How to develop a great CV

Planning job seeking activity and getting a new job - useful blogs

The very thought of having to write a CV or personal profile fills many people with dread, often because they dislike the thought either of talking about themselves or, as they see it, “blowing their own trumpet”. The fact is there are probably several people who would be interested in them and that they are quite ‘attractive’. Designing a CV that is simple, factual and relevant is key.

When it comes to writing a CV, the fact is most people haven’t a clue where to start. Yes, they can list the various jobs they’ve had but, often, the result will be either too short or, more likely, too long - and much of the information totally irrelevant to the reader. The CV is essentially a brochure, a marketing document that should be designed very much with the reader in mind. They are the ‘customer’, and anyone who is successful in sales will tell you that you need first to know a) what does the customer really need or want? And b) what you, specifically, can offer that will meet their requirements in full. Any other information about your achievements – which may be of interest to you and of which you may be proud, but bear no relevance to them, their organisation or personal needs – should be deleted; it carries no significance whatsoever. Examine every statement within the whole CV and say to yourself: “So what?” If it’s relevant to you – but not to them – take it out; it’s simply taking up space.

Simplicity, then, really is key. Very few people want to wade through pages of verbiage while trying to identify exactly what’s being said – or claimed. And certainly not busy people. No, they want to be able to pick it up and immediately apply the ‘three tick test’:

  • What have they done? 
  • Where have they done it? 
  • What are their key skills?

If, after scanning that first page, they can mentally apply those three ticks, chances are that an interview will follow – if only to satisfy their curiosity. Remember - the CV has one single purpose in life: to get you an interview. So, just like with a sales brochure, the easier it is for the reader to see straight away how attractive this product is, the more likely they will be to want to see it.

Writing a personal profile online should follow the same rules of simplicity, while keeping in mind your target audience. Two or three paragraphs with a maximum of four (anymore and it simply becomes a list..) ‘Key Skills’ as bullet points should be sufficient here.

If it’s not specifically targeted, e.g. on LinkedIn, then you should still be able to decide who – or what market sector – could possibly benefit from your own skill set and appeal to that. So, you will want to include any relevant information or achievement that refers to that range of skills and avoid references that do not. It can also be quite effective to use a brief extract from a personal reference or recommendation, offering an independent endorsement to your claims.

The secret of writing a good CV or online Profile is, first of all, to know your target audience or ‘customer’ and think only about their needs. This may mean that you write several different versions, but they will not be total re-writes, but rather ‘variations on a theme’.

It’s essential to keep it simple and readable – such that even a child of 11 could read and understand it – because in the case of the CV, that’s all the reader needs to know in order to decide if they want to meet you. It is, after all, you they want to meet and if you’ve reached that stage, then the CV has done its job.

Key Points

  • Know your target audience, their needs - and how you can satisfy them
  • Keep it simple and relevant
  • Bullet a maximum of 4-6 key skills
  • Read it through and use the “So what?” rule
  • Use (sparingly) testimonials or recommendations
  • Have a template CV – and variations to suit

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