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GUEST COMMENT: Sorting out your CV

Never has a good CV been more important. If you’ve lost your job recently, you will probably need to re-brand yourself to get back into the job market, as an exact vacancy similar to the one you’ve left is unlikely to exist elsewhere.

Your personal sales brochure

Your CV, or résumé, is the vehicle through which you market yourself and gain interviews – it is your sales brochure. In a tight job market, you need more than a good CV. You need a great CV.

There are some fundamental guidelines you need to follow to make sure your CV does its job:

· It needs to be a suitable length. In the UK/Europe, aim to have a two-page CV/résumé, with three pages at the very most. In the US and Canada, the aim should be one page (two at the most).

· Ensure that the CV is free from any spelling or grammatical errors. This may sound very basic but is critical.

· Keep it simple – no fancy borders or colours. If you’re sending hard copies, use simple black ink on good-quality white or cream paper.

· Use bullet points with short sentences instead of long sentences and paragraphs. Your CV should be easy to read and to extract information from.

Necessary elements

Once you have the look and feel right, you need to know what to include.

· Ensure you have sections for ‘Education & Professional qualifications’ and ‘Career History’.

· It is customary for career history to be detailed in reverse chronological order so that you start with your most recent employment.

· Include sections where you detail your computer and any language skills.

· Have a short and simple section that lists your hobbies and interests.

· Ensure any gaps on your CV are explained.

Overall, the CV must provide an accurate history of what you have done in your career to date, laid out in a logical and coherent manner.

What makes a great CV

A great CV has all of the above as standard, but goes much further to make it stand out from the rest.

A great CV depends on giving the reader a high-level overview of what you were accountable for in each job. It is heavily focused on what you delivered in terms of results rather than simply what you were responsible for.

Anyone reading your CV should be see at once the value and benefits you can offer a future employer and so see the benefit in meeting with you.

The meat of the story

In practical terms, a great CV:

· Opens with a series of key achievements which are relevant to the job you are applying for.

· Uses achievements that are not generalisations, but fact-based statements demonstrating what you have achieved in your career and showing clearly what you have delivered in terms of results.

· These results should show how you helped previous employers “save time”, “increase revenue”, “reduce costs”, “implement new systems”, “improve service levels”, “reduce staff turnover”, “close sales”, etc.

· Where possible, you should seek to quantify these statements with measurable, tangible outcomes or figures.

· Your CV should give the reader an indication of the size and scale of the jobs you have done – size of company, team, number of clients you’ve dealt with, number of transactions, clients from x different countries.

· Make sure the words and language you use are powerful: instead of just saying ‘I was responsible for…’, use action-phrases such as ‘initiated’, ‘challenged’, ‘instigated’, ‘suggested’, ‘pioneered’ – words that show you in a better (but still accurate) light.

· Your CV should be tailored and adjusted to the requirements of each individual job application. Within five seconds, the reader should be able to see how you match their key criteria.

· Your CV should effectively promote the soft skills you have gained: instead of just saying “strong communicator, great team-player, excellent project management skills”, a great CV backs these up with examples that show where you have demonstrated these qualities.

A unique individual

Fundamentally, a great CV shows you to be unique and different from other people.

Admittedly, if your background is nowhere near what an employer is looking for, then even a great CV won’t get you an interview. But if you are applying for roles that are relevant, taking the time to introduce some of these elements into your CV will make a difference.

Like anything to do with your job search, producing a great CV is an evolving process where you try things, learn and see what happens and adapt as you go along, based on feedback. So don’t look at the above and be overly perfectionist; just make some immediate changes and then get out and test it.

Sital Ruparelia is a career counsellor with 6 Figure Career Management.

Comments (12)

  1. Very helpful, thanks.

    While my CV meets almost all the sugested, I found especially useful the tip about indicating the size and schale of my previous jobs.

    Thmbs up.

  2. the most important thing is to make sure the words and language you use are powerful

  3. This is very useful, but if im changing careers, does that mean i have a new cv?.

  4. With all those bankers out there including moi take notes. I think this piece of counsel is certainly among the very best i’ve come across. *****

  5. Great advice thanks. What are your thoughts about posting generic type CV’s on job boards – is this a good tactic for an unemployed finance executive?

  6. @bkuranga
    Yes, you need to adapt CV if making a career change / shift

    Hence the comments in the article on promotion the broad commercial outcomes you have contributed towards delivering “more revenue”, “reduced costs”, etc . This helps positions you as someone that can deliver the very same results firms in most industries are looking for instead of being rejected because you haven’t the exact experience.

    @John Reed
    Yes go for it. Whilst working as a corporate recruiter within Banks I have hired several people after finding CVs off job boards. Whilst there will be some wasters who are just trawling CVs for leads – there will be some quality recruiters and in house recruiters using these sites


    Sital Ruparelia Reply
  7. Thanks Sital for the quick response. What about LinkedIn – is that not the new ‘CV’? Why even worry about the more traditional versions of a CV?

  8. @John
    Your LinkedIn profile does not replace the CV or resume – but instead compliments it by heping you build your personal brand online.

    Most recruiters I know use LinkedIn to search for candidates. Many in-house recruiters doing their own direct sourcing use LinkedIn as the first place to go when they have a vacancy. And in business, something like 60% of people apparently do a Google search on the name of a contact before meeting them – a search which invariably takes them to a LinkedIn profile (if they have one)

    So yes, if your job searching ensure you have an upto date LinkedIn profile.

    But for the moment, most line managers will still want to see a full version of the conventional CV/ resume. I say ‘for the moment’ as this may well change in the future when online platforms like LinkedIn become more sophisticated and employers decide that it’s easier to use online profiles instead of CVs. But for the time being, the CV/resume stil remains your primary sales brochure to work alongside online profiles such as LinkedIn profile – not instead of them.

    But that’s just my view – what do some of the recruiters reading this think?

    Sital Ruparelia Reply
  9. Well I’m a bit late to the party but anyway…

    Some helpful stuff but how do you approach the achievement section if you come from a non revenue-generating area such as middle office and where you don’t have input into processes, etc? Certainly there’s nothing you can quantify.

  10. @AB, the achievements should be business outcomes, not necessarily revenue related

    So typical middle office outcomes would include:

    – Saving time (through process improvements)
    – Saving money (by reducing losses, errors etc)
    – Improved accuracy (via improved processes)
    – Improved service levels (ie achieving/exceeding service level agreements)
    – Increased productivity

    Tell me a firm who is not looking for these results in the current market?

    You may not have input into whole process – but will have played some role. So it’s fine to state you “contributed to saving but x,y,z actions”

    hope that helps

    Sital Ruparelia Reply
  11. Pretty good & to the point.

  12. a great cv should highlight your skills and acheivements .Not that what you did but how you did.

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