How To Turn A ‘Good CV’ Into A ‘Great CV’
Published: 08 Jul 2016
You crack your knuckles and begin to type, but… what should you include? How should it be structured? What kind of language should you use?
Well, it’s important to realise that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to writing a good CV. But there are a number of general rules to keep in mind when you first sit down to a update your résumé.
As you prepare to enter the competitive world of job hunting, this post will help you turn your bronze medal effort into a winning CV, and take a step towards securing that all-important first interview.
Tip #1 - Tone Is Important
As with just about every aspect of job hunting, confidence is crucial. It is therefore important that your CV exudes confidence in spades. Your potential employers will naturally be interested in your various successes, but they’ll also want to understand the motivations behind them.
Just take care not to come off as arrogant. It’s okay to shout about how great you are, so long as you back it up with something of substance.
Avoid the run-of-the-mill buzzwords that every other CV includes. You know the ones; they state that you’re a “team player” and that you’re “highly motivated” and “detail-oriented”. You might be all of those things, but find another way to point it out, and provide some evidence of it too.
You should also write with purpose. Read your CV aloud, and if you find it sounds clunky, or if you feel you are rambling on, then cut it down in order to keep it short, snappy, and easy to read.
Tip #2 - Don’t Be Negative
Throughout your CV, you should ensure you’re being positive. Even when you are describing certain difficulties or challenges that you’ve encountered during your previous jobs, keep the language upbeat.
Be on the lookout for negative terms such as “quit”, “hate”, “argued”, etc. Including such words will only serve to make you appear difficult to work with.
Instead, turn to phrases such as “negotiated”, “challenging”, or “compromised” to put a positive spin on past negative experiences.
And those negative experiences shouldn’t be airbrushed out of your CV either. Just because you’ve had some bad professional experiences doesn’t mean you didn’t learn some valuable lessons along the way.
Present them as opportunities for personal growth and development, hammer home how you’ve improved as a person, and describe how what you’ve learned will be relevant to the role you are applying for. As Tom Searcy writes on Inc.com, “If you don't say what you are ready to do next and how, then you'll leave the conjecture to the reader.” Not a good idea! You must guide the decision maker to the decision you want them to make.
Tip #3 - Assert Yourself
Keep sweeping statements at bay as you write your CV. Speaking in generalisations without facts and figures to back it up comes off as hollow.
Instead, be assertive in your writing. Don’t be coy when discussing previous professional success; shout from the rooftops that you are good at what you do, and give your potential employer a reason to care about your CV in particular.
Whether you increased year-on-year revenue as part of a motivated sales team, or you implemented a brand new internal process that led to higher levels of productivity, backing this up with some meaningful figures will place you at the top of the interview pile. In other words, as CV expert Jane Heifetz posits in the Harvard Business Review, you must “share accomplishments, not responsibilities.”
Tip #4 - Be Prepared to Tailor Your CV
No matter how happy you are with your CV, it will always be a work-in-progress. You should continue to tweak and improve the content, all the while ensuring that for each and every single job application, your CV has been tailored to suit.
Parts of it will undoubtedly remain untouched (background information and academic qualifications, for example), however the tone, language, and relevant experiences should be altered to match the criteria of the job in question, and the wider personality of the company doing the hiring.
Tip #5 - Keep It Up-To-Date
Don’t let your CV sit gathering virtual dust for too long. As you continue to gain new skills and experiences, it is important that your CV is an up-to-date reflection of you as a potential candidate.
Even if you’re not in the market for a new career, knowing that you have something ready should a dream opportunity arise is certainly a comfort.
Find Out What You’re Worth
Writing a good CV is about demonstrating your value to a potential employer. While few jobs are offered on the strength of a well-written CV alone, it will go someway towards getting your foot in the door for an interview.
And when you’re sat face-to-face with an interviewer, wouldn’t it be great to know how your skills and experience compare to similar candidates? Wouldn’t it be great to know your market value? Wouldn’t it be great to know what you’re worth?