CV and Resume – some essentials (part 2)

In our first part of the CV and resume blog series, we pointed out how important it is to understand who the hiring manager or recruiter really is looking for, why you have to keep to the point and what to do with your summary or objective line. Now let’s turn to some further essentials for your CV or resume.

Accomplishments/ Expertise

You may want to include a section that shows your accomplishments and expertise. This will allow the recruiter to quickly determine if you bring the relevant level of expertise to the role. Make sure it is concise and to the point and be ready to substantiate the claims you are making!

One way to do this is to use a ‘challenge-action-result’ approach to your work experience rather than just a list of job titles and responsibilities. Give a short description of challenge you and your company were facing, the actions you took and the results you managed to achieve. Quantify achievements and use bullet points for clarity and ease of reading. Consider the following two descriptions of the same job position:

  • “Responsible for inventory management”
  • “Faced with long supply chains, I helped establish direct ordering processes that reduced inventory holding by $ 5 million, improving working capital and exceeding financial targets.”

Who have you worked for?

When you list your employers, give an overview of the company, and maybe even the link to their website. Big brand name companies speak for themselves but outside the global top 500 don’t expect every employer to have heard of your company, so try writing a brief summary of the company in your own words. This exercise will help you place the company in its industry or sector context and you can also use these excerpts to demonstrate your own understanding and positive view of your employers.

So what to do if you have a previous employer that you are not proud of? Everyone can make a mistake and end up in the wrong job. As your next employer, I am interested in how you handle the ‘bad times’ as well as the ‘good’ so don’t panic, just stay positive and professional. If you want, you can generalise the company name, eg. ‘A major international bank’, or a ‘chemicals supplier’, but overall these generalisations do not support your application. It is more important to practice talking about difficult ‘job-exits’ and be ready to discuss them at an interview.

Attention to format and content

On a first contact CV, we are looking for clarity and simplicity more than creativity. Big companies receive many thousands of CVs in response to job postings, they simply cannot read them all. In this context, a software scanner may well be the first challenge your CV faces. These automated systems will return a percentage match rate on your CV, so your resume must contain all the keywords from the job description in a format that is recognisable and readable. Avoid using table layouts or pasting text blocks as images as they often cannot be “read” by the scanning software. Likewise, getting overly creative on headers or text might not be beneficial; ‘work experience’ as a header might be boring but it is certainly more direct than ‘professional biography’. Here is an online tool that allows you to check the percentage match rate yourself against the job description. Please use with pre-cautiousness, you are not meant to copy/paste a job description into your CV. Some others you might want to explore for keyword inspiration are Careernation, O*net online, Foster Washington or Labor NY.

Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and poor text layout will play against you immediately. Beware of company-specific jargon and abbreviations. Use an easy-to-read layout; clear headers, concise text and appropriate use of bullet points.

Once you are past the software checker, your CV is going to be read by a human. Humans have characters and personalities that are unique to them but that are also predictable in certain dimensions. Some people want to see the big-picture, others want to see detail. Some want to see a creative ambitious side and others want to see respect for formality. There are many of these categories and a good CV will be designed and written to give each person what they are looking for.

Be selective & choose what’s relevant

You don’t need to tell your whole life story and list every baby-sitting or waiter job you had in your teens. If you are very active with your extra-curricular activities or have a long work history try to be selective about what gets included on your CV. Cutting down words takes effort from your side, but should make the CV correspondingly easy to read by the recipient.

Now, get back and check your CV for the above points. Be honest to yourself when deciding what’s good and what might need some rewriting. A good CV is not done over night! Stay with us for the third part of our CV and Resume blog post series.