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Top 5 Tips to Making an Impact with your CV

By Alexandra Sleator

When was the last time you honestly reflected on your job satisfaction? If you are happy where you are, then you might want to make a note of this article for future reference. But if not, then read on.
In this and upcoming articles, I will be looking at CV writing, cover letter composition and interview preparation. Below you will find my top 5 tips for you to produce a CV which will catch the eye of its readers and get you that interview you deserve.

Before I start, let me set the scene for you: in my experience, people hire folks who they can envision collaborating with as well as having a chat with by the coffee machine. How you present yourself professionally - whether in your CV, cover letter or during the interview – must be about demonstrating your competences as well as your ability to fit in and get along well.

Against this background, here are my top tips for a noteworthy CV:

Tip No1: Position

Just below your name at the top should be your mission statement”. Be wary of a lengthy paragraph where your reader’s eye will get mired: your “mission statement” is 2 lines long at the maximum. It can be a statement of intent around what you are looking for or a short and sharp summary of your professional profile or both.  It sets the scene for the themes which will dominate in the body of your CV. To some extent, it conditions your reader’s mindset for what comes next.

For instance, what do you think of “Innovative quantitative analyst looking for his next challenge”? This tells the reader that they will find more in the body of the resume about (1) that individual’s capacity for and track record of innovation alongside (2) his achievements in their field of expertise, quantitative analysis, and (3) evidence that this person is ready for a role which entails more responsibilities, for instance a broader remit or a managerial position.

Tip No2: Clarity

I know you want to catch your reader’s eye but don’t indulge in unhelpful originality. For instance, unusual fonts will distract your reader rather than impress them. By clarity I mean:

• simple language: uncomplicated vocabulary, which a 10-year old could easily grasp

• short sentences: use the implicit first person, i.e. there is no need to write ‘I’ but compose your CV in the first person save for your “mission statement” which should be in the third person. Your sentences should run no longer than half the width of the page.

• relevant terms: make sure to use in your CV those words which feature in the job advert or description to create an echo and show the relevance of your experience to their need.

Tip No3: impact

Another important point about ensuring your CV employs clear language is the use what I call “outcome words”. I have seen much CV advice recommending “action words” so you designate what you did but let me encourage to emphasize instead what you produced. What I mean is: rather than writing “produced monthly team activity reports”, how about “monitored team deliverables against objectives”. The first sentence shows that you kept busy whereas the second demonstrates the value-add from what you did.

Using “outcome words” allow you to showcase your capacity to contribute. They answer what I call the “so what question”. Indeed, when someone reads “produced monthly team activity reports”, would you agree that what pops in their mind is: “so what?” “What did it matter that this person produced these reports?” thinks your reader. But when you write: “monitored team deliverables etc”, then your reader knows that you were responsible for tracking your team’s achievements. Quite a different value proposition – from simple report writing to helping the team achieve its goals.

Tip No4: preview

So let’s recap. Your CV opens up with a powerful “mission statement” which primes your reader for what follows. Through clear language, you hold their attention because your words flow nicely. With “outcome words”, you demonstrate the impact you can have in a work context. As they continue down the page, your reader is developing a view how you work. When you showcase how you work, you give your reader a preview of who you are in the office.

You see, what you do presents you in a two-dimensional way whereas how you work portrays you in a fully fleshed out, three dimensional fashion. So think of your CV as akin to those movie teasers which precede the full-length feature at the cinema: when they work, these movie teasers make you want to go see the film whereas, when they are poorly done, for example telling you too much about the plot, they are a real turn-off. That’s why I tend to think of a CV as giving a “preview of coming attractions”: a teasing sense of who the reader will meet should they invite you for an interview. What do you think of approaching your CV in this way?

Tip No5: calibrate

If you are like me, those overlong movie teasers won’t make you feel like going to see the film. As far as I am concerned, it is the same with resumes: overlong CVs bore their readers. Many CV experts agree: a compelling CV is no more than 2 pages long. And if your work experience is still relatively limited, then please stick to one page. With a long CV, you meander and you waffle, you dilute your impact, you confuse your reader. In short, you make a poor impression because your achievements are presented in what I term the ‘laundry list’ fashion, that is to say dull; it puts the reader to sleep.

So make sure you pick your reader’s interest so they want to meet you: the interview will be the occasion for you to satisfy their curiosity. Keep your CV short and snap!

There you have it: five simple tips to put together a short, clear CV which allows you to put your best foot forward by showcasing how you add value as a professional. By all means, do let me know what you think. If have hired folks, what did you look for in a CV? As a CV owner, what has your experience been? What advice about CV s did you have which you found helpful?

To contact Alexandra Sleator, just click here.

If you have found this article useful, you might also read my article on How to wite an effective cover letter.

© Coaching For Inspiration, 2012

If this article resonated with you, please leave a comment (see below). If you would like to write to Alexandra directly, click here. To see Alexandra’s bio on France in London, go there.


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