Has the format of a CV changed in the last few years? Is there a “right way” to prepare one? Are there international standards when it comes to CVs? Continue reading to find out! [Spoiler alert: The answer is three times yes!]
The single most important thing to remember about your CV is that the goal of the CV is to land an interview, not a job. It is the first impression you will make as an executive. And it makes the difference between “invite” or “delete”.
With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What role are you specifically looking for?
2) Why do you qualify for that job? What are concrete examples that support your claims?
3) Why are you the best candidate?
Make sure that these three answers are visible at first sight when somebody opens your CV and looks at the first half of the first page.
How to structure your CV the right way
That brings us to the structure; from top to bottom:
The CV header
The header includes your first and last name and only relevant contact details without descriptive words. Avoid mentioning irrelevant information such as your birthday, marital status, number of children, etc. The name you use on your CV should be consistent with the name you use on professional social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn) or the one you use in your email address.
The profile summary
The profile summary is the section where you present yourself as a perfect fit for your potential job and prove that you are the ideal and most qualified candidate. Stay away from “corporate blah-blah” and put it through the “LinkedIn test”. If somebody with a similar background sees your profile and can say “Oh, I like that summary. I will use it myself!”; if they can then copy/paste it for their own use – that means it’s not unique and concrete enough. The profile summary is like a trailer to a movie – select the most relevant fragments from your career to engage the reader’s interest.
The professional experience
The professional experience part enlists all relevant positions – the operative word being “relevant”. Exclude unrelated, early career experience! Describe your scope of responsibilities in legible bullet points and add a separate section for selected successes that are expressed measurably – for the past 7-10 years or three most recent roles. Why? Given how little time recruiters, hiring managers and decision-makers have, part of the interview already happens on the screen. That is one of the major changes in CV writing of the past years!
Under Education, mention only your tertiary education. If relevant, you can rename that part into “Education, Certificates & Selected Training” or something along those lines.
Other CV sections
Other sections of your CV should contain only relevant information from your goal’s and hence the reader’s perspective.
Once your CV is ready, proofread it. Some professionals still believe that “messy CV, messy candidate”. Some recruiters won’t even interview a candidate whose CV has spelling mistakes. To get it right, double-check everything. Make sure there are no mistakes and there is a consistency in dates & names, bullet points & letters at the beginning of sentences, margins & background, title sections & fonts, style & formatting.
Other practical CV tips for Executives
1. Enlist only the languages you actually can work in.
2. Avoid mentioning character traits or describing yourself by saying “I am a creative person.” You’re an executive – allow your successes and delivered projects to speak for you.
3. Save your CV as “Last Name First Name CV”.pdf and only ever share that format, unless you are later asked to submit a .doc version.
4. Ideal length: 2-3 pages. A rule of thumb is “1 page per every 10 years of experience.” Exceptions may apply.
5. Photo – the ever-ongoing question: yes or no? The overall international trend is to go off-photo to decrease the chances of discrimination. In Europe, only add a professional photo if it helps you convey a certain message, style or personal brand.
6. Don’t use 2-column CVs, as they don’t work well in ATS systems. They are difficult to read. They are not user-friendly and – although it doesn’t seem like it – they waste space.
CV for ATS – make sure you do it right
Last, but not least: we have to mention the CV for ATS. Whenever you are asked to upload your CV into a database that then matches your CV against the job ad you are applying for, we recommend that you have a dedicated CV for that channel as software programs will most probably have difficulties scanning information included in your CV in tables, columns, header, footer, hyperlinks, etc. To read more about that, check out our blog post “ATS Guide – a step by step guide on how to prepare an ATS-compliant CV”.
Feel free to request a complimentary ATS CV Report. Simply send an email to Bichl.Sandra@CareerAngels.eu; subject: ATS CV Report / Exparang.
* This article was prepared for the Exparang community. Exparang is a privacy-based platform that opens doors to personalised career management. They give their anonymised members, leaders and seasoned professionals, discreet continuous access to matching executive roles, board positions and pro-bono assignments. Membership is invite-only and free of charge.