10. Finessing your CV

By the time you’ve written all the content for your CV and arranged it in a way you’re happy with it, you may be feeling that it’s ‘enough’ – that you’ve done all the work on it you feel you can. However, there’s another very important stage, which is to take an overall view of your CV from different perspectives.

Making sure your best qualities shine through

If you had originally planned on writing a personal statement that listed out all your good qualities (eg ‘I’m honest, a good team player, hard working’ etc) you can now go back through that list and make sure you have illustrated all these qualities through what you have written. For instance, your work record might talk about building good customer relationships, meeting revenue targets or improving team morale in different jobs.

Add in as many hard measures (figures – numbers of sales, numbers of people, timescales etc) as you can. They are proof-points, they add credibility and they are memorable.

Adding hooks for interview

Once the basic CV is written, you need to add hooks for interview. Hooks are points of interest on a CV which deliberately attract the eye of the interviewer. They are the things that make the reader feel they would like to meet you. They also prime key questions that enable you to raise and discuss particular things at interview.

Among the things you might want to create hooks for are: your personal career highlights, your current and future ambitions, subjects in which you have a particular personal interest, or topics you want to be able to raise and get out of the way at interview (like a career gap or change of direction) that you’d be happier voicing-over at interview.

You should definitely include hooks that enable you to show off your best, most solid examples, but they should always be pertinent to the post at hand. You can even plant a slightly controversial (not political or religious) statement that prompts a debate (a great way of adding depth and impact at interview), provided you know you will be able to handle this well.

Some examples:

  • A supply chain manager included in his career goal the line: ‘if I am doing my job correctly, you shouldn’t notice’. It’s quite a provocative statement, but it always gets a question, which means he can then explain more about the smooth, money-saving processes and systems he has developed.
  • A specialist in knowledge management said: ‘I believe that knowledge should make money’, a sure fire question-magnet for the marketing companies he was applying to.
  • A CV we wrote for an IT support specialist in July 2000 included in his ‘about me’ section mention of his hobby, which was photographing aeroplanes. You might have thought this was not the most interesting of hobbies until you got to the line: ‘The best shot I ever took I don’t have – it was confiscated when I was arrested inside an American air base. I also know why Concorde crashed’. IT support is a geek-oriented business, and this chap got interviews hand over fist from IT managers desperate to know more! He also almost doubled his previous salary.

Send the right message about your attention to detail

Finally, be scrupulously careful to correct your grammar and punctuation. Watch out for correct use of apostrophes, and the need to keep tenses and the beginnings of bulleted items consistent. Be very honest with yourself – if your written skills aren’t tip top, then find someone who really can write, and have them check it over for you.