How to Write a CV that Really Works
Who Needs a CV Anyway?
LEARNING TO MARKET YOURSELF
Billions of pounds each year are spent by companies advertising their products. No matter how good the product is, no matter how well it has sold previously, businesses will continue to invest in its promotion. In America, television programmes are scheduled around commercials, and sporting events are delayed in order for the viewers to receive ‘a message from our sponsor’.
A radio programme was examining factors that contribute towards a song being successful in the charts. There were a number of factors – but the most important was simply how well the song was marketed. Whether that came through television, on-line chatter or exposure via You Tube, success wasn’t simply down to the quality of the song.
That’s a lesson we could all learn from.
Strange as it may seem, people can also be viewed as products. When they apply for a job or sell their services, they sell their skills, experience, qualities and potential. No matter how good a ‘product’ the person is, their future success will depend to a great extent on how well they market themselves.
One of the most important marketing tools an individual can have when seeking to promote themselves is a Curriculum Vitae (CV for short) which is the Latin for ‘the course of your life’.
WHO NEEDS A CV?
We live in a society where change is continuous and competition is increasing. The days of full employment are long gone and, whatever politicians say, they are unlikely to return. Advanced technology and emphasis on ‘efficiency’ has led to a reduction in the labour force. Economic realities mean:
- Many more women are being forced to return to paid employment in order to supplement their partner’s wage.
-Companies are recruiting fewer graduates, which means there are plenty of qualified people, but with little or no work experience.
- A ‘job for life’ is becoming the exception rather than the norm.
- Reorganisations within companies have led to redundancies and people who have worked all their lives in one industry are now looking for alternative work for the first time.
- Increasingly there are more self employed people, working on short term projects.
- People must now be prepared to work on a temporary contract, without any job security.
- Working practices are changing and people are having to be more flexible in the hours they work. Whilst some are finding their home life is suffering due to the time spent at work, others are struggling to find even part-time employment.
These statements may seem stark, but this is reality and these are the circumstances people are finding themselves in.
The CV is not a magic wand. It will not suddenly be the solution to all our problems. But for those who do find themselves affected by this economic climate, or for those who simply feel it is time for a change, the CV is an important marketing tool.
|Who needs a CV?||When do we need a CV?|
|* School/college leavers||When applying for:|
|* Graduates||–Summer jobs|
|* Women returners||–Work placements|
|* Careers changers||–Agency work|
|* Those made redundant||–Voluntary work|
|* Consultants||–Full and part time work|
|* Writers (the publisher of||–Consultancy work|
|this book wanted a copy||–Temporary work|
|of my CV)||–As an aid to filling in an|
MAKING A CV WORK FOR YOU
The purpose of a CV is to inform briefly the reader of a number of points about yourself. This usually includes:
- personal details (name, address, telephone number)
- training received
- work history – (the name of the company and how long you worked there)
- skills you possess.
Other details that may be included are:
- age and marital status
- addresses of where you worked
- hobbies and interests
The aim of a CV
However, the aim of the CV is to do more than simply inform the reader of your life to date.
My definition would be:
A CV is your sales document that highlights your skills, achievements and experience in such a way that the reader is motivated to meet you.
The objective of a CV is not to get you a job or to win you a contract, but to get you an interview or meeting.
The CV plays a central role in getting you from where you are to where you want to be:
- It accompanies or helps in completion of an application form.
- It is usually accompanied by a letter.
- It leads to the all-important interview/meeting.
YOUR CHANCE TO ‘SELL’NOT ‘TELL’
I was looking to buy a house recently. When I visited estate agents, I collected a number of house details – in fact a great pile of them! The purpose of the details was to arouse my interest by:
- informing me of the particulars of the house
- presenting the property in the best possible light, so that I would want to view it.
I was not expected to look at the details and say ‘I’ll buy this house, please’. (Although I am sure the estate agents would not have complained if I had.)
Someone wanting to buy a house has a great number of properties to choose from. People may have certain criteria that need to be met:
- number of bedrooms
- size of garden.
But many houses may meet these criteria. The aim of the estate agent therefore is to present those details in the most attractive way, so that people want to visit the property to find out more.
Our CV must do the same. Whatever the purpose of the CV, our objective will not have been met unless it leads to a meeting. It is vital that we present ourselves in the best and most appropriate light. So our CV is not simply about supplying information about ourselves.
Our CV is our personal sales brochure
Unlike an application form, when we have little choice in what we include and the way we present the information, the CV is completely different:
- We design the layout of our CV.
- We decide what to include and what to exclude.
- We determine how long it will be and how it will be presented.
We are competing in an overcrowded market, seeking to grab the attention of our reader. Every day personnel managers, directors and managers are bombarded with literature, most of which will end up in the bin! A single job advert can result in a company receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of replies. So:
- How will we make ours stand out?
- How can we make an immediate, positive impact on the reader?
When we begin to see our CV as our personal sales brochure, which advertises what we have done and can do for the reader, then we have an increased chance of meeting our objectives.
Avoid information overload
Unfortunately, many people go straight into the ‘tell mode’. A client who recently attended one of my courses had compiled a nine-page CV packed with information! The opening lines included:
- Age and date of birth (just to emphasise how old he really was!)
- All the schools and colleges he had attended throughout his life.
- The year he was married.
- The ages of his children.
- All his hobbies and interests.
This was followed by a detailed overview of his 35-year career! Sorry, but there was only one place this CV was going – in the bin. When writing our CV, we should bear in mind the following:
It should be:
- Selling your achievements
- Easy to read and follow
- Detailed and accurate
- Highlighting the skills you have developed both in and outside of work.
It should NOT be:
- Full of irrelevant information
- A list of job titles and duties
- Jumbled and cramped
- Vague and lacking in detail
INVESTING SOME TIME IN SHAPING YOUR LIFE
This book then is written to equip you with the necessary insights required to market yourself. But it is not simply giving you information. You must play your part:
- Think about the questions asked.
- Research what you have done previously.
- Analyse the skills you have developed.
Why? Because this will help you know yourself better. It might help convince you that you have more to offer than you realised. The great British disease is modesty or feeling negative about ourselves.
Knowing yourself better
Many people could easily identify the good points in others, but find that hard to do about themselves. They feel uncomfortable. I am not encouraging you to be cocky and arrogant and tell the whole world how wonderful you are! I simply want us to look honestly and positively at:
- Who we are.
- What we have done.
- What we are capable of doing.
We take ourselves, our abilities, qualities, attributes and strengths for granted. In designing your own CV, I believe you will see that we are not simply going through the motions of an academic, one-off exercise, but something much more important. How you see yourself is vital. So many of us suffer from low self esteem and therefore fail to fulfil our potential. How we communicate ourselves to the outside world is also vitally important. A CV is just one way we do that. So work through this book and in doing so, invest some time in shaping your life.
1 Write out your own definition of the purpose of a CV.
2 Inwhat ways is a CV different froman application form?
3 List five uses for a CV.
4 What are themost commonmistakes people make in compiling a CV?
5 Complete the sentence ‘It is not how good the product is that determines its success, but . . .’
Points to consider
- How do you feel about having to sell yourself?
- Why is it that we find it difficult to feel good about ourselves?
- What motivated you to buy this book?
- Should CVs be written by ourselves or left to the so-called experts?