If you have read the first two parts of this series, you would have learnt about the first two challenges that presents itself when you try to build a CV.
The first is knowing yourself well and what you want from your career trajectory.
The second is to avoid the fallacies that most people make when they start building their CV.
If you know these two - the third step (structuring and getting down to the writing become super easy).
This is the last post in the series and intended to help you achieve just that.
If you have missed out on the first two parts, do read them -
Here is a structural guide to writing your CV:
Build a repository of information:
Most of us are terrible at remembering what we have done so far. We overestimate certain wins and underestimate the role that failures can play in storytelling on our CV.
I encourage people to take out a lot of time to build a dossier of their academic and professional lives. You could do this in an excel sheet or a notebook. But list everything you have done, achieved or worked on. Sometimes a 3 week project holds more gravitas in getting you your next gig than the entirety of 4 years of work experience on your CV.
Resources to start from - academic certificates, extracurricular certificates, job description of your previous role, performance assessments of your past jobs, your social media presence, the tools that you know, the nature of people and industry you have worked with, the presentations and proposals you have worked on and MIS reports.
Build a repository of job descriptions:
Job descriptions are a disaster in most organizations. They are either extremely far-fetched or too tactical. Mostly they look for a perfect candidate, a purple cow as Seth Godin calls it. The perfect candidate doesn’t exist and neither does the perfect job description.
Hence it is imperative for a candidate to line up a bunch of job descriptions. Once you see expectations, role and eligibility at a glance - you know what can go into your CV that reasonably fulfils expectations and uses correct language that recruiters who don’t have the same extent of functional know-how seek.
Writing your CV
There are broadly two ways you can write your CV.
Either follow the maxim of Result achieved XX due to an action of YY in the situation ZZ or invert this paradigm.
If you use acronyms try to expand them.
Do not start every sentence with ‘Responsible for…’. Use action words that justify the exact nature of what you did. Initiated. Pioneered. Supported. Assisted.
It is understood that you are responsible (after all you get paid for those responsibilities).
Avoid hyper-specific words or generalized terms - both malfunction as keywords for hunters eg: Neither Marketing nor VTR is a good keyword but programmatic buying or data analysis are good ones - if you are say applying for a digital media role.
Not everyone needs every section on their CV but work experience including projects, last academic qualification and skills are a must.
Nice to have but not must to have sections are courses you studied, hobbies, certifications etc.
Communicating the intended message
You can get everything right on your CV but not get across what you intend to truly convey. During my summers, a friend who works in HR saw my final placement CV and admonished me for not being able to really communicate what I had accomplished.
Most of us are prey to thinking of our jobs as "What We Did" and not "So What Did I get Done".
The idea is to not use jargon just to reduce readability but to show what you did in a way that merits the effort YOU put in.
Go from "Did Market Research for a new line of hair colour and gave recommendations" to "Conceptualized Qualitative Research Questionnaire & surveyed 460 women. Assessed gaps & recommend solutions that led to XYZ achievement ."
The first sentence shows your ability to do Market Research & give suggestions.
The second sentence shows that you have the ability to think, design, assess and contribute to topline.
To recap the posts - the effort of CV building is not taking a word doc from your friend and editing it with your details.
It is understanding:
- Who you are
- What do you want
- Who are you writing this for (system, recruiter, hiring manager)
- How do you avoid over-communicating and keyword stuffing
- How much research you do to understand the hiring machinery that you aim to infiltrate
- Tying in what you have learnt from the above four points and succinctly condensing it down into a one page document with zero grammatical errors that shows you have got what it takes
A CV is a structured narrative. If it does not automatically connect the dot between the recruiter's expectations and what you offer then it has failed to do its job.
Of course, how adept recruiters and managers are at adjudging candidate potential from their CV is another article series, for another time.