4 core things to consider when writing a CV
It has been a sad few weeks with recent layoffs and when all of a sudden you find yourself back on the market but this time without it being your choice, the prospect of revitalising your CV and going through interview processes again can become daunting.
There is a wealth of knowledge online (and even on our website) about crafting the perfect CV alongside how to prepare for an interview and negotiate the best offer, therefore you might have clicked on this article thinking ‘what can they offer me that is different?’
Great question and in all honesty, not a lot… but hold on, before you click back let me rephrase. Everything this article will show you is stored away in your memory somewhere, therefore the purpose is not to give you a guide on how to write a CV, instead, it’s to pose questions for you to consider when writing. Questions that will let you think more subjectively about your CV and hopefully elevate its contents increasing your chances of securing the right role for you.
Take it from someone who has read thousands of CVs over the years, the questions we will go through are the same questions I ask myself when representing someone. This list of questions is not exhaustive to what can be included on a CV but when you think you are finished, they are a good checklist to consider before applying.
Will the introduction make the reader want to continue?
The introduction on your CV is one of the most important but often most underutilised sections. Unfortunately, many simply use this section (especially in the tech world) to reel off some boilerplate text that they have seen elsewhere instead of crafting their own unique introduction.
There is a common myth that circles the HR community that the average recruiter will spend only 5 seconds looking at your CV, therefore if this is true, your introduction needs to capture and hold that person’s attention but also entice them to read on and learn more.
The introduction doesn’t need to be very long, a few sentences explaining a little about your background, maybe your values and desires long-term from your career. Wrapping this together in the right way will help the reader learn something about you that your LinkedIn or general skills won’t inform them.
I like to think of the introduction as ‘prime real estate’. Everything you put in it needs to serve a purpose and that purpose is to engage, inform and entice. Consider your introduction, can you confidently say that it ticks all three boxes?
Are you truly selling your skills?
Moving on from the introduction and something to consider throughout the entire CV is if you are truly ‘selling’ your skills or simply ‘listing’.
I understand that selling or the concept of selling is not something many believe they are capable of, however, consider that you ‘sell’ in every aspect of your life from the restaurant you decide to eat at with your partner to the promotion you interview for at your company. Selling is an everyday occurrence, but we forget it when writing our CVs for some reason.
Recognising this, when writing about each role you have held thus far you should include scenarios where you and your skills specifically helped the business. Focusing on the problem, the solution and finally the results that were produced due to your skills or involvement.
This will then bridge tools, technologies and soft skills to real examples that the reader can picture and then resonate with their company, giving your application a stronger hook as it were to the opening presented.
Similar to the introduction, can you honestly say that every position you have included has a strong selling component or is it just the last one or two? Remember if someone is going to read your CV, they will read the whole thing, so best not to make the last two roles stand out and forgo the rest.
Will it pass the ATS test?
ATS or Application Tracking System is what most companies will use these days to manage inbound applications and pass them through the recruitment funnel. You might already know some from Personio through to Greenhouse.
What an ATS is designed to do is populate a candidate record in the company’s system using your CV, for example, the system will search for your email address and add it to the email address section in the system.
Knowing this, it is important to ensure your CV has the right format to allow the system to do this, otherwise, you run the risk of a dormant application that is never followed upon.
The simplest way to do this is to cover off:
Social sites (LinkedIn, GitHub, Dribble etc.)
Education (including certifications)
References (if you wish)
Formatting is where the ATS can sometimes get confused so either keep everything in two columns or one single paragraph break after another. As much as I love interesting and unique CVs, if the company needs to you apply via an ATS, I recommend having a traditionally formatted version… you can always use a personal site to get creative with your CV.
Is it grammatically accurate?
A well written and well-structured CV can be severely let down by simple spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Many of the CVs I read are from non-native English speakers and therefore I do understand mistakes can creep in, using tools such as Grammarly or having a mentor / recruiter proofread your application before applying for companies can help rid mistakes before others see them.
Be mindful that many hiring managers I know see simple mistakes in your writing as a potentially larger problem to mistakes in your code (if you’re in development). This might not be the case but I understand the logic, therefore remove any doubt there by taking a little extra care when writing your CV.
I see so many CVs daily that I sometimes need to remind myself that a CV is a professional and formal document, I believe because we are in an age of abundance and even abundance of job opportunities to apply for in some cases, we can forget this and let the quality of our CV slip over time. Your CV is your professional record and account of your career to date, take pride in that and show nothing but 100% effort to hiring managers from the get-go.
I hope these questions will give you something to consider when crafting your CV, collectively let’s bring simplicity to the chaos of recruitment.