Learn how to write a professional CV or resumé with these six top tips for writing and creating a more catchy, compelling and impactful CV or resumé using a professional, executive format.
Writing a professional, executive CV or resumé can be challenging, particularly as the CV format and CV layout can change depending on your experience and the type of executive job or professional role for which you're applying. In this video, I offer six top tips to help you write and create a short and succinct CV that highlights your key strengths and achievements and has the impact to get you an interview for your dream job or role.
We all know the executive job market is highly competitive and unfortunately there’s no way for you to control how many candidates are going to apply for your dream role.
So, let’s focus on what you can control - the quality of your application and in particular how you can create a compelling CV that’s going to get you an interview, by clearly showing that you’re an ideal candidate for the role. I’m going to give you six top tips to help your CV achieve its goal of getting you that interview.
Right, let’s get straight into it with tip number one.
01. Keep It Short & Succinct
You CV should be a maximum of two pages. Most recruiters and HR managers will only spend a few seconds deciding whether your CV ends up in the Yes, No or Maybe pile. So it’s essential that you prioritise relevant your skills, experience and achievements and ensure that the key ones clearly stand out.
Importantly, don’t fall into the trap of trying to include everything. Think of creating your CV as being similar to preparing a gourmet meal. You wouldn’t include every ingredient in the kitchen, so don’t attempt to cram all of your knowledge, skills and experience into your CV.
Prioritise what's relevant to the application and the role for which you’re applying. For example, a temp job that you had fifteen years ago, isn’t going to help a recruiter decide whether you’re an ideal candidate for a director level position today.
02. Keep The Layout & Design Simple
Start by breaking your CV into easily identifiable sections with the following headings:
Education & Qualifications
Awards, Memberships & Accreditations (if applicable)
References should be listed at the end as being as available on request.
When you’re writing your CV, make sure you avoid long sentences and paragraphs and instead use bullet points to highlight key information. There’s also no need to include a photograph - as it's unlikely to help you get the job. Bright colours and quirky fonts won’t help your CV stand out for the right reasons. So, keep your colours neutral and your font choice simple. Arial or Helvetica work well, as they’re easy to read. Comic Sans is never your friend, particular when it comes to writing your CV.
A final point is to avoid shrinking your font size or reducing your line spacing to the point where your CV becomes illegible. Although it’s important to keep it concise, no recruiter will thank you if they have to break out the binoculars.
03. Start Strong
Your headline and summary at the top of your CV should catch the recruiter's attention, and encourage them to read on. The rest of the document should make them want to call you in for an interview, before you’re snapped up by a rival company.
Use your heading to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the role by including your current job title, providing it's the same or similar to the position for which you’re applying. Alternatively, describe yourself as a specialist in the primary area of expertise required by the role.
Your heading should also include your location, phone number and a professional looking email address. If your personal email still features your nick name, then it’s probably time to set up a new gmail account.
Your Professional Summary should consist of two very short paragraphs - a maximum 5 lines in total. This is your opportunity to highlight the key strengths, skills and experience that make you perfect for the role.
Avoid generic phrases that could apply to anyone and don’t really mean anything or add value. Instead, focus on highlighting your key competitive advantages and what makes you uniquely qualified for the position. For example this could be an opportunity to highlight your language skills, or your many years of international experience.
04. Prioritise Your Key Skills & Achievements
Sitting neatly under your Professional Summary, the next section of your CV should be a list of your Executive Skills.
These should be limited to six to eight bullet points arranged in two columns.
Remember the Gourmet Meal metaphor and prioritise the Executive Skills that will identify you as an ideal candidate for this specific role.
Below your Executive Skills list, you should place your Career Summary. Each role should be split into four parts
Part 1 is a Headline including the Organisation Name, Role Title, Location and Dates
Part 2 is an Outline - a one to three line description of your role, its overall objective and it’s context within the organisation
Part 3 is Key Responsibilities - A bullet point list of key responsibilities and duties that showcase relevant skills and knowledge and wherever possible highlight your positive impact on the organisation
Part 4 is Key Achievements - a list of impressive achievements that benefited the organisation and reflect the impact you had in the role.
Wherever possible, be sure to include some numbers, KPIs and metrics to quantify and give context to your achievements. A couple of final notes on the Career Summary. You should provide a greater level of detail and information for more recent roles, gradually decreasing the content as you travel back in time. If there are really old roles that you feel it’s important to include, then maybe just include the Headline and Outline.
05. Customise Your Content
Your CV should be customised for each and every application to ensure it’s as focused and aligned as possible with the specific role that you’re targeting. You can think of this as adopting a rifle, rather than shotgun approach to your applications.
Identify key words and phrases from the job description or advert and include them within your CV, provided that they accurately reflect your skills, knowledge and experience. Remember to focus on what you’re going to be able to do for the employer, based on what you’ve achieved in the past.
Although it may take time to review and revise your CV for each application, you should find that you’re able to start creating templates for different types of roles relatively quickly.
I’d also recommend creating a spreadsheet of all the content and bullet points that you could potentially include under each different section of your CV. You can use then use the spreadsheet as a library from which you can cut and paste key information that’s going to be relevant for each specific role.
06. Don't Forget The Basics
Now this might seem like an obvious one, but it’s amazing how many people press send on their CV when it still contains simple spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes.
In her book Resume Magic, Susan Britton Whitcomb notes that around 80% of recruiters cited typos, misspelling and poor grammar as their top pet peeves, so this stuff is important.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix - a fresh set of eyes. Ask a trusted and preferably highly literate friend or family member to review your CV or perhaps ask an executive career coach to give it a once over.
If you have any helpful tips that I haven’t covered, then please share them in the comment section. Also please like and share this video if there are people in your network who might benefit from the content that I’ve covered.