What not to do when writing your CV: Me, Me, Me!
Your resume or CV is most definitely not about you. It’s a marketing tool. Therefore, it should be all about the market: appealing to the hiring manager, meeting the company’s needs, using the organization’s language, communicating what your audience wants to hear. A CV that goes into every tiny detail of your career history is absolutely not what a hiring manager wants to read. You have to do the screening work for them. Don’t assume they want to wade through and make sense of your personal work story.
Trust me, you can extract parts of your history and still be ok. In fact, you will be more relevant and marketable. If you’re still not convinced, put yourself in their shoes: you’ve got 30 seconds to find out whether this person can do the job or not, what motivates them, whether they fit the company culture, and whether or not you want to work with them.
So if you want to avoid making this simple error, there is some work to do before you start writing your CV, and – counter intuitively – that work does start with you. Specifically, knowing yourself. The reason? By knowing yourself, you are in a better position to market and ultimately sell yourself. My bespoke framework was developed specifically for this purpose. It takes the pain out of the self-scrutiny by focussing on how you’d answer a hiring manager’s four key questions before they’ve even asked them, and I’m going to share it with you here.
Hiring Manager Key Question 1)
‘Do you fit our company culture and team?’ AKA ‘What motivates you?’
This question is all about your values, your core beliefs, your ethics, the things that you hold true throughout your life – not just at work. Your task is to come up with five or so nouns or short phrases that communicate your values. For example, ‘respect’, ‘making a difference’, ‘holistic view’, ‘leadership’, ‘accountability’… These are all good, strong professional values. What are yours?
Hiring Manager Key Question 2)
‘Do I want to work with you?’ AKA ‘How would someone describe you?’
This question is all about your traits and characteristics, basically the way in which you deliver on your skills. It’s your work style, your approach to doing your job, and it tells the hiring manager everything they need to know about whether you are someone they want to see every day, or even grab a drink with after work. Examples of traits or characteristics include adjectives like ‘collaborative’, ‘authentic’, ‘persevering’, ‘calm under pressure’, ‘intrapreneurial’. Which words best describe the sort of colleague you’d be?
Hiring Manager Key Question 3)
‘Can you do this job?’ AKA ‘Walk me through your CV’.
This is to figure out if you can actually do what the employer will be paying you for. It’s your skills and relates specifically to the job tasks and what KPIs you’ll be delivering against every day at the office. Think of measurable and tangible words, terms or phrases like ‘develop strategy’, ‘influence buy-in’, ‘manage projects & teams’, ‘engage stakeholders’, ‘drive bottom line’. This is a quick, easy way to communicate what you can do, but make sure you choose words that are backed up elsewhere in your CV – don’t get off track from your marketing “story”.
Hiring Manager Key Question 4)
‘What do you know about key CR/sustainability issues?’ AKA ‘What issues have you managed or are knowledgeable about?’
This is about your knowledge, your specialty, your niche – and you need to narrow it down to between two to three. It could be sustainable supply chains, human rights, waste, water, responsible investing, or renewable energy…you get the idea. This is your chance to show off your expertise, so focus! Maybe you could impress that little bit extra by linking your expertise to one of the company’s sustainability KPIs. Now that’s employable!
So before you dig out that old CV from your computer’s hard drive and start tidying it up, spend a couple of hours reflecting on the above questions and come up with five or so words in response to each one. And remember, be clear, be concise! You’ve got 30 seconds, and counting.
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