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So here you are! Finally making a resume!
CV writing or making a resume as a chore ranks somewhere between a root canal and filing taxes. You need it, but you don’t want to do it.
If you are a couple of years into your career and well-networked, you often do not have to worry about it.
It’s a formality that’s then needed because you earn an interview based on insider industry referrals but if you are an early career professional – a CV can be an incredibly important document.
There are two rules to CV or resume writing:
While this is straightforward, implementing this into an actual kickass CV is easier said than done.
Here is my distilled practical wisdom from coaching hundreds of students at my mentoring gig, on getting their CVs right.
People spend an inordinate amount of time at the workplace. Yet, they often spend less than a couple of hours getting their CV together. Most candidates sound less impressive than they are because they have not done the grunt work of having a master document that forms the baseline for the CV they make.
Before you even get to crafting a CV, make an excel sheet/word document with every possible detail about what you did, whom you worked with, what did you achieve, etc.
If you are an early career professional – you don’t have years of work experience or a lot of credibilities yet, hence you have to maximize whatever you have. Putting in a one-liner for your internship or neglecting to mention your event management experience just because you did it once, can take brownie pointers away from your profile.
Students think of a CV as a briefing document with a chronological listing of what they have done. Thinking of it as a narrative exercise for your career aspiration and profile can make a massive difference.
If I had a dollar for every time a candidate did not peruse the job description, I’d be as rich if I had a dollar for every time the job description was unrealistic.
Many early-career professionals are intimidated by jobs that they think they won’t be a perfect fit for. Many corporate job descriptions are poorly written jargon landmines.
So, every time you are tempted to apply by sending in your CV – try and get the closest possible idea of what that job is like (from a peer or someone in a comparable role or by even reaching out to the hiring team if they are approachable). Then craft your CV per that narrative.
In marketing jobs, for instance, a role might be overall marketing mandate but actually, be 80% digital marketing execution and agency management. Having clarity on this actually would take you closest to customizing your CV to the ‘real world’ – so then your CV doesn’t focus on ATL, BTL, and other aspects that would take up undue space on your one-pager anyway.
This holds if you are also applying for a job that’s punching above your weight.
Most CV writing wisdom only applies if you are lucky to directly email it to the hiring manager, an HR manager is on the firing line or the person you are seeking a referral form has clout.
In most cases, when you apply via a job portal or a careers page – your CV goes into quicksand from which to never emerge.
There are cheat sheets for navigating this – keep your CV devoid of colours, formats, templates, stuff it with keywords, etc.
However, if circumstances do mean that you need to upload your CV on these portals, try having a simple CV just for this that’s different from the fancier version you take to the interview.
Also, run your CV through ATS screeners available online to get an idea if it works for you (hint: it will never be a 100% but it should be good enough)
The first thing that people associate with a CV guide is the format or template in which they make it. It’s so predictable that it’s sad. If your career is your own – the way you structure or present your journey should be yours too.
It’s perfectly fine to google your CV template or mooch off someone else’s but if you put in the effort, it shows! Especially for certain career paths that may call for more rigour or creativity, unlike general management CV templates that are the norm.
Knowing what not to do is the beginning of all wisdom. Here are some ‘Do Not’s’ from me
People underestimate the effort that goes before making a CV. Do not make that mistake. If you know who you are, and what you want, then the storytelling in your CV is coherent and words flow seamlessly into your career narrative.
Remember that your CV is about what career (not just position) you are seeking, something to be consumed and judged by other people, and needs to tell your story sharply.
Step 1: Build your career history repository – think of every piece of information that could be useful along the way. Resources to start from – academic certificates, extracurricular certificates, the job description of your previous role, performance assessments of your past jobs, your social media presence, the tools that you know, the nature of people and industry you have worked with, the presentations and proposals you have worked on and MIS reports.
Step 2: Build a repository of job descriptions, closest to the kind of roles you would want to apply to, in sectors, and at the level of seniority you are aiming at.
Step 3: Create a blank template with common information (education, contact details)
Step 4: Customize your CV by using pointers from your career history leveraging phrasing from the JD that you are applying to.
Step 5: Apply. But also send out a few cold emails and LinkedIn DMs. Try your luck everywhere!
There are broadly two ways you can write your CV.
Either follow the maxim of
If you use acronyms try to expand them.
Do not start every sentence with ‘Responsible for…’. Use action words that justify the exact nature of what you did. Initiated. Pioneered. Supported. Assisted. It is understood that you are responsible (after all you get paid for those responsibilities).
Avoid hyper-specific words or generalized terms – both malfunction as keywords for hunters eg: Neither Marketing nor VTR is a good keyword but programmatic buying or data analysis are good ones – if you are say applying for a digital media role.
Not everyone needs every section on their CV but work experience including projects, last academic qualification, and skills are a must.
Nice to have but not must to have sections are courses you studied, hobbies, certifications, etc. So keep these points in mind while making your resume.
You can get everything right on your CV but not get across what you intend to truly convey. During my summers, a friend who works in HR saw my final placement CV and admonished me for not being able to communicate what I had accomplished.
Most of us are prey to thinking of our jobs as “What We Did” and not “So What Did I get Done that you should hire me for.”
The idea is to not use jargon just to reduce readability but to show what you did in a way that merits the effort YOU put in.
Go from “Did Market Research for a new line of hair colour and gave recommendations” to “Conceptualized Qualitative Research Questionnaire & surveyed 460 women in a guided interview. Assessed gaps post data analysis & recommend solutions that led to the creation of a sub-category for the business that contributes to 25% of topline business.”
To recap the post – the effort of CV building is not taking a word doc from your friend and editing it with your details.
It is understanding:
– Who YOU are.
– What do YOU want.
– Who are you writing this for – system, recruiter, hiring manager?
– How do you avoid over-communicating and keyword stuffing?
– How much research do you do to understand the hiring machinery that you aim to infiltrate?
– Tying in what you have learned from the above four points and succinctly condensing it down into a one-page (or at a stretch two-page) document with zero grammatical errors shows you have got what it takes.
A CV is a structured narrative.
If it does not automatically connect the dot between the recruiter’s expectations and what you offer then it has failed to do its job.
All the best!
First published here.
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Read books and track them on Goodreads (3K+). Podcaster at India Booked. Arming women with knowledge on personal finance. Marketer & Writer-at-large. read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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