‘Must Haves’ for a compelling business CV

Business is competitive by nature; companies need to attract, engage and ultimately convert client interest.

'Must Haves' for a compelling business CV (F)Your CV is no different. A CV is still the primary personal marketing tool in the job market. Whether you’re a graduate or a seasoned director, a well-written, targeted CV is vital to the job search process. Do remember though, a CV’s objective is not just to secure that all-important interview; its ultimate focus should be on interview success. Content needs to be carefully worded and selectively included, to help you achieve this desired outcome. These points will help you create a compelling CV for your next career step.

Show, Don’t Tell

Selling is at the heart of all commercial organisations, so selling yourself is a prerequisite to the recruitment process. Never list generic, or worse still, clichéd skills – after all, which company doesn’t want a good communicator working for them? Adding a ‘key skills’ summary can be very effective; with so many CVs to review, anything that assists recruiters make their initial CV selection is welcomed and most importantly, it ensures your potential strong match doesn’t go unnoticed. However, do include a brief accompanying example to demonstrate where your key skills add value, for example, how or when your excellent team management skills or strong financial acumen have provided an advantage.

Context is King

Great content underpins all strong CVs; it is, however, really important that context is provided to support the content. Hiring managers and decision makers look for information that helps them benchmark your experience against the role they are recruiting for. For example, you should consider including which area you cover, what budgetary responsibility you hold, your position in an organisation, the size of your team and if you have any direct reports; these are all extremely beneficial details to include. A brief outline for each role is recommended.

Responsibilities ‘Tell’, Achievements ‘Sell”

The inclusion of responsibilities helps the reader to understand what your experience entails. However, it’s your achievements that explain most clearly the benefits you would bring. Past performance is the best indicator of future performance, so personal contributions you have made will be a key area of interest in your CV. People often find it hard to sell themselves, especially in person. Your CV offers the perfect solution to this as it ‘sells’ you, in your absence. When you do have a face-to-face meeting, expanding on the elements that the interviewer already knows and likes, won’t feel as challenging. Make sure you quantify your achievements. Evidenced, factual information is by far the best way to promote your ability. It also helps make your ‘pitch’ feel less personal and therefore more comfortable to deliver.

Numbers Count

The ultimate goal of in business is a financial one, so where you can include monetary values against your achievements, do! If you are concerned about quoting fiscal data, such as turnover or margin, there are alternative ways to approach this. One approach that can address how to present your current performance is to quote percentages, for example, percentage increases to sales and profit versus last year and budget. In terms of turnover, quoting the percentage mix that your particular area has of the total company sales can work well. If you don’t include financial information, it may raise concerns about your business focus. For less sensitive roles, do share as many figures and statistics as you can.

Highlight Soft Skills

Almost without exception, business is people-centric, so your personal qualities are as important as your technical competence. Study the desired attributes mentioned in the job description or advertisement carefully, and ensure that you highlight your corresponding personal skills. A CV that brings to life valuable soft skills, as well as relevant experience, will be more likely to receive an invitation to interview. This approach also provides an excellent foundation for the interview stage itself, as the interviewer will already have a favourable impression of your personal strengths and personality.

Persuasive Language

All good sales people use the power of language to their advantage. We’re not talking about outmoded hard-sell tactics, rather a vocabulary that conveys a focus on performance, personal drive and ability to deliver results. We recommend that you use a range of dynamic action verbs, and in the past tense where appropriate to indicate success. When talking about sales for example, ‘delivered,” sounds stronger than, “growing”. An active rather than passive tone is fundamental to creating a strong first impression.

If you do ask for assistance when compiling your CV make sure the company you use has a suitably qualified member of their team, for example, an applied linguist, who will not only provide proofreading but who can advise on tenor and help you avoid use of evaluative language.

About the author

Jenny Hargrave is the founder of InterviewFit, provider of CV writing, interview coaching and career management services. She has a particular interest in future professions.

Connect with Jenny on Twitter: @InterviewFit

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