Article – Communicating your real value in a CV

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Published: 19 Jul 2018

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Communication

 

Your job, the way you make money, and spend over a third of your waking hours is usually one of the main considerations in life. It affects others in your life, where you live, and how you spend the rest of the time in your life – so it’s important!

I used to write  CV’s for a living, and know that it needs to be right if you are to be shortlisted and take your place at the interview table. Sometimes merely the act of creating a new CV, and seeing yourself in a different light – understanding what you have to offer a new employer generates a spark in the universes interest.

A great CV should be an accurate, insightful, and current portrayal of the person. Dynamic words and the person’s unique selling points – something that will raise an eyebrow, tease the employer, and make them want to meet you.

The analogy I always use with CV’s is that prestige car manufacturers don’t spend millions developing a car worth mega bucks and then try and sell it with a crappy yellow flyer. They spend time and effort on marketing, and producing glossy brochures that have you interested before you’ve even test driven it. That’s what you are going for in your CV. I call it the ‘eyebrow raising’ moment – the moment when the screener says, “Finally someone interesting, we need to meet this person.”

Stop and imagine for a moment what it is like to be the person screening for a new position in a business. They may have a pile of over a hundred CV’s in front of them, they know that it will take many hours for each stage of the process ahead of them. With each passing hour their tolerance for bad CV’s reduces.

CV styles change very quickly. One of the reasons you may not be getting your CV to the top of the pile is that you’re making the assumption that CV’s are even like they were last year – they’re not.

The reason CV styles have changed so quickly in recent years is because the recruiters, screeners and employers simply don’t (or won’t) make time to look at those long 5 page CV’s anymore. The attention span is shorter, time is more precious. Less is more. Less is always more. People complicate things by adding too much irrelevant information into CVs. So every word of clutter you add into a CV detracts from who you really are – from the person reading it seeing who you really are.

Here are a few things to consider:

Differentiate yourself in your CV – why are you trying to be the same as everyone else? Embrace your difference. Laugh at mediocre words – dynamic words is where you live. “I am an honest, hard-working, team player” will see you fast tracked to the bin!

Getting past the ‘gatekeepers’ – secretaries, personal assistants, security guards, mothers, mothers in law, recruitment agencies, computerised screening programmes – they will all try to keep you from your target – delivering your CV to the right person. Your mission is to get over, under, through and around them, by whichever means possible.

The ‘maths’ of it – the average amount of people that apply for a job is 104. So, you believe you have a 1 in 104 chance of that job, yes? NO. Over half go in the bin in the first 10 minutes of screening = 52.

Common reasons include: typos, cover pages, too many pages, handwritten bits added in. If you can’t be bothered to check it, change it, write it properly, why should anyone read it?Of those 52 left that are actually looked at, roughly half will say something to annoy, bewilder, amuse or plain piss off the screener, so you may or may not make this cut = 26.

Common reasons include: weird or porn rated email addresses, weird or dangerous hobbies (that may imply lots of time off work), talking about your ‘full on’ social life, gaps in job history that aren’t explained.

Of those 26 that are left, they will actually look to see if you ‘mirror’ what they are looking for – only around one quarter of the 26 will have 80% or more of what they are looking for.

Common things include: specific personality trait words which are job related, such as empathetic, specific training such as health and safety certificate, if you want to work when they want you to work (such as weekends, nights), and experience level.

Do you feel better now? Avoid the common mistakes and ALWAYS be in the top 6 to be chosen from. You just cut down the potential job pool by 98!

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Keep it clean and clear, no photographs, no graphics.
  • Do not clutter up your CV with irrelevant information. Lead with the facts
  • Do not put your interests unless they are really relevant. It can back fire on you as you never know what people’s pre-prejudices are
  • Do spellcheck it over and over until you are absolutely sure it is perfect. If you can’t be bothered it is the first thing they will notice
  • Do have a professional email address it says everything about you if it is inappropriate

the learning opportunity

Step 1 – Finding your dynamic describing words

Make a list, and don’t be shy. If you were to ask just three people in your life that really matter to you the answer to this question, it would be so easy for them, because they love and appreciate you for who you are and what you mean to them.                              

Ask 3 people that matter to you to give you 4 dynamic describing words each that sum up your basic personality traits, and you might be surprised. Different people will have different perceptions of you. Just have a go. Use these headings as a guide and keep going. Think about all aspects of your personality, your body, your core values, how you participate in relationships, how you react in certain situations; what your ‘mission’ in life is, your work ethics, and so on.

