I (like to believe) I know more than enough given that I review a dozen CVs a month (mostly belonging to students and early career professionals).
My problem is that people approach writing their CV in an absolutely insincere manner. Hence, it is a personal mission (of sorts) that people show a little more love and care when talking about what they do at work - considering how much of their life they spend in the office.
In the real world, CV writing is driven by the desperation of getting out of a bad job or getting a promotion somewhere by blowing your achievements out of proportion rather than storytelling that describes your journey and where you intend to be.
Think of it this way – if you were given a piece of paper and told to summarize twenty years of your life – your work, academic pursuits, aspirations, passions, skills and hobbies – would you still think of it as dispassionately as most people approach their CVs?
Trust me, your CV is a document that tells a story and a good hiring manager will piece and nudge together a narrative that suits their purpose well.
So, if you are one of friends who download templates off the internet randomly or ask their friend for a good looking CV format and start every line of your CV stating the obvious (key account manager responsible for managing client relationship) – maybe it is time to revisit how you build your CV in the first place.
Here is a guide to getting started:
1. Do you know what job you are applying to?
This is the most difficult question to answer. Most people have the vaguest idea of what they want from their next job. Hence they cannot successfully build a targeted communication that drives home the point they want to make.
Now you will tell me that you don’t actually really know if you want to be an Area Sales Manager for a FMCG company or a Sales Planning Manager for a Retail Banking company. It depends on the jobs available, the referral you get etc.
Irrespective of the job you apply to – you know what you are seeking from the next step:
a) Could be that you are seeking team management responsibilities?
b) Could be that you are looking at status quo but in a more conducive work culture?
c) Could be that you are looking at a dramatic increase in responsibilities (and pay) to pay off your home loan faster?
If you know what your overall story in life is – it becomes easier to write a CV. The problem is when you try to be everything for everyone. That doesn’t work out.
When you know what you are seeking, jobs that you apply to, align to career stage and aspirations rather than functions and industry.
2. Are you writing for yourself or an audience?
I am always surprised by the number of people who forget that their CVs have to be scanned by HRs (in a few seconds), read by hiring staff and scanned by automated systems.
People are so busy claiming that they turned around the fortunes of their soon to be ex-companies that they forget what this document they are preparing needs to go through. The best way to remember this is to read multiple job descriptions for their target profile and write your CV accordingly (for instance no point using jargon that you understand but hiring managers won’t).
Always try and adjust your CV for two formats:
a) Scanned by a machine and passed over to human hands
b) Scanned by a human and passed over to human hands
Once you decide what job you are applying to (basis career trajectory) – it is important to figure how to get it past filters that at least give you a chance at an interview.
Having a pastel CV with your picture may be a shortcut.
But putting the right keywords and demonstrating an ability to align yourself with expectations is more effective.
3. Are you a format maniac?
Are you putting form over function? With a lot of young people – I see a tremendous desire to have attractive formats and the first question they invariably ask me is – can I see your CV and use the template?
Templates don’t matter, what you want to say (and emphasize) in the process does. Temptations that you should resist are:
- Highlighting too many points
- Underplaying things you did effectively (this is the time to show off, not be modest)
- Using misleading and incorrect information just to position yourself as a good fit
- Relying on template hacks instead of straightforward communication skills (people who use bar charts to display relative skills, how do you even measure that?)
- Repetition or breaks in logic. Your CV must read like a tight story on its own and as each sub-section. I am always surprised that students list college events on their CVs but that does not corroborate into event planning or fundraising abilities in their skills section.
Hope this gives you an idea of where to start.
People underestimate the effort that goes before making the CV. Do not make that mistake. If you know who you are, what you want, then your storytelling in your CV is coherent and words flow seamlessly into your career narrative.
Remember that your CV is about what career (not just position) you are seeking, something to be consumed and judged by other people and needs to tell your story sharply.
Hope you enjoyed reading the first of this three-part series.
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