CANDIDATES

CV ADVICE

 

Nobody likes writing their CV. Well not many people do anyway. It’s difficult, time consuming and requires some serious thought. You have to recall your old work experiences, some of which are good memories, some of which are bad. Perhaps there’s the odd work night out you would rather forget?!

As a result, we think everyone could do with some help, but not everyone has access to an expert. You can use this section as your sounding board. We hope it will help you think about how best to represent yourself on paper and ease the pain of actually writing it.

GET IN THE RIGHT FRAME OF MIND

Have you been to our motivations section? If you haven’t yet, we recommend you do and come back here after! This section will try to keep away from the usual boring advice you have probably heard time and again.

We are often better at representing our employers than we are at representing ourselves. We find that to get yourself in the right frame of mind whilst you are writing your CV, it can help to think of yourself as a company!

If your name is Max Jones, think of yourself as Max Jones Ltd. There are many different departments of Max Jones Ltd, but for now you are the sales director for Max Jones Ltd and you are going to write a sales document, like an advert or a proposal to a new customer. Any successful sales director of a company knows what they are good at, what their target market is and understands their target audience.

 

YOUR AUDIENCE: WHO IS GOING TO READ YOUR CV?

As many as 10 people may read your CV before it gets to the person authorised to offer you a job. Although your CV must have details that the hiring manager will want to see and understand, it also needs to be easily understood by others.

Your CV may be found online or initially reviewed by someone who is nowhere near an expert on your industry or function. They might be comparing your CV to a list of keywords that they want to see in order to put you on the “YES” pile. Here are some tips to ensure you get past this point:

 

SEARCH OPTIMISATION

  • Optimise your CV for search: Make sure you mention the things that people will be looking for – e.g. SAP or S&OP in supply chain CVs, or P2P, and stakeholder engagement in procurement CVs.
  • Use a clear format: Make sure that someone skim-reading your CV can pull out the important points without having to read it all. Use bold type and bullet points while also thinking about a page format that is easy to navigate and not too crowded.
  • Jack in the jargon: Avoid language that is specific to your company, rather use industry standard words or it may be a lottery whether your CV is picked out.
  • Company profiles: Just like when shopping, well known brands can be seen as a mark of quality, so if you have worked for a well-known company sing about it! If you have worked for some lesser known organisations that could be just as relevant, include a brief 15 word summary below the company name (sector, size etc.) that sings the praises of that organisation.
 

CONTENT

Before starting to write your CV, think about each point of your career and make some notes on examples of the following:

Work you are proud of because:

  • it helped you to develop your skills
  • it delivered a quantifiable bottom-line benefit to your organisation/team
  • it improved the way your organisation/team did things
  • it benefit the people around you
  • you exceeded expectations
  • you received recognition in the shape of awards, positive performance reviews
  • you took ownership of a project or issue and helped to resolve it

Things you had to do as part of the job:

  • your key 3 or 4 responsibilities – things you had to do based on your job description
 

Note that above we have given you seven ideas around achievements and one line about your responsibilities. Most people approach writing their CV with their focus firmly weighted the other way…

 

FORMATS

Everyone has an opinion on this! You ask for help from one person and change your CV based on their advice. Then you ask someone else and they suggest changing it to exactly how you had it in the first place… The truth is that there is not really a right answer and you should go with what feels right for you, as long as you are remembering your audience whilst writing it. That said, we naturally think our suggestion below is actually the ‘right’ answer so feel free to use it.

 


Download the sample CV. We have included comments explaining why certain aspects are there. You can remove the comments via the “tracked changes” options in Word. If you aren't sure how to do this, give us a call and we can explain (and it would give use great pleasure to hear from someone actually using it!

