Let’s make one thing clear. The reason you aren’t getting the job you want IS within your control. Whilst I spend days ranting about the backward thinking working of modern day work, the patriarchy and an antiquated option of working parents, there is one issue that has been consistent in my 15 years plus recruitment career. CVs suck.
Yes, you read that right. CVs generally suck.
But, they are a necessary evil. They are your first step to an interview and that job you desire.
The reasons that CV suck is that most people have NO IDEA how to write one. That, combined with a very “British” discomfort of shouting about our achievements, leads to CVs that are nothing more than a history of all of your job descriptions. Lists of duties do not get anyone a job!
As a recruiter, career coach and manager, I have read thousands of CVs; when you have this experience, it becomes easy to see who has the skills you are looking for and who has no idea how to express themselves, before they even get to interview. And let’s be honest here, it’s your CV that often is the ONLY thing stopping you from getting that invite.
The common reasons that I, and the employers I have recruited for, say a NO to CVs are one, or more of these issues:
• CV is a list of duties
• No explanation of the work you have done, or even worse, full of acronyms
• No context of the work or how it is linked to the job you are applying for
• No self-awareness or personality
• No relevant experience/skills shown on the CV
But don’t fret, there is hope on the horizon; you can start fixing your CV right now. Whilst I could (and often have) spent hours talking through CV improvements, these are the key things you should know and consider when you are writing your CV.
You already know what they want to see in the CV
Whilst it may feel like you are stabbing in the dark, you have the blueprint for your CV content in the job advert and person specification. Are you showing how you have those skills, experience or behaviour when drawing on your previous experience? Transferable skills count too; make sure you make these clear!
It’s not just about work
The good news it is not just your work experience that makes you suitable for a role. Think of your studies, interests, life experience and qualifications and future plans. ALL of that should be included
Show me HOW
You need to convince the reader that you are suitable for a role and worth an interview. Making sure you are answering the questions HOW is key to this. HOW did you perform your duties and HOW did you know you were successful in that role/project/duty?
Tell a story
I LOVE hearing stories and that doesn’t stop when I am reading a CV or in an interview. You need to project an image in the head of the reader that will help them see you as their next employee. One way to do this is to use the STAR technique, which briefly comprises of:
• Situation (background /set the scene)
• Task (what, when, where, who)
• Action (what you did, what skills you used or behaviour it is demonstrating)
• Result (what happened / outcome/measure of success or lesson learnt)
A little tip for you – once you start using this technique, it will not only help your CV but your interviews too. The storytelling will be supercharged when answering their interview questions.
Is your CV relevant and full of evidence?
Your resume is a window to your suitability, that ONLY YOU KNOW. Everything on that piece of paper (or pixels on a screen) need to be RELEVANT to the role and EVIDENCED. The evidence is facts and figures, feedback or physical examples (such as links to portfolios or LinkedIn profiles). No vague statements or half-finished examples, please! When you say you have a relevant skill (and you will know it’s relevance from the person specification) then make sure you can show where you used it, how you used it and how you know you are good at it!
Don’t fall into the trap of believing your CV is finished; it’s an evolving reflection of who you are at the time of writing it, and what parts of your personality, skills and experience are right for the opportunity. We need to continue carving out a path for ourselves as working parents; start with creating a CV that doesn’t suck.
Clara Wilcox is a straight-talking, practical and experienced coach helping clients navigate the tricky waters of returning to work, career changes and professional development. The Balance Collective is a social enterprise focused on improving the lives of parents, by working together to build inner confidence and promote a healthy work/life balance.
Image credit: Clark Tibbs on Unsplash