Article provided by Dessy Ohanians, Managing Director of Certificate and Corporate Programmes at London School of Business and Finance.
After more than 15 years reading other people’s CVs and interviewing candidates for jobs at my company, it was my turn to write my first CV and prepare for an interview that would give my professional life a turn in a new direction.
I couldn’t afford to get that wrong and I had no excuses. I had seen thousands of CVs over the years – some good, some not so good, some that have intrigued me and some that I put down after the first sentence. So, I thought I would draw upon the best examples and write my own.
But it wasn’t that easy.
The first draft of my résumé was over four pages long. Of course, I wanted to tell my potential new employers all the wonderful things I have done over the years. How do you summarise 15+ years of entrepreneurial struggle and success in just a few pages? I didn’t want to miss anything that might grab their attention and convince them that I have the relevant qualities they were looking in a new employee. I even thought that my babysitting experience during my university days will show me as responsible person that can be trusted. But that is where I remembered the importance of ‘relevance’. Yes – skills can be transferrable, but the relevance is not immediately obvious.
At that point, I decided to create several versions of my CV and only list the jobs that had that all-important relevance to the new roles I was applying for.
At that point, I also looked at the format of my CV. I had recently seen a very snazzy one-page summary of a CV with cool graphics, boxes and bullet points. I thought that would be really eye-catching as my CV would stand out from all other CVs in the pile. But there was a problem with having my CV only in this format. Some job adverts specifically asked for a comprehensive CV and others were from companies where it was well known that they use artificial intelligence software to sift through the CVs looking for specific words in the text. My new cool CV was not being read by the software so it was automatically rejected.
I then remembered about the strengths/skills based CV. This is a format where you pick one of your skills or strengths and list examples of jobs where you have developed or demonstrated those skills. There is no obvious time progression between the jobs that can be easily followed. I’ve heard that this type of CV is particularly popular in the USA and among higher level jobs. At this point I had eight or nine versions of my CV and had still not applied to any jobs.
As I have advised many people in the past, when you think you have your CV ready, ask someone else to read it. And thankfully, I followed my own advice. Being a member of the Institute of Directors I had access to experienced business advisors who gave me an hour of their time to look at the CVs I had written and give me feedback. They look at your CV with fresh eyes and see gaps that you may not see simply because you have been looking at your CV for long time.
There were many good tips that I picked up from that consultation but the one that stuck with me to this day has made all the difference. The advisor asked me to look in-depth at the job advert and tailor my CV to demonstrate my skills how I would best meet the requirements of the job, use similar language and address what seems particularly important to the employer. Here was this issue of relevance again; I could make my CV relevant not just to the industry this company was operating in, but to the specific role I was applying for. Whatever could not be addressed directly in the CV needed to be featured in the cover letter (which is another whole topic on its own).
So now, I do not have one CV or eight versions of a CV – I have no CV. Until the day I need to present myself in the right light for the opportunity I am pursuing, I will write my CV to tell the story of my professional life and skills in a way that is most relevant. And of course, meticulously spell check my CV as the ones I put down after the first sentence were the ones that had a spelling mistake in the first sentence!
About the author
Dessy Ohanians is Managing Director of Certificate and Corporate Programmes at London School of Business and Finance, with over 20 years’ experience as an entrepreneur.