CV tips for telling your career story right

CV Writing
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By Amanda Augustine, Career Advice Expert, TopCV

Employers want to be able to quickly – and easily – skim your CV and understand your career narrative.

Be sure that when they take a quick glance, readers will know the type of position you’re pursuing and why you are qualified to undertake such a position.

Curate your CV’s content with your job goals in mind.

Think of your CV as a strategically positioned marketing document, rather than a laundry list of everything you’ve even done and learned. The information should be curated to clearly showcase the relevant skills, education and experience you’ve acquired throughout your career that qualify you for the role you’re currently targeting.

It’s alright to minimise the details for those positions that don’t support your current career goals, to highlight only certain aspects of other jobs that demonstrate your qualifications or to dedicate more CV space to a position that best represents your relevant skill set. Pick and choose the information your share based on what will best support your career story.

Set the tone with your personal statement.

The top third of your CV should set the stage for the rest of of your document. Start by including a professional title or headline that clearly explains to the reader the type of position you’re seeking.

Then, follow this with a personal statement that acts as your ‘elevator pitch’:

In no more than five lines, sell the reader on your story by explaining how you are able to leverage your strengths and experience to provide value in a specific capacity to an employer. Within this section, aim to communicate your record of achievement, experience level, value, industry (assuming this is relevant to your current goals) and your immediate career goals. This section will set the tone and focus for the rest of your CV, so give it some careful thought.

Bullet your accomplishments.

Divide each position in your work history into two components: a short blurb which summarises your responsibilities, as they relate to your current job goal; and a bulleted list which calls attention to your most noteworthy – and relevant – achievements. Bullet points, when used sparingly, are an effective technique for highlighting important the pieces of information on a CV, as they draw the reader’s eyes to focus on those details.

Show, don’t tell.

Employers want to see proof of your qualifications. If you list a particular skill that you possess in the top third of your CV, be sure to support this claim by providing a specific example, figure or case study in your work experience or education sections that illustrates this ability.

Don’t assume readers will connect the dots on their own – make it obvious how you’ve leveraged a skill or your knowledge to solve a problem, complete a project or create a positive result for the company. Ask yourself, at the end of the day, how can I demonstrate that I not only possess the skills and experience the company is looking, but I’ve been successful in leveraging these in my prior work?

Interview tips for telling your career story right

Support your claims…

…You wouldn’t walk into an interview and simply state, ‘I’m detail-oriented!’ ‘I work well under pressure!’ and assume you’ve properly convinced the interviewer of your abilities. Instead, you need to support whatever claims you make about your skills by telling short stories that illustrate your qualifications. In the interview, I recommend using what is referred to as the STAR method:

Describe a Situation or Task…

…you had to handle that allowed you to leverage a specific skill or area of knowledge that’s required for the position.

Explain the Actions…

…you took to address the situation or accomplish the task, providing colourful details to make the story interesting and engaging.

Describe the end Result…

…How was the situation resolved? What was the outcome? What did you learn from the situation and how did you overall help the company?

As you’re preparing for an upcoming interview, re-read the job ad and make a short list of the primary qualities the company appears to be looking for in the right candidate. Think about the soft and hard skills they’re expecting this person to possess, and what challenges someone in this role might face. Then, use this information to brainstorm a few stories you can share from your work history that would help you demonstrate your qualifications. Use the STAR method to prep these stories.

Keep your audience in mind.

A good storyteller always keeps his or her target audience in mind. At the end of the day, what do they care about? When it comes to job seeking, your target audience is either a recruiter, HR professional or hiring manager who are all interested in understanding if you possess the right skills to do the job and if you will be a cultural fit on the team. Tailor the information you provide – both on your CV and during the interview process – to speak to the needs of your interviewer.

Mind your body language.

The nonverbal signals you send can either strengthen or weaken your story. Consider recording yourself with your phone as you  practice sharing a story in a mock interview. Pay close attention to your hands, your body language (e.g. any nervous ticks such as hair twirling or knee tapping, the tone of your voice and your eye contact, as this will all play a part in how you – and your career story – are perceived.

Here at TopCV, we believe everyone has a story to tell. It’s our job to help professionals tell the best version of that story to write the next chapter of their careers. If you’re unsure whether your CV is telling the right story, submit it today for a free CV evaluation to find out.

Amanda AugustineAbout the author

Amanda Augustine is the career advice expert for TopCV, the largest CV-writing service in the world. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with over 10 years’ experience in the recruiting industry.

Have a job-search question for Amanda or TopCV? Submit it here.

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