By: Uzair Bawany, founder and managing partner of Fairway Search Partners.
Candidates typically view writing CVs in the way they once treated exam revision: it is left until the last minute. After all, few people enjoy having to sell themselves; digging deep into their memories to uncover what they have contributed to organisations in the past and justifying their value to potential employers. For many, writing a CV can bring them one step closer to an existential crisis.
It is precisely to avoid this pressure that I recommend candidates at all levels start treating their CVs like a career diary, reviewing it every month and adding or editing as appropriate.
Some VPs, directors or MDs, may have been with the same organisation for up to ten years and not have thought about their CVs at all during this period. However, given current economic conditions, it is fair to say neither seniority nor length of service will guarantee immunity from the threat of redundancy.
I’ve worked with plenty of candidates who waited until they were actually made redundant before they updated their CVs. This is almost always a bad move. Producing CVs under pressure can lead to the omission of highly valuable content as only the most obvious points are most likely to be remembered.
Even if you’re not looking for a job, keeping a “CV diary” will still be useful when applying for a promotion. Its content can be used to remind decision makers of important achievements. It can also be used at appraisal time to ensure key skills and achievements are recognised. One forgets what has been done over the year. Keeping this updated can help jog the memory.
Though I recommend a change in the process of compiling a CV, the general rules regarding content should not be changed. Keep it brief and to the point. Ensure it does not exceed two pages. Give priority of space to the achievements you are most proud of and that are relevant to the position applied for, (while keeping them in chronological order). Include dates so the CV flows and shows growth, development and hopefully an increase in responsibilities.
If you are a senior candidate struggling to prioritise and distil ten years worth of achievement into two pages, a high quality search firm or a professional career coach may help you prioritise what is of most importance.
If you are a junior to mid-level candidate serious about a long term career in financial services, I recommend you get started on that “CV diary” now so you avoid being stuck in five to ten years time.
Wherever you are in your career and whatever approach you take to CV writing, please, for your own sake, understand that times have changed and you can no longer say what one candidate told me years ago: “I’ve got Goldman Sachs on my CV, that says it all”!