My work as a coach involves helping clients manage their personal brand and message as told through their CV and social media profile.
A CV with no impact and clearly in need of work is like a weight holding them back. Each vacancy is an opportunity, so it is important not to waste it. Remember, no two people will agree fully on a CV but it is a good idea to approach it asking if it does what it is supposed to. Is it getting your message across properly?
Apart from the basic ones like “don’t make stuff up” and “do a spellcheck” here are some tips when thinking about updating your CV:
What are you selling?
You are selling experience, knowledge, skills, qualifications, attitude, leadership, decision-making, and a host of other things an employer wants. You are selling the picture of you working for them. The reader of the CV needs to think “yes I can see them doing the job successfully”. Many people feel uncomfortable telling others how good they are at something. Recognise this and tweak your CV to show yourself off in the best light. It may be uncomfortable illuminating your brilliance, but it is better than not showing it at all.
You need to structure your CV with both the reader and the vacancy in mind. Read and re-read the information about the vacancy and be in no doubt what kind of person they are looking for. Then, reflect this to the reader and link what you have with what they want. Mirror the language and the terminology they use without overdoing it.
Most readers of a CV will make up their minds quickly and we are talking seconds rather than minutes here. Your personal brand needs to shine out and the reader needs to be in no doubt you are a special candidate. You will quickly be discounted if a clear picture of you is not apparent. Both conscious and unconscious bias affects the reader and while some may discount a badly structured CV, others may feel a wandering profile or bad layout turns them off. At this point consider if there are too many pages or too few pages in the CV and how it looks. Get a second opinion on this. It is not a secret document and you are not going for a job in the CIA so let others you trust read it and give you feedback.
It seems basic, but many do not check and recheck the readability of their CV. Is there too much or too little writing in the CV? Are there too many bullet points, too many words in BOLD, underline, italics, or ALL THREE? The same goes for colour, dodgy face pics, lines, and fancy designs. Unless you are going for a CV designer’s job, just get the information across with as little distraction as possible.
A cluttered, long sentenced, rambling CV is a wasted opportunity to get your message across quickly and clearly.
Flowery corporate speak may be perfect for some readers but mostly it pays to use direct, clear language with short sentences and no ambiguity. Also, consider the overused CV phrases which are a waste of good space. Sentences like “I work well on my own initiative or within a team” lose their impact as they are so ubiquitous.
For those not familiar with competency-based applications, information about the link between your experience and the job competency is sought in them. A list of competencies is either given or is apparent in the vacancy. Again, ask yourself if your CV reflects adequately these competencies. The reader may be primed to look for these first and you need to re d the signs of what information is best to showcase.
Shooting yourself in the foot
It would be preferable not to highlight things that might go against you and I include in this the words you use. If you highlight less than stellar academic achievements or mediocre exam results that are not sought, you are in danger of a reader forming an opinion of you that is not necessary. Is there any need to put “3rd Class Honours” in your CV when the level of your exam results has not been sought?
Damaging yourself with language is also common. Consider the meaning of the words you use in your CV. Are these words showing you off in the best light? For example, someone who “performed administrative duties as requested” and “sales support” may seem less dynamic and more junior than someone “responsible for high volume sales administration” and “a valuable part of the sales team’s success”. Even rewriting certain phrases can give you a confidence boost.
Many people have times in their careers that they would prefer not to highlight on their CV. We may have a distorted view of our CV, due to these experiences. If you go out of your way to minimise these things you would rather not highlight, an experienced reader may notice it. What is missing from a CV can be as glaringly obvious as what is present. This may plant a seed of doubt in their mind and they could bump you from the “definite” pile to the “maybe” pile. It helps to get a second opinion on the CV’s message with this in mind.
Finally, the CV message must carry forward to the interview and afterward. If you either don’t know your CV detail or you are clearly exposed from what was written in it, you will have a difficult interview. If your CV is clearly representing you differently than you are in the flesh, it is a wasted opportunity. Think of your CV as your blueprint to your brand and all your contact with potential employers must align to this brand. Each subsequent contact must strengthen your message.
Finally, is your profile on LinkedIn aligned to your CV and your goal? LinkedIn has become an essential tool for both job seekers and employers, so your LinkedIn brand and profile are as important as your CV. If they read differently or give a different message it will stick out like a sore thumb.