Authored by Peter Hannaford, Senior Partner at Portman Partners
Traditionally, the new year is a time for reflection and examination of what is working in our lives and what is not and, this includes work itself. It is a time when we ask ourselves if we are where we want to be in our careers, are we on track to meet our goals and aspirations or, is it time to make a move? No matter your answer, the new year is a good time to dust down your CV to ensure you are ready for a surprise call from a headhunter with an offer you can’t refuse!
CV rules are varied with style dependent on your industry, chronology and, length dependent on your years of experience, the number of positions you’ve held and accomplishments you’ve achieved. Add to the challenge of getting it right is that no matter how terrific one’s credentials, it’s often difficult for you to get them down on a CV in a way that presents you in the best light.
The aforementioned variables aside, some guidelines apply across the board and will help you craft a CV that opens the door to your next endeavour.
THE SIXTY SECOND RULE: It is essential to capture the reader’s attention within the first minute. The content at the top of that which catches the eye with a simple scan of the page is likely the only chance you get to make a first impression. Make the most of that top third of the page real estate with a summary that presents your capabilities and/or accomplishments.
BUZZWORDS: We think they sound impressive, but they are rendered meaningless when everyone uses them, and trust me, as an Executive Recruiter, I promise you – EVERYONE uses them. Employers are not looking for candidates that are just like all the others but for those who stand out that they believe can make a difference. So be different and avoid words and terms such as: Seasoned Commercially astute High performance Proven track record Dynamic Results-driven Great communicator Team player, etc.
SHORT AND SWEET: Be concise. Your CV shouldn’t contain more than two to three pages of relevant information.
K.I.S.S. RULE: Format: Keep it simple. If you aren’t in graphic design, your CV needn’t look like a Piet Mondrian. Employment: Keep it simple. Employers are looking for your relevant employment history, which should include position title, brief description, responsibilities most relevant to the position you are seeking, and your top achievements in each spot. Do not include the part-time job you had at the ice cream shop while in school unless you’re seeking a new position in the food industry and then, only if your experience scooping provided you with unique, valuable skills or perspective for the executive position you seek. Education: Keep it simple. Be brief. List schools you attended along with the degrees you’ve earned & honours received. Nothing more than that. If you don’t have a university degree, don’t fret. Smart employers will take your experience & employment record into consideration.
CLOSE THE GAPS: Your CV shouldn’t reveal any major gaps in your employment history. If you took time out for personal reasons or to travel the world, then say so. You’ll only get asked about it if you don’t or, worse, disqualified before you get to answer the question.
PROOF X 3: One last rule that seems obvious but apparently isn’t as it’s often broken: Proofread your CV, then Proofread your CV and then Proofread again. If possible, ask another to take on that task for at least one of the reviews. You don’t want spelling and grammar mistakes to be the reason your CV ends up in the bin. Your CV is an important stepping stone – one you cannot skip. It will either take you past the first round of eyes, be they a recruiter or an in-house hiring manager, or stop your opportunity dead in its tracks. A CV is a business document, but it’s quite personal as it’s all about you. Make sure it’s a representation of the unique candidate you are, illustrating the unique benefits you offer to the prospective employer. Think of your CV as your agent. It can get you to the table – or Zoom call – for an interview, but then it’s up to you!
Peter Hannaford, Senior Partner