How to write a CV that “sells" you

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How to write a CV that “sells” you

You may not know this, but it is common in the recruitment business to refer to candidates or applicants as “product”.  Not nice, is it?

There’s also a bloke on Linkedin who bangs on about People as Product.  I confess I haven’t read his stuff.  Perhaps he’s being ironic? Perhaps he is going to make the same point as me?

In a discussion headed: “How to write a CV that “sells” you I just wanted to start by reassuring you that I do not see people as product. I am a Professional CV Writer and when I give a client a Free CV Review the single most common problem I see is that their CV does not "sell" them to a potential employer.

What does a CV with this problem look like?

1. It does not match the requirements of the job they want to get (Golden Rule Number 2).

2. It’s just a list of things that anyone doing that particular job has to do.

3. It’s full of assertions about the individual: “very organised”, "a good leader” without any visible means of support, i.e. lacking evidence for those assertions.

4. It leaves the reader to “infer” what the CV Writer is trying to get across, rather than telling them explicitly.

The key to producing a CV that sells is to understand that it is your “Achievements" that sell you.  I wrote a BLOG whose title I am particularly proud of: “It's the sizzle that sells the sausage". Please read it.  In it I explain that it is your achievements throughout your career that communicate what makes you special and what sets you apart from your competition. But here is someting else I hear regularly.  Many clients will say: “but I haven’t achieved anything”!  There seems to a number of reasons why they say this.  Often it’s because they have had a hard time at work and can’t see the wood for the trees.  Sometimes it’s because they are too modest and just regard their “achievements” as doing what they are paid to do. This is in many ways an admirable attitude to have, although when it somes to your CV there is no place for modesty!

At weekends for the last few years my wife and I have been Respite Foster Carer for the children’s charity Barnardos.  We spend the time with looked after children with complex needs who therefore demand a lot from their full-time Foster Carers.  We try to give the kids a fun time and the full-time Foster Carers get a well-earned break.  It’s a great thing to do, I recommend it. Give me a shout if you’d like to learn more. Every year the branch of Barnardos in my area hosts an award ceremony for the kids.  The children get dressed up and go to a big "do" in the biggest, poshest hotel in the area and they are all given an award for something special that they have achieved in the  year.  It is, in fact, an awe inspiring occasion, not to be missed.  Often, they receive awards for the sort of things that you would expect at a Speech Day in any mainstream school: being captain of the football team for example, or getting great results in their exams.  But because of what life has thrown at them most of these kids have not had it easy,  in fact anything but.  So in some cases a child will get a big fanfare and an award for getting up in the morning, not truanting for a month, or for being helpful around the house.   Or for walking ten feet unaided.  Take it from me, these kids deserve their awards.  They are hard won.  Sometimes the foster carers have to really think hard to come up with something worth recognition.  But the point is they always do.  They have all achieved. And it’s the same with your achievements.  You do have them; you just haven’t worked out what they are yet.

Here’s what to do: for each job you have had ask yourself:

1. What did I do in that job that made me feel proud?

2. Did I get a pat on the back?  If so, for what?

3. Was there a task in particular for which everyone always came to me for advice or for help to complete?

5. Was I known as a specialist at something? The “go to guy”?

6. Did I do something that led to a promotion or to a bigger better job elsewhere?

These are your achievements.  They are what sells you.

One last tip. Numbers. Wherever possible quantify your achievements: “as a result sales increased by 20%”; “managed a £5 million business”; "recruited and trained 5 new customer service assistants”.  Numbers add authority. Look at these achievements and makes sure that they are featured prominently in your CV. This litttle exercise can also help you to focus on what you are good at and what you love to do, and therefore help you to clarify what sort of job you should do next.  

If you like my advice on CVs, Interviews and Job Hunting please sign up for updates, and please tell your friends. If you don’t like my advice – please keep it to yourself. :-)

To get an expert to check your CV for the requisite achievements, please click on the button for a Free CV Review.   

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