It might look something like this:

Mum resilient tenacious confident honest
Tracy enthusiastic driven solution finder inclusive
Dave fair people person collaborative empathetic

 

Personal Statement

Now use those words and put them into three sections re-arranging them as you go.

The personal profile or statement part of your CV which is the MAIN part the employer looks at, before your career history. They are trying to understand who you are, if they feel you are a good match for them, and what you bring to the table in your personality and attributes.

I am… (insert words here)

This is your core personality that you can’t switch off – the everyday you.

You will find me… (insert words here)

What you want to project out to the employer and how you want to be perceived.

People describe me as… (insert words here)

What you hope people are saying about you behind your back when you can’t hear them!

So it might look something like this when you have added in your words and fleshed it out a bit to be in line with the job you are going for:

I am a confident, inclusive, people person with an empathetic nature – this means that I get on well with a wide range of people, and build relationships quickly and easily.
You will find me enthusiastic, driven, and tenacious when working on a project. I have a natural talent for solution finding that adds value to the teams that I work with.

People describe me as honest, fair minded and collaborative. I’m resilient in challenging situations, and will look for the most obvious way forward to gain a positive outcome.

This personal statement is your generic personality and you should keep a ‘clean’ copy of this.  If you over write it later with words from a job ad or job spec to mirror yourself more around what they are looking for, file this as a separate version of your CV. You have spent time and effort with people to uncover your core personality – don’t lose it or over time it will get ‘watered down’ by adaptations.

 

Career History

Even though the next logical step in your CV is key strengths. It is a good idea to skip ahead from this bit and go to the career history next – and here’s why! Your key strengths are not the same as your personal statement. They are not ‘personal’ words. They are words that draw experience and skills from your career history. In job ads and specs they will often be the items that the employer has listed in bullet points.

So it is easier to write your career history first and then extract your key strengths from that.

  • It is important that the jobs in your career history tell a story.
  • The only place you will use bullet points in your CV is in the key strengths.
  • In your career history each job should be 2-3 paragraphs – telling the story of what you did there and what you achieved.
  • The career history is written in reverse order – so start from present time and go back about 10 years from current time. Only go back more than 10 years if those jobs SPECIFICALLY relate to the job you are going for. If not, they add nothing to the equation.
  • Don’t over use the bold tool. If you bold anything make it the job title only.

So a job entry might look something like this:

2014 – 2017 Smith Business Group

Project Manager
This role required an open mind, ability to multi-task, and liaise with a diverse range of people invested in the projects. My responsibility related to client relationship building, budgeting, managing of a team of up to 25 contractors, managing resources, and dealing with variances to meet project parameters.
Ensuring legal compliance was pivotal – ensuring contractors were inducted properly. Signing off all completed work and regular reporting to client  and SBG.
Key achievements for me in this role included delivering the new link road in South Auckland on time and to budget with no health and safety reported down time.

Carry on with your job roles for the past 10 years in this way.

Key Strengths – how you match what they are looking for

In job ads and specs you will often be able to find the things that are most important to the employer listed in bullet points. These will likely be the key strengths they are looking for.

The key strengths should be 6-9 bullet points and be the ONLY time in your CV that you use bullet points. Bullet points have one purpose – they draw the readers’ eye in from the edge of the page so that they notice more, and then the tiny ‘bullets’ say “look at me, look at me”.  Over using bullet points detracts the readers’ attention.

Once you have written your career history now read through all of your jobs carefully and look for common traits amongst all of them. This may lead you to your key strengths.

Always try to begin with a summary bullet point that matches what they are overall seeking. So for example:

Experienced, qualified personal assistant, with 15 years’ experience working with major corporates.

Now add value in some way, or a skill that you are amazing at. For example:

Able to motivate a team and keep on task – leading by example in a fair, inclusive, constructive manner.

Now add depth and prove your abilities. For example:

Proven sales ability, with over $1,000,000 in sales for the  2016 – 2017 year.

Next try and add in specific things that they would expect. For example if there is a lot of health and safety compliance in your industry one bullet point might be

Fully up to date with industry relevant health and safety compliance.

Tell them how you are as a communicator

Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, adept presenter, and confident leader of site meetings.

Look carefully at their job ad or spec and note what is in their bullet points. Can you ‘mirror’ that in yours? For example if a line in their ad says:

The ideal applicant will be:
Outgoing and capable with an ability to facilitate large groups with confidence

Then some version of this needs to be one of your bullet points. The higher up their list it is, the more important it is to the employer and you should take note of this.

