If you’re looking to give your CV that winning edge, there’s plenty of instruction to be had. A quick search will bring up dozens of apps, hundreds of e-books, thousands of articles and countless words of wisdom—all to help you master this one little document.
You’ll even find plenty of articles on bad CV advice.
Now—you could spend days drudging through all this information, but it’s far more effective to harness the single principle behind it all: Namely that you’re selling a brand, and that brand is you. When marketers discuss packaging, they don’t think of it as a boring, academic afterthought. They carefully consider the essence of their story and how to make it resonate with a target audience. You are a marketer, and your CV is packaging for a brand. It deserves the exact same treatment.
Grab Your Reader’s Attention Right Away
The first third of the first page is no place for loads of information and poor formatting.
Think bold, clean and simple. Start with your name as the heading. Beneath that, add a single line with your email address, mobile number and suburb or city. Nobody corresponds via post anymore, so feel free to leave this information in the 20th century where it belongs.
Once the heading looks good, consider writing a tedious monologue about your desire to find a career where you can add value and blah blah blah. Once you’ve considered this inane possibility, dismiss it out-of-hand! Well-trodden words are no good here. This is precious real estate, and should be leveraged wisely.
So what do you want on the first half of the first page? How about a bulleted list of key achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. The company may be looking for someone with experience in Business Development, or Channel Selling, or Market Share growth—whatever the case, make sure your bullet points are on target. This makes your reader want to keep going and learn more about you.
Start with Verbs
Initiate your bullet points with verbs in the past-tense. This gives your CV a refreshing tone. It puts the focus on action and accomplishment instead of drab generalisation, and makes an immediate impact on the reader. Consider these verbs, grouped into areas:
- Leadership (accomplished; oversaw; improved; increased; strengthened; executed)
- Communication (addressed; directed; documented; influenced; convinced; persuaded)
- Research (clarified; collected; discovered; examined; organised; identified; determined)
- Technical (assembled; built; maintained; computed; designed; engineered; programmed)
- Teaching (adapted; advised; encouraged; explained; coordinated; informed; stimulated)
- Quantitative (allocated; computed; forecasted; developed; audited; maximised; minimised)
- Creative (acted; introduced; invented; conceived; fashioned; founded; illustrated; redesigned)
- Helping (assessed; enhanced; expedited; facilitated; coached; guided; served; motivated)
- Organisational (approved; collected; prepared; implemented; validated; monitored; steered; operated; compiled)
Scientific research proves that when human beings are presented with a page of text, their eyes automatically look for numbers—especially numbers paired with % or $. When writing about your professional achievements, take every opportunity to use these powerful eye-magnets!
Here are some examples of bullet points that leverage both verbs and numbers:
- Increased market share from 22% to 31% over 5 years
- Increased sales from $12 million to $15 million
- Reduced inventory by $1.7 million to increase ROI
- Optimised inventory turns by reducing dead stock by $500k
- Increased Gross margin through product mix from 32% to 36%
Give It the “So What” Test
So you’ve made your CV more direct, more readable and more engaging. Now it’s time to give it the “so what” test. Choose a friend or colleague who will listen objectively. Read them every word you’ve written. As you do this, watch and listen for those “so what” moments in which your listener’s interest begins to drift. These are precious moments; they highlight things that need to be re-written or cut completely.
For every job advertised, there will be a stack of about 150 CVs on someone’s desk. Your CV is only one of these. This means that if you can’t make a bold impression on paper (or on-screen, as the case may be), you probably won’t get a chance to make a bold impression in person. On the other hand, if you look at your CV as packaging for a personal brand, and strive to make it more compelling and direct, then you’ll have every chance of landing that all-important interview. Why? Simply because your advertisement made somebody want to know more.
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