Effective CV writing

Everyone knows that the CV is an integral part of a successful job search. Effective CV writing will literally open doors for you. Knowing how to write a CV is one of the most important things in making the career you want for yourself. A big statement, but true. It doesn’t matter how great you would be at the job, or how silky smooth your interview skills are. If your CV does not end up on the pile of “possible” candidates, none of those things will matter one bit.

What exactly is effective CV writing?

Effective means fit for purpose. The purpose of effective CV writing is making sure you look good on paper. Do this and you will make it through the screening process. I describe interview screening in this article, but at this early stage its all about the employer whittling down the many to the few. How this process happens is hugely significant in determining how effective CV writing should work. There are a few key things to bear in mind;

Lack of work context

Ever tried internet dating? No, me neither. See I’m not sure that just because I like the look of someone’s profile, they will actually be all those things in real life. Heck, they could even be bending the truth, trying to lure me in with false promises......but people would never do that with their CV...........would they?

The issue is, just because someone looks good, or bad, on paper you never really know for sure if they are the real deal until you get to see them in action. The best you can do is hope to read the clues effectively to spot the good from the bad. That is the screening process in a nutshell. Using the little information they have to try to make a decision about your ability to perform in the workplace. Is there a danger of judging a book by its cover? Definitely. So the trick of effective CV writing is to make sure your cover is working for you.

Time pressure for the employer

They may have a large number of CV’s to go through, and perhaps not a lot of time to do it. Not only that, there is……

Pressure to find the right candidate/Fear of letting a good candidate go

Obviously they are mindful they must identify the right person. The fact is, failing to find the right candidate can be a real problem for an employer. Think about it. Every vacant position is a problem, because every day it means something, somewhere, is NOT being done. Every day a position goes unfilled is a loss of productivity, time and money. The person screening the CV’s knows this. It usually means that if someone looks as though they tick the boxes, they will get a chance at interview. The art of effective CV writing is knowing how to tick those boxes, to give them enough of those clues that you are the real deal.

Boredom and frustration

Ever spent a day looking through CV’s searching for “good” candidates? I have, and to be honest, its pretty tedious work. You realise how much the “little things” matter. You know, “little things” like poor grammar, not following the instructions on the job advertisement, providing a vovering letter to “sell” yourself when none was requested, or not knowing the difference between a writing a CV and writing your autobiography!!

The point of course is that you have to bear in mind your CV will be screened by a person. A person who would probably rather be doing something else. If they don’t like you on paper you’ll never get the chance to impress them in person.

The principles of effective CV Writing

So, based on what we know about the screening process there is really only one principle of effective CV writing, and it’s a simple one:

Make it easy for them to see how good you are (help them, help you)

That’s it. Still I said simple, not necessarily easy. You’re going to have to put some effort into thinking about how you apply it. You can break this principle down into two parts. They are;

Time; the employer is under time pressure. Anything you can do to save them time in seeing you as a good candidate will count for you.

Clues; give the employer clear indication that you have the skills, experience and attributes for the role.

Here is a three step plan to help you with effective CV writing

1)know the job

Your aim throughout the process is to communicate to the employer that you are what they are looking for. Use the job advertisement and job description to produce a target for you to aim at. Remember when setting your job search objectives you produced a blueprint defining what you want from your new role? Similarly the employer will know what they are looking for from the person who fills the vacancy.

Think about what a good candidate will look like to the employer? What experience will they have? Where will they have worked? What will their ambitions be? The clearer the picture you have of what good looks like, the easier the rest of the process will be.

2)Target your CV

You are no doubt a multi skilled, highly experienced, all singing, all dancing, unique snowflake who has achieved success in limitless areas in your professional life. You and I both know that this is great, but the person who is reading your CV probably doesn’t really care.........yet. Remember they are under time pressure. You have to make it as easy as possible for them to see why you are a great candidate for THIS job. The harder you make it, the less effective your CV is. Focus on getting across the key things that matter to THIS application, rather than describing everything you have ever done.

For more on the why and how of producing a targeted CV read this article.

3)Write with your audience in mind

Remember how I said looking through CV’s can be boring? Well often employers are searching for just a few key words that will make the search seem a little more worthwhile. Want to know what these magic words are? Read the job advertisement!!! Right before your eyes you will see on paper exactly what they are looking for. How do you think they would feel if they felt that a candidate somehow possessed these same criteria??

The closer your CV matches the job advertisement the more favourable your CV will be looked upon. You can draw attention to the match through the the way you describe things. Again, don’t make them work to see how closely you match what they want. Give it to them easy.

I’m a massive advocate of the STAR technique and it will help you here too. Too many CVs’ read like a list of responsibilities. But responsibilities are boring and uninspiring. Employers want to know about what you achieved, it’s a subtle but important shift in mindset. They are looking for the type of person who can create positive outcomes in a Situation regardless of the Task. The type of person who takes Action to get positive Results (see, a STAR!).

Start thinking about your career in this way. Then start writing about it like this and you’re on your way to effective CV writing.

For more on the star technique, read this article.

Learn how to use your CV to improve your interview

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