Making yourself credible

So you should now have a personal statement, that shows them who you are and how you will fit into their brand. Your key strengths, which show them how you are the ideal applicant with the correct skills. Your career history, which shows them how what you’ve done up to now is relatable to what they are looking for, and how your skills transfer. Next your training or education validates that you are qualified or experienced to fill the position.

Put your qualifications in reverse order and only put significant qualifications that are relevant. If you are older than 25 do not put school qualifications.

So it might look something like this:

Education and Training
2011 – 2013

Graduate Diploma in Business Administration University of Canterbury

2008 – 2009

NZQA Business Administration Level 2

Auckland School of Business

And finally Referees

Referees are the one area that can ruin your chances. After all of the effort that has gone into finding out your dynamic words, selling yourself to the best of your ability to an employer, and backing up your credibility with relevant qualifications, referees could be your downfall if not addressed properly.

So first thing, think carefully about who would be the most suitable referee for you. Then call them and ask them if they would like to be your referee and explain to them what the job you are going for is about. Not only is this a common courtesy with referees, but it prepares your referee for how they can best portray you to an employer for the job you are applying for.

Don’t rule out the possibility that an employer will check out your referees BEFORE inviting you for an interview – it is more common than you think for employers to do this. It is common to have your current or most recent employer as a referee, and either another employer or a character referee, but sometimes you do not want your current employer to know.

So it might look something like this:

Referees
Jo Smith, CEO Smith Business Group, Auckland

027 556 3482 jsmith@sbg.co.nz

Putting it all together

You now have all of the components to put together a CV.

The next step is to add your name and details. Your name should be BIG and your contact underneath. It’s not necessary to put you full address if you don’t want to – just contact details. It’s also not necessary to put Curriculum Vitae.

You should now have a clean, clear, concise CV that portrays you well, and is to the point.

Here’s what the finished thing may look like using some of the examples we have looked at from various job types. You of course will add in your additional jobs, referees etc.

Jo Jones
022 4739 026
j.jones@xtra.co.nz
 

 

Personal Statement
I am a confident, inclusive, people person with an empathetic nature – this means that I get on well with a wide range of people, and build relationships quickly and easily.
You will find me enthusiastic, driven, and tenacious when working on a project. I have a natural talent for solution finding that adds value to the teams that I work with.
People describe me as honest, fair minded and collaborative. I’m resilient in challenging situations, and will look for the most obvious way forward to gain a positive outcome.
 

 

Key Strengths
•  Experienced, qualified personal assistant, with 15 years’ experience working with major corporates
 

 

• Able to motivate a team and keep on task – leading by example in a fair, inclusive, constructive manner

 

• Proven sales ability, with over $1,000,000 in sales for the 2016-2017 year.
• Fully up to date with industry relevant health and safety compliance
•  Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, adept presenter, and confident leader of site meetings
 

 

Career History
2014 – 2017 Smiths Business Group
Project Manager
This role required an open mind, ability to multi-task, and liaise with a diverse range of people invested in the projects. My responsibility related to client relationship building, budgeting, managing of a team of up to 25 contractors, managing resources, and dealing with variances to meet project parameters.
Ensuring legal compliance was pivotal – ensuring contractors were inducted properly. Signing off all completed work and regular reporting to client  and SBG.
Key achievements for me in this role included delivering the new link road in South Auckland on time and to budget with no health and safety reported down time.
 

 

Education and Training
2011 – 2013

Graduate Diploma in Business Administration University of Canterbury

2008 – 2009

NZQA Business Administration Level 2  Auckland School of Business

Referees
Jo Smith, CEO Smith Business Group, Auckland

027 556 3482 jsmith@sbg.co.nz

Cover letters

The cover letter is an often overlooked part of the job application process but it is actually really important. The cover letter may only be looked at for a few seconds, but it is a quick way for employers to be able to evaluate whether it is worth looking at your CV.

People tend to over think the cover letter, and worse still – over share information. Lead with the facts. Tell them why you are a good match for this role in the first paragraph so they can see it straight away.

Tell them what you can bring to the role to add value, instant value.

