A story about YOU!
Few of us look forward to writing or updating a CV (also referred to as a resume). Take heart. It's one of the few chances most of us get to write a story about ourselves!
Telling your story
An effective CV is much more than a list of details and dates. It tells a story for particular readers or audiences in agencies, departments, organisations, panels and the like. To increase your chances of an interview, your CV also needs to reflect your understanding of the submission and short-listing process. Simple things like checking against essential and desirable criteria, submission procedure and deadline are the backdrop to your story. Including key words from employment advertisements, for instance, is a common way of increasing the chance of getting through the digital scanning stage of CV assessment.
Consider your potential readers
Once humans are directly involved in the cull, you'll need to make it easy for them to follow your career and locate the information they're looking for. Being able to picture the organisation, industry or sector, its culture, norms, standards, location, principles, expectations, requirements and preferences will help immensely in telling your story effectively.
Go easy on your readers; help them make sense of your account. Have a storyline and signposts to connect sections and show a pathway through the detail. A clear and simple layout that allows a reader to follow your story is vital. Your career details are the central ingredients but your CV story must have audience appeal. It needs to draw readers in, create interest, and keep them reading.
How personal does this story get?
Your readers will want to know about your skills and experience, but also at least something about who you are, what attributes, values and strengths you might bring to the workplace. Prospective employers may not have met you, but your attention to detail and care in presentation of your CV can demonstrate, not only your skills , but also that you respect and consider your reader's requirements.
Horses for courses?
You’ll probably need to have versions suited to different audiences and scenarios. You’ll no doubt highlight various sections for some readers, then re-order, add or omit detail for others.
If you’re just starting out in your work life your CV may neatly fill a page or so. Further along in your work life you’ll need to focus and draw threads together more. This applies especially if you’ve taken the now fairly typical meandering short-term contract and gig-economy career-route.
Being clear and concise is a necessity at all career stages. Those pages of detail need to be shaped into a coherent trajectory. Look for themes and highlight commonalities, threads and connections which can be found within seemingly disparate work locations and responsibilities. Presenting varied experiences and locations as strengths is critical, especially in workplaces and sectors where commitment and focus are still considered hallmarks of employability.
The important thing to remember is that your CV is a story about you, told to a particular audience or set of readers, at a particular point in time. Once you have the key information, you just need to keep it updated and ready for the next tweaking for a new audience! You're not alone! There’s plenty of free information online and professional CV writers if you choose to go down that path.