlier blog gives my personal preference and some pointers for each section. Head over there as a starting point.
2. Write for your audience. Consider who is most likely to be reading your CV and what is important to them? Write it with them in mind. If you choose to tailor your CV for a specific role, ensure you select achievements that showcase what they are looking for. Align your language to that used in the advert.
3. Make it interesting. Even in the most sensible corporate settings interesting things happen. If you worked on a brand that had a memorable campaign or advert, if you went on TV, if you won an award – mention it. Interesting CVs lead to interesting conversations at interview and ultimately help build rapport and make you memorable. As long as you are professional it is OK to inject some life into it.
4. Make sure your CV represents YOU and sets you apart from someone else doing the same job. Although it is a professional document you can still get some of your personality and style across in it. Instead of using generic adjectives like accomplished, senior, experienced, think about how your colleagues would describe you and weave in some of these words. If you don’t know how they would describe you – ask them.
5. Less is more. Keep it concise. I have seen CVs from one page long up to an eleven pager (gulp). Two to three pages would be my recommendation for an Executive or Leadership level professional with a few years’ career experience under their belt. Keep sentences short and to the point. Don’t waffle. Focus on your outputs i.e. the things you have personally delivered in the role that have positively impacted the business, rather than lots of context. The interviewer can probe for further information at interview if they need it.
6. Beware the auto screening. At Executive level this is less of an issue than for high volume roles, however, just be aware that some companies use automated screening tools. This could simply be to upload your CV to their Applicant Tracking System (ATS), or in some cases your CV may have to meet certain criteria to pass an initial screen. Ensure you use Word format with one clear font. Avoid photos, graphics such as logos, tables and columns. Ensure you include relevant key words which you can match to the advert text if you are applying online.
7. Leave out a title saying ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or even ‘CV’, also a line saying ‘References available on request’. Both are obvious and you can use those two lines for better things. Also avoid competency speak, buzz words, abbreviations, acronyms and internal company jargon. Make it as easy as possible for the reader. Simple language is often more impactful.
8. Get feedback when you have drafted your CV from someone who knows you in a professional setting. People often forget some of the best things they have delivered. Also ask someone to proof-read for you and flag any typos or errors you have missed.
If you would like some support with writing your CV ahead of an important application or interview, do get in touch.