So it may look something like this:

Jo Jones 022 4739 026

j.jones@xtra.co.nz

15th June 2017
Personal Assistant to CEO at Gordon Enterprises
I am an experienced personal assistant with a background working for major corporate groups in New Zealand. This role is a great match for me – I have been a PA for 20 years, am an exceptional communicator, and used to working at the highest level of confidentiality and security.
I can see that this role represents an opportunity for me to combine my skills and attributes whilst adding value to your daily business requirements. I have a sound reputation in the corporate world, and feel confident in my ability to deliver an exceptional service that thinks beyond the obvious and gets consistent results.
Give me the opportunity and I will enhance your business with my practical, straight-forward approach and attention to detail.
I look forward to meeting in person to discuss the role in detail.
Yours sincerely, Jo Jones

 

Bonus Interview Tips – OK, you’ve ‘talked the talk’, now you have the magic ticket to the interview and you have to ‘walk the walk’. The best advice I can give you after years of prepping people for interviews is, “It’s a very fine line between confidence, arrogance and weirdness.” They all live in the same house, but depending on the interviewers’ personality will be more or less visible to them. They are looking to see if you will fit into their existing team without rocking the boat, causing a revolution or toxifying their workplace.

First Impressions

Phone contact – Sounds obvious? Be available to answer your phone, always answer in a friendly professional manner-it could be an employer. Make sure to have a suitable voicemail set up so that an employer can leave you a message. Never delay in getting back to an employer. Never text an employer. Always be professional and polite when talking on the phone. Take the call somewhere quiet – background noise is disrespectful to the caller

Personal Presentation – Sounds obvious? Shower, have clean tidy hair, fresh breath, appropriate clothes that are clean and fresh.

Be prepared – Sounds obvious? Do a bit of research on the company – how long have they been going? What do they sell? What are they known for?

Know your CV – Read it over and over and over again so that it will be easier to talk about what you have done.

How long will it take for you to get to the interview? Do a trial run if you need to before the day and find out where you are going.

Have you put enough petrol in your car? Take the stress potential out of the day by being prepared.

What will you wear? Have a plan and check out what the dress code is for the company.

Put all your documents in order – Photocopy qualifications etc.

Memorise the name of the interviewer and see if you can find out information about them.

Review your skills and qualifications – Do they mirror what they are looking for?

Body Language

Keep your head up at all times, maintain eye contact with who you are speaking with. Maintain good posture, don’t fidget or come across as too relaxed. And smile… lots!

Make an impression

Always arrive early, say positive things about yourself, be on your best behaviour – you may be being watched. Use waiting time usefully – read their brochure – or talk to the receptionist about the company. Leave coats etc at the reception so you are not fumbling with extra things. When introduced repeat the interviewers name back to them, shake hands firmly and look them in the eye. Sit down when and where you are asked. Refuse the offer of anything to drink apart from water. It’s good to make a little small talk at the beginning to break the ice, but don’t ask personal questions.

What the employer is looking for:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you do the job well?
  • Can they see themselves working with you?
  • Will you fit in?

Commonly asked Interview Questions:

  • Why do you want this job? – Give a precise reason.
  • What do you bring to this company? – Experience, maturity, etc.
  • What do you know about this company? – You should have researched this.
  • Tell me about yourself – Be brief, family man, hobbies, etc.
  • How do you handle stressful situations? – I react to situations rather than stress.
  • What is your greatest strength? – My reliability, honesty, ability to motivate.
  • What is your greatest weakness? – Perhaps an urgency to get jobs completed – turn a weakness into a strength.
  • What have you been doing since your last job? – I am still employed there – Why did you lose your job? – Down turn in company productivity, staff laid off.
  • Why do you want to leave your current job? – It doesn’t offer me any challenges any more, I am unable to grow and further my career – never rubbish your old employer.
  • What are your future goals? – I want to grow with a company, take on further responsibilities
  • Are you prepared to do over time and extra shifts when required? – Yes I have no problems with that.
  • Would you consider doing extra training courses? – Yes as long as the cost in doing the courses are shared.
  • How much experience have you had? – Be honest about this and add that you are willing to learn.
  • Why should we hire you? – I would be a valuable asset to your company because…

Questions ‘You’ could ask at an Interview:

  • What are the normal working hours and what is the start and finish times?
  • Are rates paid for over time etc?
  • Are protective clothing and equipment supplied?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement within the company?
  • Is there much travel associated with the position?
  • Who would be my superiors, who am I responsible to?
  • When would you want me to start?
  • Is this a new position, if not why did the last person leave or what happened to him/her?

Always thank the interviewer for his/her time when the interview is finished.

Good Luck. I wish you well in your job application.

If you don’t get it – then it wasn’t for you and something better is around the corner.

If you do get it – dazzle them, show them why they chose you every single day.

Give it your all.

© 2017 Elemental Potential Ltd

Published by Elemental Potential Ltd  | First Edition

This article is copyright. Except for the purpose of fair review, no part may be stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording or storage in any information retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. No reproduction may be made, whether by photocopying or any other means, unless a licence has been obtained from the publisher.

And of course let us know how you got on.

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