The old idea that your CV acted as a personal sales brochure is outdated. Your resume should be an accurate reflection of your career path and learning to date. It should highlight what you have achieved during that time. The structured content of good a CV is often a reflection of how organisations are generally thinking at a given time. Performance driven firms have ceased their obsession with the measurement of inputs and are focussing on outcomes. Your CV should do likewise.
Before you begin to write your CV, plan it. Arrange your thoughts around blocks of information that you feel is important to share. For example, the following 5 blocks:
Your personal details
An introduction summary which is accurate and not overstated
Outcomes achieved in your current or most recent role and the two or three prior to that
Education and additional training.
Affiliations, other interests or professional memberships
Work from block to block, housing the information that is relevant in that areas. Comb back through each block to see what data really matters, particularly in relation to the role that you are applying for. You are not yet writing your CV, simply organising the content that matters so that it will be easy for a reader to navigate.
It is perfectly fine to iterate a CV or customise it briefly, but never write your CV over an old version. What was relevant for spotlighting then may not be relevant now, you risk font errors and jarring mixes of tone or person. Your CV should be two to three pages long. Any more than that will dilute your key messages, one page CV’s generally leave too much off the table.
A short summary is valued but no more than 25 to 30 words. It is the first taste the reader gets of you, so keep it on point, describe yourself in terms of your occupation “A Director of Operations, with an MBA from….and over 10 year’s leadership experience in…”. By all means, accentuate the positive but don’t turn the reader off with too many superlatives. Always write in the first person.
The CVs that really impact are those that contain what really matters and no more. Being able to communicate succinctly and edit effectively are key communication skills. They help the reader make a better connection with your document, to be excited by it. Describe your professional experience in terms of what you have achieved and not what you were responsible for in each of your roles. Make sure you preface the statement with “Participated in…”, “Worked with…”, “Collaborated with…” where the outcome was not solely owned by you. It will become apparent in any decent competency-based interview that this is the case and so use the experience element, accurately. Your CV should narrate a story that shows you are a person who focusses on and delivers desirable outcomes.
During your planning phase, remove from your blocks any company specific acronyms or terms that the reader will not understand. If you are seeking a move within your current sector, industry specific terms are fine. However, if you are writing a general CV or seeking a move to a different industry sector, use generic terms that the reader will recognise.
Plain and simple CVs are easier to read. Use standard fonts only and never drop below an 11 pt font size. Headings in bold and bullet points are really helpful to convey a sense of achievement and to help the reader, who may be reviewing a number of CVs, to follow the story you wish to tell. Include if and where relevant, references to specific technologies that may be desirable. Remember that in written documents, space for content to breathe is as important as the content itself. Do not cram everything in, edit and leave white space on the pages. Finally, never send a CV anywhere without having someone review it for you, this means the content, spelling, grammar and punctuation.
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