Oh, it’s THAT time again! Perhaps the contract you’ve been working on is coming to an end or you’ve been stuck in a role for a few years now and it's definitely time to move on. But who would have thought that just ‘updating your CV’ could be so arduous?
“Did I really finish school that year...?”
“Is this the best way to describe that IT job I had in 2008...?”
“Am I even close to selling myself with this thing?...”
The fact is, writing a great CV which makes you stand out and gets all your best bits across in a matter of seconds is really tough. Especially when you see all these fancy CVs in the form of infographics and animated webpages appearing on social media… it can be pretty intimidating. But over the years, I have come across a few solid bits of advice that have always stood well with me, both for when I’m applying for jobs and hiring new people. Here are my top five.
- Don’t start with the boring stuff
Nothing makes me switch off more than reading a CV where the first dozen lines are just a bunch of contact details, certificate names and bullet point qualities about yourself. I want to see something that is going to catch my eye AND make me think I might have found a great match for my team already. Nothing too fanciful of course, but be bold and tell me what I am buying, For example:
“A highly experienced project manager who delivers business projects on time, on budget and always with an evidence of creating new business value. Throughout the lifecycle of any project my focus is always on designing, delivering and demonstrating a great outcome.”
- Focus on the big wins
When it comes to writing about what you did in a previous job, you have to provide more detail than just a list of duties and responsibilities. Yes, it is important to demonstrate you have relevant experience working with certain frameworks, software packages and ‘tight deadlines!’ But what is more important is what your legacy or big contribution was during your time there. Sometimes these are harder to remember than you might think, however just take a few minutes for each role and consider what your ‘significant achievement’ was. It might have been something easily quantifiable like saving the company £10k on a new software rollout, or something less tangible like refocusing the productivity and culture of a team. Find a win and sell your part in it.
- Don’t avoid buzzwords, just make them work harder for you
We’ve all read the blogs and social media posts, screaming at us to not say ‘works well in a team’ or ‘passionate’ or ‘good communication skills’. However, reading this can be a bit annoying sometimes as it may leave you thinking, “but I do work well in a team, I am passionate about my work and I am pretty sure I do have good communication skills… so what am I supposed to say?”.
The trick is to focus on what those terms subjectively mean to you and then define how they come across practically in your work. For example, instead of saying ‘Passionate about customer service’ you can say something like…
“I believe that great customer service comes from a desire to invest time into understanding a customer’s need, then providing a service or solution that meets that need in a way that surprises and exceeds their expectation,”
This of course is a bit wordier, but it is better to say something that means SOMETHING than to waste words that could have absolutely no impact at all.
- Find opportunities to explain how you learn
Employers want to know that you have an appetite to keep doing bigger and better things. They also want to see how you look for problems and bottlenecks in your work and fix them. Unfortunately, what won’t fly here is just listing all of the training courses you have been on, or what courses you might want to go on next. An employer will want to see you have either created learning opportunities within your work, which go on to benefit the business and/or demonstrate how you can evidence the ROI (Return on Investment) of a training course.
Explaining ‘learning on the job’ in your CV can be as simple as saying… “during my time in this role I developed a structured approach to self-learning. This included studying and improving my skills in SQL, which allowed me to take on new database management and reduction projects”
Explaining the ROI on your training could be presented like… “Training included ITIL® Foundation and ITIL® Practitioner courses and certificates. I was able to apply my learnings from the ITIL courses to put in place a new Service Design Package, which improved first time fix rates on the Service Desk by 35%”
- Don’t forget the three D’s… Design, Design and Digital Badge
Okay, so only two D’s. But one of them is SO important, I have put it in here twice:
If you care about things such as what you wear to an interview, how you come across when you speak or whether you shook someone’s hand correctly when you arrived… then you also need to care about what your CV looks like. Remember, regardless of how good your words are, you could still be in a pile of 100+ CVs and whether HR are waving an a metaphorical stick at them or not, people are going to be ruthless. It doesn’t have to be difficult to do either, you can easily find vibrant and stand out templates just through MS Word now. In fact, Microsoft and Moo recently co-released a great package of CV templates, which are free to use.
Once you have your template and wording all sorted go through and thoroughly check for consistency across fonts, colouring, margins, spacing and formatting. If you have included URLs or hyperlinks in your CV too, make sure they work! If you have a creative friend who can give it a once over for you also, it isn’t going to hurt.
Another feature which will help your CV pop out from a pile is to add digital badges to the top, showing off your certificates and accreditations. Companies like IBM and Oracle have been offering digital badges for some time now and AXELOS has recently joined this movement too. The benefit of a digital badge over just listing a certification is that it 100% guarantees to the employer that you have the certificates you say you do (find out more about this from our CV lies research) and they can double check this with just one-click.
The benefit to you is that your badge demonstrates how recent and relevant your experience is also, as you can link your badge to a CPD history and quickly demonstrate that you didn’t just take the exam and then forget everything! You actually applied what you learned to your job. Find out more about how you can get AXELOS Digital Badges for your ITIL, PRINCE2® and MSP® certifications.
I hope you found this blog useful and picked up a few things which you can apply to your CV writing. To find out how AXELOS Membership can further help you plan your career and gain the skills you need for that big job application, head over to www.AXELOS.com/Membership.