The following is an extract from “The Career Doctor” a book by our Managing Director Eoghan McDermott.
The key to a good CV is implication, not exaggeration.
The objective is to provide enough detail about your experience for the prospective employer to deduce your skills from your experience. All you have to do is imply. All they have to do is infer. Wild, unsupported boasts are not the way to go, yet when job applicants bring me their CVs for editing, I regularly find them littered with statements like, ‘I am a great communicator; I am a people person; I am hungry and enthusiastic.’ These statements read like the empty self promotion that they are. Not only are they assertions without evidence – a lethal form of unmemorable, unpersuasive communication – but they’re yellow-pack assertions which every second job applicant makes.
It’s much better to illustrate quickly the communications requirements of your last job, indicate how you met those requirements and let the employer work out himself or herself that you’re a good communicator.
If Tiger Woods wants to prove he’s a gifted golfer, he doesn’t write, ‘I am an excellent golfer.’ He writes that he won more Masters titles – faster – than anyone in history. Inference does the rest.
A number of simple steps are involved in writing the perfect CV:
1. Start with your most recent employment experience.
2. Through that experience, show how you demonstrated the skills required for the job
for which you’re now applying.
3. Don’t make sweeping assertions about your talents.
4. Give the evidence and let the employer judge.
5. (And this is the most important consideration of all) Tailor the CV (and the covering
letter) to the specific job.
A generic CV is hugely disrespectful to the receiver; it’s like whipping out an engagement ring and telling your girlfriend, ‘I’ve fired this at a few girls over the years, how about you wear it? Ah go on, I’m an excellent communicator. ..’
If your CV is evidence- based, clear and focused on the employer it will increase your chances of getting the job.
In the current employment climate, CVs simply have to contain elements that get the HR person saying, ‘I wouldn’t mind talking to this man/woman.’ The requisite experience will have to be specified and expanded upon to show not just what you did but what you gained from it. Every piece of experience you cite should prove a skill, not an occurrence.
This last element is crucially important and worth a little more attention. A key deficit in most CVs is that a job applicant lists experiences they have had, without establishing, for their prospective employer, precisely how the experiences matter.
I regularly see CVs which list promotions and project work as skeletally as if the writer were putting together the details of a train timetable. This happens because the writer feels the experience speaks for itself It doesn’t. You were part of a project introducing a new product into the plant. You state that. You assume that the prospective employer will say to themselves something along the following lines:
Oh, my goodness, this is exactly the person we need. She can work in a team. She can handle a product with which she’s had no previous experience. She can bring a project in on time and within budget, so it’s fair to assume that she pays attention to detail and keeps an eye on what money is being spent.
Why should employers do this for you? Why should they go to all the trouble of explaining to themselves the implications you should explain to them? Bluntly, they won’t. Besides , even if they were willing to do your job for you, they might not be able to work out the significance of events that seems obvious to you.
I’m not suggesting your CV should turn into a seventeen page epic description of the wonders of you. Just that you shouldn’t just use it to establish what happened to you. It should demonstrate what you’ve learned from what happened to you, or what skills you demonstrated – and how both would be useful to you in the job you’re now applying for.