 

Once you have built ideas for the content from the last section, we recommend the following:

Personal information
  • Don’t use up too much space on this and place it at the top of page one. There is no need to put Curriculum Vitae or Resume in big letters as it doesn’t add any value. Get your name on the first line and then your contact details on one line underneath
  • If you want to add a photo, make sure it is small, professional and in a corner of the page
 
Mission Statement
  • We recommend that the first paragraph on your CV should clearly state what you are looking for. Consider including the job type you are looking for, the locations you would be willing to work in, the sectors that interest you and how it fits into your long-term goals. This section should be no more than 50 words, beginning with something like “Experienced FMCG Procurement leader with experience in indirect procurement seeking…”
 
Skills Summary

This does not replace the content in the rest of the CV, rather provides a summary for the reader as guidance. Provide about 5 or 6 bullet points that give the reader information on the following:

  • Experience: summary of key experience in 20 words (e.g. procurement type, Supply chain sub-function, leadership experience, project management etc.)
  • Sector Knowledge: summarise key sectors
  • Skils: summary (IT, functional skills relevant to the job)
  • Achievements: examples of a few key achievements relevant to the role you want to secure (keep it brief)
  • Education: ideally details of relevant degrees, vocational qualifications and internal training that would make sense to someone outside of your previous organisation
  • Character: a few words that your colleagues might use to describe you
 

NOTE: By now, you should be no further than half way down the first page. The first page of your CV is the most important and most read, so there should be space to summarise at least your most recent position on it.

To help with this section, you can also download a sample CV that we have created to see our advice in action. We have included comments explaining why certain aspects are there. If you want to use this CV as the basis for your own, you can remove these comments via the “tracked changes” options in Word. If you aren’t sure how to do this, give us a call and we can explain (and it would give us great pleasure to hear from someone actually using it!)

Work Experience

The structure used for every role you have had should follow a similar format. The only difference between each section of experience should be how much information you choose to include about each role. This can be nothing more than a job title and dates if the experience has no relevance to you today. Here is our recommended structure:

Job Title, Company and start/end dates as a heading:
  • If the company is not well known, include a 15 word summary below the company name (sector, size etc.)
  • Use a job title that reflects your role in the market rather than within your company. For example, if you have a niche job title like “head of making things smartly” (real example!) and your role is Supply Chain Manager – we recommend using the latter.
  • Main Responsibilities: Either a paragraph (up to 50 words) or a couple of bullet points. Keep this as brief as possible while underlining the key elements of the role because you want to focus more on the following:
  • Key Achievements: Up to 6 per role, with a description of no more than 50 words for each. This is what YOU did in the job above what you had to do. This defines your uniqueness and is the most important element of your CV. If written correctly, this will encourage the conversation that you want to have should you get an interview. Refer back to the Content section of this page for ideas. Make sure that you have a mix of different achievements, covering the following areas:
    • Tangible results:these include numbers and measures, showing savings or improvements. If you haven’t got exact figures, don’t leave them out, just give a truthful estimate.
    • People related:showcase experience related to people development, training, team-work etc.
    • Process/systems:give examples of how you have improved the way you or your team have done things, or changes to organisation structure.
 

Having a selection of the above will help to show your all round ability as opposed to just one area of your work.

 

AND FINALLY: THE BIG MISTAKES – DON’T DO IT!!!

We’ve seen some funny things in our time. Here are a few to avoid; we’ve omitted the obvious bits of advice like checking your spelling and grammar.

  • Tracked Changes: if you are using someone else’s CV as a starting point, make sure you are not using the “track changes” option in Microsoft Word; otherwise the reader might see all of the original text as well as your amendments. Yes, we have seen this more than once.
  • Photos: if you don’t have a good one, don’t use one. Some people can look quite frightening when they try to pull a ‘serious work’ face, while having a pile of ironing in the background or a drunk friend next to you will not be well received. All examples used in this paragraph come from real life examples!
  • Too much information: providing a great level of detail on every role that is not relevant to your next move must be avoided. Using a font size of 6 or 8 in order to keep the length of your CV down is also a no-go! The reader will be judging your ability to realise what the most important information is, so keep it snappy.
  • Don’t lie: avoid the temptation to cover up something that you feel may be considered a blemish on your CV. This is especially relevant with gaps in your experience. We really do think that honesty is the best policy.

As well as helping you to secure an interview, the content of your CV will actually drive the discussion that you have during the interview.