What is a CV?
According to the, Oxford Dictionary, the definition of a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is:
A brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application
The Latin verb ‘curro’ means, II run, so the ‘course of life’ is just that, a run through of it!.
Essentially, I like to think of it as your own, very personal marketing literature – a brochure that represents you, your relevant employment history, brand and what solutions you can offer a potential employer.
In an environment where there is heightened competition for jobs it is more important than ever to make your marketing literature stand out, for all the right reasons, and not because of sloppy spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Your C.V. needs to represent you in the same way that a brochure would sell a product, service – or an event – and its presentation must be faultless.
The truth about C.V’s
I remember from writing my own CV years ago that I would spend hours poring over every small detail and proudly present it to a potential employer, as if it were a work of art. The reality is, whilst some employers love CV’s and will read every little detail, others do not care about your CV half as much as you do and will not read past the first couple of paragraphs.
Unfortunately, I did not realise this until I started to run my own event management company, CHS Group UK, when I realised that I was in the latter category – definitely not a thorough CV reader! We would regularly receive CV’s from a variety of people seeking employment. The majority of them were speculative so we did not spend much time studying them. The challenge was whether or not they stood out from the crowd and kept our interest? It is amazing how many applicants failed to do this.
Now, I know this is going to sound cruel (and that’s probably because it is), but a few years ago we used to play CV Bingo in the office. This is a game where we used to get a CV through the post and take five minutes for the team to guess what terms were in the CV. The conversation went something like this:
Let me guess – I bet they can work on their own initiative.
Can they communicate at all levels by chance?
Are they a good team player?
Are they an ‘attention to detail’ kind of person?
Whilst we were shouting out all of these clichés, a member of the team would tick off the statements shouting ‘Bingo’. Now, my point here is certainly not to be cruel – but it is to be kind and to let you know that most CV’s are the same – which makes it difficult for them to stand out from the rest and for employers to read past the first few paragraphs (or even sentences!). So, I am going to share my thoughts on how to best express yourself and write a good CV and what it should look like.
Your target audience
First of all, put yourself in the shoes of the person reading your CV. They do not want to read a long, and to be frank arduous list, of all the jobs you have had and what tasks you have undertaken. A potential employer only wants to know what you can help them: Accomplish, Fix, or Avoid.
You need to understand and research as much as possible about the role you are applying for and the company too where possible. Look for clues in the job description to see what they are really trying to achieve with this new recruitment drive. If they use words like achieve, develop, access, then they are probably looking for someone to help them to accomplish something very specific. Equally, if they are using sentences like, ‘must be a quick learner; experience essential; ideally can start soon’, then they’re probably looking to fix an immediate problem, with the challenge that something has gone wrong and you will no doubt have to ‘hit the ground running’.
Once you understand this, you can tailor your CV to address the real reason they are recruiting and hence you can present yourself as the perfect person to help them out.
In next week’s blog I will tell you how to write the perfect CV.