A dilemma many experienced candidates face when writing a resume is how much experience to put in and how much to take out. It can be a daunting exercise and easy to get lost in the detail of every role you ever had, in the belief that including everything you’ve ever done might in some way give you a better chance of securing the next job you are applying for. It won’t. In almost every instance, you will get the job based on your most relevant, recent experience and the cultural fit with the organisation you are interviewing with.
So, after years (and years) of advising senior candidates on how to present themselves on paper – here are my six recommendations for how to structure a CV that also serves as your ‘script’ for any future interview.
1. Keep it to 3 pages
Set yourself this target and be strict. It’s easier than you think. It’s unlikely, for instance, that you will be asked to talk in detail about any work experience that is from a decade ago. So do yourself a favour and list all jobs past 10 years under ‘previous roles’ and say something like – from 2000-2010 I held roles in marketing, bd and communications in a range of professional services firms including …..”
2. Start with your career elevator pitch
Start your resume with a quick summary of your experience under Career Profile (no more than a couple of sentences). Encapsulate the experience you are selling for the role you want now. For example, if you are applying for a team leadership role – then say something like “I am an experienced manager of people having led teams of various sizes over 15 years”. If you want to get a role managing clients then promote your client experience “I am an experienced client focused manager who has worked directly with clients over 10 years” etc.
3. List your key competencies
After your Career Profile it can be visually effective to list key competencies and expertise. This is the toolkit you are selling and should be aligned to the role you are applying for. Avoid generic ‘catch all’ bullet points like ‘Brand Champion’ or ‘Sales Expert’. Instead try and list skills that are nuanced to your experience like:
- Asia Pac team leadership
- Key client strategy development
- Marketing campaign strategy
4. Highlight Your Most Recent Experience
The last five years is probably the most relevant experience your next employer is interested in – so this should take up between half to a full page. The roles that are 5-10 years ago can take up less space and should not just repeat skills you have mentioned before. For example, if you have detailed your experience of designing client account strategies in your current role – you don’t need to repeat the same point again – in general try to avoid repeating the same list of responsibilities under each job.
5. Tell your story
So many candidates present CVs with no personality and no ‘voice’. Once you have written the factual aspects of your CV go back and inject some personality. It can be easily done right at the beginning in your profile and under each job. If you enjoy humour you can be cheeky in your profile and say something like “I have enjoyed a career in client management before the term CX was invented” or “I started my career in IT before the internet was a thing and have been at the forefront of technology ever since”. A more traditional approach might be “I came from a large family and have six siblings – so negotiation skills and influencing are in my DNA which is why I am successful working in professional services” etc.
Also under each role tell us how and why you moved there – like “I was asked to take this role because of my previous experience in team management “ or “I joined this company because my previous manager asked me to follow them” etc .
6. Close with a conversation starter
I am a great believer in closing your CV with a sentence / list of your interests and hobbies. Interviewers are looking for a way to connect with you – and the fact that you are a cyclist, swimmer or lover of cheesecake could be the difference between building rapport and not.