As both a recruiter and a career coach, I see CVs every day. Some are CVs of applicants for positions that I advertise, and some are CVs that I revise and improve for my coaching clients. I have seen all kinds of CVs, from the impressive to the embarrassing. However, one issue comes up often enough that I feel the need to say something about it, for the good of all the well-intentioned job seekers out there.
Your CV is not about you.
In fact, the belief that a good CV is an expression of who you are as a professional and where you would like to go with your career can cause you to sabotage your success at getting the job you want.
If you are a job seeker, you may be wondering: isn’t that precisely what my CV ought to be? Should a good CV show potential employers who I am and where I am going professionally?
I’ll be brutally honest: employers are not supremely interested in who you are and where you are going professionally. They have a problem to solve, and they want to know if you are the solution. Period.
The problem is the position they need to fill. Are you the right fit for it? Do you have the skills, the experience, the personality and the professional style that will make you the perfect match for their needs? A great CV is quite simply one that answers all those questions in the affirmative, and does not distract the reader with information that does not bear on those questions.
With this goal I mind, here are some tips to focus your CV on your employers’ needs.
Career Objectives vs. Professional Descriptions
Some people begin their CVs with an objective, such as: Seeking a position in [field] with the scope to use my skills in X, Y and Z. I recommend forgoing the career objective on your CV, since your potential employer is not really interested in your career plans. (They may become interested in your career plans once they have hired you and gotten to know you; but not at this point.)
Instead, formulate a professional description of yourself that is a match with the job requirements. For example: A creative, organized and people oriented manager with a decade of experience in X,Y and Z. The main difference here is the focus: are you talking about what you want, or are you demonstrating that you are what they want?
Relevant job titles and descriptions
If the hiring manager is encouraged by your professional description, s/he will hopefully scan your work experience seeking proof that your description of your experience and skills is accurate. Your job is to make it easy for her or him to find that confirmation.
Most jobs have a number of areas of responsibility and expertise; you want to tailor your job descriptions (and where you have the freedom to do so, even your job titles) to reflect those elements of your past positions that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. This may require you to tweak your CV to fit each specific position. The goal is to make it incredibly easy for your potential employer to see that you are a perfect fit for the job, by focusing your job descriptions on relevant areas.
Forgo personal information
Some people choose to share personal information on their CVs such as hobbies and interests, how many kids they have, or special skills or abilities that may be interesting but are irrelevant to the job they are applying for.
If the role of the CV was to share who you are as fully as possible, this kind of information would be invaluable. However since the role of your CV should be to communicate that you are a perfect fit for the job, any information that does not contribute to that goal should not be on your CV.
Why are you the perfect fit?
Once you have revised your CV using these tips, I recommend going through it one more time, using the “does this answer the question” test. For each statement on your CV, ask: does this information directly answer the question: why are you the perfect fit for THIS job? If it doesn’t, either revise it so that it does, or remove that sentence from your CV.
It may be hard to change focus and write your CV for your potential employer rather than for yourself. However if your goal is to get the interview, and hopefully the offer, the focus of your CV should not be your goals, experience and professional direction but rather a convincing description of why you are perfect fit for the job. With that focus in mind, your CV should make you an attractive candidate for your next professional challenge.