Writing the Perfect CV
When I joined my family’s business a few years ago, I was wholly unprepared for the sheer volume of CVs (or Resumes if you like) that I would have to go through on a regular basis. Having only ever prepared my own CV for jobs after university, I had never given much thought to how an employer might perceive them, until I was on the receiving end. As a business with diversified interests in the export trade, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality, the mix of CVs I saw ranged from those applying for accounting and admin positions at our head office, to sales and marketing roles at our retail stores, and even room-boys and janitors looking for a break in our hostel’s housekeeping department. But no matter what role I received a CV for, it almost never told me what I needed to know; is this person right for the job?
The problem, I realised, was that most people held a rather archaic and outdated view of what information a CV should contain. Few ever questioned the usefulness of that information for potential employers, or what impact it could have on the person reading it. This is why many people devoted valuable real estate on their CVs for irrelevant personal information — home address, date of birth, gender, marital status, NIC number, and even referees — without considering WHY a potential employer would want to know exactly where you lived in an email-driven age of communication, or why anyone should have access to your referees’ private contact number, before even meeting you in person. And in the 21st century, if an employer still cared about your gender or marital status before calling you for an interview, you should probably think twice about applying there in the first place.
Amidst such personal details and irrelevant anecdotes on social activities in school (hint: it doesn’t matter), the information that was almost always missing, was ironically what employers cared the most about; what has this person achieved in the past, and will he add value to my organisation in future? Most people are surprisingly modest when it comes to listing out their accomplishments on a CV. They would much rather list paragraphs and pages of what they do on a routine basis (even though employers can already guess these by someone’s designation) than mention the 1 or 2 key facts that prove their worth and ability to do the job well. I have read many CVs where a common sentence was “I achieved my targets,” with no mention of what those targets were, or how consistently they were, in fact, achieved. Saying “I improved sales” is not the same as saying;
“I increased sales of my company’s product (or service) by 15% on average each year for the past 5 years”
and if someone was in a leadership position, there is quite a difference between saying “I have leadership skills,” and saying;
“I supervised a salesforce of 20 people, and provided them the necessary training and mentoring support to reach our team’s annual target of 1,000 units, within just 6 months.”
Preparing the perfect CV is more an individual art form, than a precise science, and generic practices will do a candidate more harm than good with employers who have increasingly become more sophisticated and discerning when it comes to selecting the right candidates. No wonder then that many people find it especially challenging to land interviews with top employers in a post-pandemic world, where a surge in unemployment, leaves employers holding all the cards. The organisation I set up years ago — after having read one too many bad CVs — now works with professionals around the world and across multiple industries to tell their ‘professional stories’ in the most compelling way to potential employers. This helps employers cut through much of the noise and find the most suitable candidates for the jobs they advertise. More importantly, it helps applicants who’s only limiting factor for employment, is not knowing how to effectively sell themselves.
(Email me your CV to email@example.com if you would like to receive free feedback on how it can be transformed).