I guess it’s an occupational hazard I should expect, but quite often I receive CVs from people I know asking me to give them some feedback on what I read. This puts me in a difficult position sometimes as of course I’d like to help, but quite often I feel compelled to give the sort of feedback that may actually help rather than just pay lip service to what is usually, a pleasant and factual document.
At Agenda Partnership we take the view that the CV we receive in support of a candidate’s application is exactly what our end client receives. We don’t change it; they must live by what they say in the CV as it will be scrutinised at interview and we want them to remain credible and honest.
Recently I was asked by a good friend, Dean, to have a look at his CV. I’d seen it before a few years ago, and it fell firmly into the above category. He had made a move a couple of years previously, but it wasn’t the right one, and he ended up looking once again for the right move. I really hoped his CV had moved on in terms of style, but it hadn’t other than details of his more recent position.
Dean is a seller, and a very good one at that. He sells technical stuff that I really don’t understand. And he sells a lot of it, at high value, all over the world. He can wax lyrical about the trips he takes, the people he sees, the deals he does. He can speak different languages that he has learnt to sell in the Far East, and across Europe.
But, can he write a CV? Absolutely not.
CVs are funny things. My view is that they only ever tell you what the writer wants to tell you, not what the reader actually wants to know. They contain facts, obviously, but I’m looking to get to know somebody in terms of not just what they’ve done, but what they can do for me, how successful they are, what they’ll bring in terms of ability, how much they are growing, what they are like as a human being.
You would not believe the number of people I read about who can “work well independently or as part of team”. And. It. Drives. Me. Nuts.
My advice to Dean was simple. Make me like you on paper enough to want to meet you.
I explained to Dean that I, as a recruiter, know probably 1% of what I would need to know to work in his industry. But, and here’s the thing, he is relying on me, potentially to ‘sell’ him, via his CV, to people who have 100% of the knowledge; people in his industry that he can make a difference for. If not me, maybe his CV lands in the inbox of an internal recruiter, or an HR manager. The issue he faces is the same; his great CV is landing in the hands of someone who may not be an expert, and we’re all looking for the important detail quickly. We see a huge amount of CVs, every single day.
We took simple steps.
The profile, that first statement. The ‘handshake’ if you will. We take decisions on people the minute we meet them. This is the same. Engage me, make me like you and want to read more. Gone is “I am professional and friendly” and in comes “ I am [insert my best features here while not sounding overly arrogant]”.
Then, the work history. This bit is impactful. I’m a recruiter, you’re a seller. Tell me how much you sold in this role, give me dollar signs. Tell me who you’re selling to. Tell me how much growth you’ve facilitated. Tell me how much of the total company revenue you’re responsible for. However big the pond is, being a big fish is better than being a small one in the world of business development.
Then, get the detail in. You’ve given me the bullets to sell you in, now put in the detail that makes you credible. I, or the HR person might get that door open, but it’s up to you in this bit to demonstrate how great you are.
Education, it is what it is. Be honest, but focus not just on those bits of paper from school; what else have you done? How rounded is your learning?
Finally, recruiters love hobbies and pastimes. I read a CV recently for a lady, semi-retired whose hobbies were; “Knitting, Ju-jitsu, and holidaying in her 1968 VW camper”. I rang her immediately as she sounded so interesting and rounded. But, again, these are the things we ‘sell’ into employers that make them want to meet you.
Dean’s CV came alive pretty quickly. He just needed to get himself onto the page. I’m not sure if he’s starting sending it out in applications, but I’ll be sure to let you know how he gets on.