I am interrupting the Excel tutorial flow ,to bring in this blog post on CV writing tips. I have recently been writing and learning a lot. This is partly because, I appreciate the value that preparation and learning adds to our ability to pivot in an unpredictable economic environment. Year 2020 has brought a lot of what I refer to as, ‘new lessons’ as opposed to new challenges, for a lot of people including myself. Perspective is important!
I know there are people who are currently revisiting old CVs and preparing for change in their industry or actually having to move to a new industry due to economic pressures posed by the pandemic.
I remember looking at my old CV recently and thinking, “I have certainly moved from fresh graduate to experienced, so a lot needs to change but i am not sure how to start (or finish) the CV in order to stand out”. When I was a new graduate a few years ago, the pressure was missing experience, now the pressure is showing relevant experience.
Of course, we all know the amplified pressure every rejection brings to sending out CVs. So, if you are in a place where you have sent your CV out a few times already or about to start, here are a few things i think you should consider when writing a CV?
To begin with, let’s keep in mind that unless you are in academia, your CV should be up to 2 pages long. Therefore, you need to make an impact fast. Think of it as a “professional thirst trap”!. I know that’s a bit drastic but for those of us who are uncomfortable with blowing our own horn, this shocking phrase is necessary to remind us that we have about 20 seconds of reading time to sell ourselves.
Which brings me to my first point.
Tip # 1 The Approach
Think of the CV as your personal advertisement. You are telling the employer that, I see what you are looking for and I have what you are looking for. You will therefore be highlighting the personal characteristics and skills they want in your CV. This means leaving out the skills that are not relevant to this role.
Here’s how to think of it: If you walk in the bread aisle in a supermarket (or grocery store), they all look similar at a glance, but you will pick the one that has advertised the need you are trying to meet. For example, seeded bread, narrowed down to ‘free form’,narrowed down further to half loaf bread . Another example is when I buy freelance services on a website like people per hour. The search can retrieve over 30 people doing the same job. With that many results, i do quick scans and narrow the search down based on how they have described what they do in their bio and their business rating. Do they mention what i am specifically looking for?
Do you see how this relates to what you write in your CV yet?
Think about your audience. Why is this employer opening this position? What need are they trying to fulfil? Are there new developments in the company or their industry that have led to them trying to fill this position? What are their goals? You can read the job description, personal specification, company’s mission statement, industry news or any mention of the company in the news, for clues.
If you are moving from one industry to another, you should go a step further and find out the language used in this industry that will make sense to the prospective employer. This can be in news articles, online interviews, podcasts etc.
Once you understand the audience, you know how to frame the first part of the CV, which will be the profile summary.
Tip # 2 Writing the Profile Summary
The CV profile summary is a brief self-introduction. It’s a single paragraph encapsulating the following :
-Who you are .
-Your experience and the industry you obtained experience from.
-Your knowledge (speciality).
-Key skills from this specialty that will benefit the employer and
– Your Education .
It’s one paragraph So be clear and concise. Understand it as a sales pitch.The aim is to make the employer continue reading your CV after reading this section. Consequently the above should be tailored to each employer.
Describing who you are should be in relation to what the employer is looking for.
Use language that places you in the achiever category instead of someone who just does the bare minimum. Use words that are in the job advert.
Avoid using words like good organisation skills. Instead, write something that shows that you have good organisation skills and have excelled in this. Whatever you write , should reflect the skills the employer is looking for.
For example, when writing about your experience, you can write something like ‘experienced in supporting retention managers track student engagement…….’ . Remember this statement comes after you mention the type of companies you have worked for so that it ties in together. That statement has also mentioned your role and the people you have supported.
Next statement should show the Skills related to your experience that specifically match those in the advertised role.
Then add your relevant qualification , system knowledge and benefits you deliver.
To round up this section, the fews point to take away are:
- Remember the profile statement is one paragraphs so be concise.
- This means , be clear on what is most important to the employer and focus on that.
- Those with experience in various roles , group the experiences together to come up with common skills developed in the roles.That should be your focus.
- Add Technical skills in the same order of importance to that of the employer’s.
Area of Expertise.
The second section in my CV highlights your core skills (area of expertise).
In my personal CV I used bullet points for this section. This is for two reasons:
The first is for readability because the lay out is important. It’s like guiding the reader’s eye to separate independent thoughts in the CV . Therefore , the section should have a header . And every other section after this too.
The second reason is that , the skills will be explained somewhere else. This will be in the cover letter or personal statement, or perhaps a different part of the CV.
First thing is to ensure the job titles of your career summary stand out by clear labelling and highlighting in bold font
Start with the most recent. My short fall on this was that I had been adding them in bullet point form. And of course, I ended up with way too many bullet points.
So i suggest starting with a paragraph of what you do that shows your knowledge that is relevant to job. This effectively showcases knowledge and personal characteristics.
Then, use bullet points to highlight achievements related to the role so that they can easily be seen when the reader is skimming through the document. Quantify the achievements by using phrases like , “Increased sales by …… or Reduced claims by…..”.
Moving from one industry to Another
I think naturally most of us feel comfortable showing the employer what we have done before that can be repeated in the new role. However, moving between industries presents an opportunity to show diverse thinking. For example, If you were working in health/social care while studying and are now moving into a graduate corporate job , you can mention the communication skills you learnt by communicating with diverse individuals that you can now use to engage in clear and /or persuasive communication in the new role. Diverse thinkers excite most employers, so demonstrate that your skills are transferable between industries.
A few tips on this:
- Show that you understand the industry and how it operates.
- Think about the organisation’s objectives. Map out how you meet the job requirements.
- Group your sections to highlight specific experiences.
- Add context e.g The situation, what you did, the outcome.
- Use language that employer will understand. Check the language they use through different online platforms like linked in, youtube or podcasts.
- Stay in Touch with recruiters. A tip on this is to follow them on platforms like linked in and engage with their content.
- Adapt to changing needs in the market using your skills.
This should include any activities such as volunteer work that highlights relevant.
If you are a new graduate , you should outline your Education Qualification before your professional Experience.
Finally check that your CV contains most of the words used in the job description and personal specification. One top tip I learned from a CV advice webinar by jobs.ac.uk is to highlight all key skills and methods and press command +F or control +F on your key board to search for all the key words in the job description and personal specification to see if what is in the job description will appear in your CV.
The thing with writing CVs is that, you don’t have the luxury of elaborating you point as you do in person. And with every non verbal communication, you run the risk of someone get bored and not giving you a chance.
There is no time to be modest. Emphasise the contributions you’ve made and their importance. A good structure is an important step which is what I have covered in this post.
The language you use should show that you are an achiever not a doer who just completes basic tasks in job description.
Think of it as writing an advertisement: who is your audience ? what are you selling? what does recruiter want to know about you? what is their need for opening their job position and how can you meet that need?.
Would you like me to share the CV template I currently have? If so , send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org