How great CVs work

No matter what you read, or are told by helpful recruiters, there is no single ‘right’ way to write a CV. There is only a CV that works in a particular situation.

To do its job, your CV must say the right things about you to the right employer in the right place and at the right time. This will change from situation to situation – hence no single ‘recipe’ for a CV can possibly always be right.

Lots of people will offer advice on your CV. They will tell you what sections to have in which order, what content to put in which section, that you should always write in the third person, and never to exceed two pages.

Just about the only bit they’ve got right is the last bit. Long CVs are almost always a turn-off no matter who is reading, or how much experience you have (though, even here, there are exceptions).

There are some reasonable expectations on the part of the hirer, such as being able to see key information easily. The rest of it depends totally on who the CV is going to, the nature of the job, what you have to bring to the job, and your own personality.

The myth of the industry-standard CV means there are an awful lot of very boring CVs kicking about, and, worse, CVs which fail to point out the sender’s real strengths. Most of these CVs look beautiful, and most of them end up in the reject pile.

A brilliant CV has some specific features, and does some key things:

A great CV is tailored to the applicant, the recruiter and the industry

If you’re an accountant, you should expect your CV to look a lot different to one for an operations manager, or a web designer or a managing director. Different jobs require different strengths and a different vibe; different information assumes a different priority. Your CV should tap into the vibe and the key priorities for your target industry.

A great CV helps the employer visualise you in the role

A hiring manager is not only looking for someone who can do the job, they are looking for someone who will fit with the existing team. Someone who will add to the mix, bring new skills and ideas, be easy to work with. So, your CV should convey a sense of who you are, as well as your phone number, qualifications and experience.

A great CV demands to be read

Your CV should reach out and grab the attention of your future employer, and it should easily pass a recruiter’s paper sift. Even if your skills and experience are not a complete fit, the reader should still want to meet the candidate. It does this by ticking so many items on the hirer’s checklists – not just the one on the job advert but the one in their head – it simply cannot be ignored.

A great CV makes you feel confident about yourself

When you read your own brilliant CV, it should make you feel so good you feel a stone lighter and walk three inches taller.

If it does all these things, it is a great CV. In fact, a fabulous CV!