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The secret to well-written CV

Your goal for the CV is to end up on the “next step” stack. Do it wrong and it will end up in a shredder. There are tons of material on the interwebs in the topic of the Curriculum Vitae preparation. I am going to write about my personal experience. It’s going to be a subjective opinion from someone who does recruit and who likes to recruit. So, what is the secret to well-written CV that will help you with the next dream job?

Before you start writing your CV

For people who follow my blog it won’t be surprising that we start anything by asking ourselves “why”. What’s more, not only once, but the best – 5 times. So, I am asking you – why do you want to write your CV? Probably the most obvious answer is “I want to change my job”. OK, fine, but why do you want to change your current job? I am going to assume you don’t run away.

Although this could be a valid reason, I do not recommend to change your position when you are desperate, and you just need to change the manager, or employer altogether. It probably means you are already emotional about it, and decisions may not be the best.

The other reason we change our jobs is that we reached the growing potential in the current position, there are no prospects of getting into the more exciting and challenging role, so the only way to grow is to grow elsewhere.

This is good. It means you already have been thinking about your career in a broader perspective. You have your professional goals set, and you need your employer to help you get here.

The other reason may be that you have been made redundant and you need to move on. Whatever the reason is, I hope the information in this post will help you to prepare well-written CV that will help you with the next job.

Why you want to change your job?

I propose to run following exercise to help you to write the best CV as the tool to get the next position:

  • What are your most significant achievements in the current job?
  • Describe the most significant projects you have been part, or you have led.
  • What have you learnt thanks to the current job/position?
  • Where do you want to be in 12 months?
  • What do you think would be the next big challenge for you?
  • Why do you think the current employer will not be able to support you in your goals?

All of the above will help you to prepare for the interview process, including writing up your resume.

How should I prepare my resume?

To answer this question, you should do some research and check what the current standards are. It will include the guidance for the country where you want to apply for a job. However, I will give you some practical advice about it.

Let’s wear busy manager shoes for a moment. The recruitment is an extra job that he or she needs to do. They usually have a ton of other things (you know meetings all day long :)), and now they need to spend additional time on the most important task of their job. Yes, recruitment is and always should be the most essential task for every leader.

The manager needs to prepare the job spec, often collaborate with the HR department, fill in tons of paperwork. Have I mentioned the budget department? And finally, the job post is ready. First applications are coming in. If the job post is well-written and the company has a good reputation, the chances are that there are lots of applications coming every week. They need to be checked, assessed, screened and passed to the next stage, most probably the first calls.

Do you see the challenge here? Well-written CV is the mutual support. It helps you, as the candidate to differentiate from other candidates, who just apply some “standard’ template and send them to hundreds of job posts. It also helps the manager to find the right candidate, who meets all their needs – you.

The secret to well-written CV that will win you the next dream job

Let’s go straight to the point, the most critical part of well-written CV is the beginning. If the recruiting manager needs to screen dozen CVs per day, he or she will look for specific patterns and keywords. Well-structured and well-written CV will only help you to land on the “next step” stack. To do it right, you will need to understand and answer following questions.

What should be at the beginning of the CV?

In the very beginning, there will be obviously your contact details. I could omit this bit as it’s obvious. However, even there could be some surprises and mistakes that may disqualify some candidates. I will focus on one, that personally drives me crazy. We live in 2020, there are a lot of free and paid options for email address. On the one hand, there is a good chance that your name will not be available as your username, but on the other hand crazydude@ or prettyjane@ or john.smith254@some.free.broadband.email.com are not the best examples of email addresses to use.

Other things to remember that are super helpful for hiring manager are:

  • add international prefix your your contact number: +48 1234567, +44 7654321, +1 9876543 and so on,
  • add the time zone where are you based, especially if you apply for the position in distributed team e.g.: CEST (UTC + 1) – recommended tool: iTime.io

Who you are?

This is not about your job title. It’s about who you are as the person who has a certain level of skills, knowledge and experience. It is a holistic view of your professional development that took you to this point in your career. You should Include years of the experience, numbers of people you may lead, dollars in budget that you managed and so on.

💡Pro tip 💡
It is not easy to compete in today’s job market. If you want to be a designer or a network engineer, there are already thousands of people perusing this career path. To differentiate, you may want to implement something I call career ingredients.

What are the 3 areas that you are good at?
Chances are that if you are very good at 1 thing, you still need to compete with a considerable large crowd. If you are, however, good at 3 different areas, you are creating a niche. You create an environment that you control. You can be good at all 3 of these things. Now, you need to convince your future employer that you are the person they need.

Example of my career ingredients:

  • a network engineer, fully embracing systems automation
  • a productivity practitioner, crushing tasks with Getting Things Done
  • a leader, helping other people to grow in a distributed environment.

What are your successes?

Next small paragraph should be about what you have achieved. It’s good to briefly mention some of the best projects, initiatives and things that you are particularly proud of. Don’t be shy. One important thing about this paragraph is that this needs to be true. The most valuable currency of any team, but distributed team in particular, is the trust. If the trust is lost during the job interview, it’s going to be virtually impossible to rebuild it.

This paragraph should also be the most flexible one. What I mean is that if you have some experience, you have probably many successful projects under your belt. When you carefully read the job spec and advertising, you may notice what they are looking for. Try to help the hiring manager to answer those questions:

  • Why I should hire you?
  • What value are you going to bring to my team?
  • How and with what can you help me immediately after I hire you?

When you read the job spec, you may find how to answer those question. Try to include the answers in that paragraph.

What is your professional goal?

We are going back to the question from the exercise I gave you in the beginning. This paragraph will help you and your new employer to be aligned. And check if the role you are applying for is actually for you.

Try to answer the following questions and craft one or two sentences with the final paragraph of this section of the CV:

  • Why are you changing your job?
  • What are your goals?
  • What are your expectations from the position you apply to?
  • Do you want to grow in a similar role, or wish to change and step into the next level?
  • What can you bring to the new organisation and your new team?

Conclusions

The actual template and layout of your CV will depend on current standards, region and maybe the legislation. My final advice is to be brief, precise and straight to the point. Rather than including everything into CV and making it 7 pages long, just add the note “references available”.

The good CV is like a blog post. You need to catch the attention with the first paragraphs. It has to have a story behind the words. It has to be written in a way that it’s easy to read and follow. And finally, the writing needs to answer the reader needs.

And after all, it has to lead to the next step – person to person conversation, the job interview. More about how to prepare for this step in the future blog posts.
If you have any question about CV, hit me on my email, I will try to do my best to help you.


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