CV writing is obviously a large part of what we do here at The Career Gym. My knowledge and advice is based on having read and interviewed from literally thousands of CV’s through my 15+ years as a recruiter and Career Coach. I’m confident that I know what gets noticed and I know what doesn’t!

For many candidates CV writing is a chore and they simply add to previous templates that served them well in the past. Things have certainly moved on and people need to approach their CV’s in a fresh way. One area in particular is the traditional first section ‘Personal Profile’.

If we look at the CV as your ‘advertisement’, the advert needs a strap-line; a hook that appeals and makes the reader want to read more. The Personal Profile is the perfect place for this, but so many candidates fail to impress straight away.

A recruiter, on first sift will probably give the front page of your CV no more than a 15 second scan. Can they immediately pick out relevant, differentiating and quality aspects that they are looking for? If yes, they’ll read on, if no – well, you know what happens!

What impression do you get from the following typical Personal Profile?

Fifteen years HR operations manager level experience in various organisations, with a mix of strategic and operational experience. I am a friendly and honest proactive person, who is adaptable and conscientious. Being a good communicator contributes to my ability to problem solve and I am an effective team player but also a person who can work effectively as an individual.  I am able to multi task and work well under pressure and I am willing to work hard to accomplish tight deadlines.

My opinion is that it is flawed in a number of ways:

  1. Recruiters are unlikely to take the time to read this block of text.
  2. It doesn’t really say anything of value – nothing stands out.
  3. It says the same as so many other profiles.
  4. It really isn’t well written.

So what do I suggest?

Well, we live in a world of sound bites and Tweets and people want information that is quick and easy to grasp. Read the profile above, then look away and say what you took from it. I guarantee you’d only remember odd phrases like ‘friendly and honest’; ‘team player’ etc. If this is the way our brains are wired, shouldn’t we be presenting the information in this way?

In my view the Personal Profile should be a set of short phrases that highlight what your strengths are and show that these relate to the brief. Ideally they should be tabulated with white space around so they can be picked up immediately when a reader scans the page.

It is inevitable that we will use some of the classic phrases i.e. ‘customer focused’, because job descriptions are full of these competencies, so if we are to highlight that we meet the spec, we do need to play some of them back. But do try to phrase them slightly differently.

Some good examples are:

  • Influential and inclusive leader
  • Astute commercial acumen
  • Proven Board level influencer
  • Engaging and clear communicator
  • Consultative style of client management
  • Driven by quality and integrity
  • Inquisitive, analytical and decisive

The formatting of this blog does not allow me to tabulate them, which I would do in situ, 3 on the left and 3 on the right.

There are two immediate advantages to this format: Firstly you are highlighting, very simply, your strengths against the brief. This will get you noticed.

Secondly if you want to re-order or amend the strengths then it is a short and simple process rather than re-crafting a whole paragraph of prose.

The intention is to make your strengths jump off the page so that the reader immediately engages with the content. From all my years of reading CV’s and advising on them, this is the most successful way of conveying your personal profile in a strengths format. If you can do this, you will be one further step ahead of the competition!

I appreciate some people may not totally agree with me but many of my recruitment contacts love the simplicity and directness of this approach. Make their lives easy and you are half way to the interview!

Contact us at The Career Gym to have your CV reviewed and we can work with you to refocus the document on what is really important and attractive to recruiters.

Originally written by The Career Gym on Changeboard, the leading HR job board and career advice site.
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