What does your CV say about you?

Does your CV reflect your awesomeness?Image - interview

During my time working in the tech industry I see hundreds of CV’s and many of them do not accurately reflect the person they are describing.

It’s disappointing to discover during an interview that someone who looked great ‘on paper’ doesn’t actually have the skills they promised on their CV. But the opposite is even worse – knowing that there are people who will not get an interview because their CV doesn’t show their value. 

The purpose of your CV is to land an interview. It’s not to get a job … the interview is for that. The entire reason for a CV is so that the person reading it will be interested enough to want to know more.

Your CV is a marketing tool.

It should reflect who you are in a work context, and who you want to be.

  • It needs to cover the basics – contact details, profile, employment history, relevant skills and experience. There are millions of sites that give helpful advice. Here’s just one example – it says how to approach writing your CV.
  • It should be professional and positive. This article has good tips on what to avoid.
  • The layout and content should not make it hard for busy people to find the key details. There are many examples and templates here and here of simple, clear CV’s.

The mistakes I see:

  1. Way too many words.
    • Pretend you’re sending each sentence as a text message or a Tweet. You’re not writing an article, you’re writing bullet points and summary details.
    • Decide what you really want to emphasise and delete the rest. Your CV is not a full and complete story of everything you’ve ever done! Focus on the highlights.
  2. CV’s are too long or too “busy”.
    • Related to the point above, but the way you format a CV can result in lots of pages. It’s also not always a good idea to have lots of tables and borders and fancy formatting. When I’m reading your CV, I care most about the content, not the colour of section headings.
  3. People talk in generic terms (“I’m passionate about learning / Tech / testing” or “I have excellent communication skills”) but don’t show their actual achievements and strengths. Your CV needs to emphasise why you are valuable and useful.
    • Think of awards you’ve got at work, or things people consistently compliment you on, or times you’ve exceeded expectations.
    • What business ‘pain’ do you solve?
    • What are you most proud of? What makes you stand out?
    • Why would a company benefit from hiring you? What have you demonstrated you’re really good at?
  4. Not being clear about what you’re looking for. Read my blog “Something is better than anything” for ideas on how to be clear about what you want.
  5. Not matching your strengths/skills to the role.
    • Make sure to highlight where your skills match the role or job ad. (But don’t fall into the trap of feeling you have to tick every item on their list before you apply. You don’t need to have everything.)
    • Adjust the words you use so they mirror the terms that the company uses.
  6. General tips for people wanting to work in New Zealand
    • In NZ, we use the term CV rather than Resumé.
    • We generally don’t capitalise words other than proper nouns (and acronyms/initialisms/standard terms, like .NET).
    • I’d suggest using ‘and’ instead of & in a sentence.
    • Always aim to provide short and meaningful context for your reader. This is especially important when describing the company or project you’ve worked on outside of NZ.

Next steps

  1. Assess your CV. Does it show your value for the kind of roles you’re hoping to get? What do you like about it? What don’t you like? [10-minutes]
  2. Do you know how you are valuable? What business ‘pain’ can you solve? [15-minutes]
    • Write a list of 5 ways you are useful to a company, your top 5 achievements, and 5 ways you stand out.
    • Does your CV highlight these things?
  3. Look at the articles I linked to above. Does your CV contain any of the mistakes those articles refer to? [20-minute activity]
  4. Is your CV too long or is the format too busy? [20-minute activity]
    • Look at the sample templates linked to above, or search online for others. Find one that looks clean and simple and transfer across your details, deleting excess words and descriptions as you go.
  5. Look critically at your CV and find things to delete so that your main points stand out. [15-minute activity]
  6. If you’re applying for a specific role then does your CV show the ways your skills, talents and experience match that role? Are you using terms in your CV that are used in the job ad or the company website? [10-minute activity]
  7. Get someone else to review your CV – ask for honest feedback about language, spelling, meaning, and formatting. Is the language appropriate for your target audience? Will the words you use be suitable for automated systems that search CV’s for keywords? Change what you need to. [15-minute activity]
  8. Have a final read-through – out loud – to make sure you’re happy. Name your CV sensibly (e.g. “MarySmith_CV”, not “June2015”). [10-minute activity]
  9. Pat yourself on the back for taking the time to do this all-important career task! [1-minute activity 🙂 ]

I hope these tips will help you create a CV that you are proud of, and one that potential employers will find interesting and relevant enough to want to meet with you. (Look out for a future article on preparing for a successful interview).

You have skills and talents to offer! Make sure your CV reflects that.

[See this blog for advice on your LinkedIn profile.]

If you’d prefer one-on-one help with your CV, get in touch with me via shirley@elementum.co.nz. I’ve worked with many people to create CV’s and LinkedIn profiles that reflect their value.

Shirley Tricker is founder of Elementum, a company dedicated to helping people in Tech to be their best at work. Elementum offers career advice, coaching and online training, specialising in the soft/social skills and techniques that make a difference in the workplace. 

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