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Do you know the purpose of your CV or Resume?*

Next week I'm taking a diversion from one to one coaching. I'm running a CV workshop with Empower Amsterdam. I'm not a stranger to facilitating. A review of my own CV last week confirms that I have literally delivered over 2000 workshops and if you add in undergrad seminars, which I viewed as a facilitative role, it's as much as 2.5k.

People want to see stuff like this in a CV. Not 2k workshops per se, but quantifiable examples of your experiences and suitability for a role. They want facts, statistics and examples.

CV Writing, CV Tips, Resume Writing, Resume Tips

The purpose of your CV is to distinguish you from people who aren't qualified for an opening, and from those that couldn't be bothered to figure out the parameters of the role.

Your CV is not the most important tool in your job hunting tool box, but a good CV keeps you in contention. It will keep your application from being put through the shredder or the digital trash bin. But it is just an opener, and one part of the recruitment journey. A bad CV will mean that you don't even get your foot in the door.

*In this article I will mostly use CV for the sake of ease, but the terms are generally interchangeable (with resume favoured in Canada and the US and CV in the UK)

What's a CV or Resume For?

Here’s a thing you should know about a CV.

It is not a golden ticket to a job. It’s just one tool in your toolbox.

It can definitely be a spanner in the works if you get it wrong, because it makes the difference between being a contender and being out of the game.

Job hunting is a complex business and it takes time. It’s worth knowing that job hunting is something you are going to do numerous times because nobody stays in jobs forever anymore. So learning how to do it and realising that it’s a skill that you can learn not unlike other work skills is important.

CV Writing, CV Tips, Resume Writing, Resume Tips

Knowing that securing a job is a skill is important because a lot of the time it feels like something else.

It feels like putting yourself out there to be judged and appraised. You do have some control and though and you can choose how and what you present about yourself. That will take away the feeling that it’s personal (which it both is – to an extent - and isn’t). People that get jobs are the ones that are good at getting jobs not the ones with the perfect career history or CV.

So if the most important tool in your toolbox is not your CV, what is it? It’s your resilience and your optimism. It's your research skills. It's your relationship building skills (which is what you need to build a robust and supportive) professional network . The key to getting a job is to have a plan of action, and to be prepared for it to be a tough road. It's to put in the work to find out how best to go about job hunting. And to get up when you have been knocked down. Because rejection is almost inevitable.

Your CV is your foot in the door. A CV gets you an interview, or it confirms for an interested party that you have the core skills required to carry out a job role effectively.

When you'll use a CV

  • As a tailored response to a job posting

  • As a kind of business card for someone that has already expressed an interest in employing you

  • For speculative blanket approaches to companies (though these tend to only have a 7% success rate unless accompanied by other tactics)

  • When approaching someone to help you learn more about their company

  • To accompany pitches in response to project briefs

CV Writing, CV Tips, Resume Writing, Resume Tips

Employers and CVs

You need to know a few things about employers and CVs:

1. They don’t pore over them. I’m sure that you’ve read the statistic that on average recruiter spends 8s on each resume. That means you should make your CV scannable, relevant and succinct.

2. They may be wading through a lot. So don’t make their job harder. Make it easy for them to find what they need.*

3. That CVs are not their preferred recruitment method: they will favour internal recruitment, recommendations from friends and colleagues, agencies and advertisement responses. But the CV will almost always play a role in those recruitment methods.

4. That for employers CVs are more of a tool of elimination than selection of the best candidates. If yours is messy, irrelevant, not tailored to the role, or long-winded it will be discarded quickly. So your job is not so much to create a document that is hugely impressive, but one that get your foot in the door by providing what the recruiter needs: clarity and quick access to relevant information.

* Larger recruiters often use Applicant Tracking Systems. These are softwares that fulfil a filtering function. They rely on keywords and relevance. These ATS systems are approximately 87% accurate as compared with the 96% accuracy of human CV parsing. You can find further info which will help you to design your CV carefully with ATS in mind here in this excellent, detailed article.

** ATS systems don't replace humans they just organise CVs so that people can do final shortlisting as explained here

You and your CV

A lot of people find CV writing difficult and intimidating. Are you one of them?

Do you feel like you have to cram your life onto the pages of your CV expressing both your full work history and your personality?

Do you worry about having to be boastful?

Do you struggle to be succinct?

CV Writing, CV Tips, Resume Writing, Resume Tips

Well, here’s some good news: you can take the pressure off. Your CV isn’t a biography. It’s a short document that highlights your relevant skills, experience, strengths and achievements.

It should be a factual document with the greatest emphasis is on its relevance to the position you are applying for.

If you have done your research then you should be able to tailor your CV in response to a job description, using keywords and matching your own skills to the ones required.

The trick of a CV is not figuring out how to present ALL the information, but rather deciding which information is required.

No CV should be longer than 2 sides of A4 (apart from Academic CVs which adhere to a different convention and are very long and confusing). If you’ve had a relatively short career to date, one well-presented side of A4 is preferable.

So, instead of viewing your CV as either an exercise in boasting or self-promotion, or storytelling, think of it as a document that captures the bare bones of your career and skills to date.

CV Writing: Getting Started

I think that nothing good comes easily. (or, you know, good things rarely do). If you put in the CV writing work in up front you will have a master document that you can use for all subsequent iterations of your CV. It does (and should) take a while to get right (and when I say a while I mean dedicated hours and days of work and revisions).

To begin planning, brain dump the following using your method of choice (mine is always marker pens and a big piece of paper). But planning tools like Trello and Milanote work well for the more digitally minded.

Collate the following:

  • work experience to date (with job titles, employer and date ranges)

  • education (institutions and qualifications with dates)

  • your skills with examples of how you've demonstrated them

  • your achievements backed up with facts and figures

  • your technical skills and knowledge (e.g. processes like Agile or Prince 2; software; coding languages; research methodologies etc. Don;t worry of you don;t have these - it only matters if they are a prerequisite/ key part of a role. Desirable skills can be learned on the job)

  • Your personal strengths (you can identify these by using this excellent free tool developed by the VIA Institute on Character). Examine how you enjoy using these strengths in your work and write examples.

The results will form the master document from which you will later construct your CV. You can use it as a resource when you need a different emphasis or to highlight different skills.

I will be writing the next part on how to assemble and edit your CV soon. In the mean time, why not sign up for The Remindful for weekly coaching tips to your inbox? Details below.



I'm Jodie Lamb and I have been running Trevnee Coaching since early 2020. I've been an accredited life coach since 2008. I help you make the most of career and lifestyle change.

I write a weekly newsletter. I promise to only send you useful tips, strategies and occasional offers and never to spam you! I'd love it if you'd sign up.


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