Our recent post on how to write a CV that works has proved very popular. For some people though, the challenge is often to produce a CV that reflects the real person, something that they can ‘bring to life’ in the interview.
“Most people seem to feel a bit squeamish about their CV. Before you’ve even put finger to keyboard to write it the whole concept of it existing to “sell” you can induce that “eeeeew” feeling.
Then there’s that other uncomfortable thought that if you’re going to compete with people who don’t have a problem with over egging their skills and experience (think Apprentice candidates) then maybe you might need to stretch the truth a bit too.
Before you know it, you can get so caught up in trying to mould yourself to what you think the employer is looking for that that you’re writing a work of semi-fiction and have lost sight of what you genuinely have to offer. So it’s little wonder that you might not exactly believe the finished product.
So what can you do to strike the right balance between content that hits the mark for the employer but which you genuinely believe in too?
The answer is simply to put the job description to one side temporarily and start with you. Focus on getting clear about your skills and strengths and gather the evidence of using them to back them up.
Of course you should know what the employer is looking for and weave in relevant information when you get down to writing your CV, but for maximum authenticity it’s best to do this after you’ve put some serious thought into what you have to offer.
Begin by thinking of your strengths as being characteristics – things that generally feel like an extension of your personality and come relatively easily to you. And think of your skills as being acquired – things that you’ve learnt and trained in, either through formal education or on the job experience. There are bound to be overlaps but thinking of them this way is a useful starting point.
To help you uncover your strengths and skills try some of the following:
Think about feedback from managers and colleagues
What have past managers said to you when you’ve had appraisals? And what sort of informal feedback have you had? Although this might sound obvious, people tend to focus most on what they think they need to improve, and lose sight of what they’ve already been told they are good at. But if there’s been precious little feedback to draw on in your career so far……
Ask five people what they see as your biggest strengths and/or skills
Give them some time to think rather than putting them on the spot. At least two of them should be colleagues or ex colleagues. It might sound a little awkward but it’s a great way to potentially confirm strengths and skills you think you have and to find out if people see some in you that you aren’t aware of yourself. And you can offer to do the same for them.
Write a mini autobiography
Think about the ups and downs of your life and work so far. Which strengths were you drawing on when things were going well for you and what about when things weren’t going so well?
Think about what you are doing when you don’t really notice time passing
Generally speaking, when you’re totally absorbed in something it means that you’re using skills and strengths that are enjoyable for you. What we enjoy we tend to be good at and what we’re good at we tend to enjoy.
Do an on-line test like the Jobsite Personality Profile
Based on your answers to a wide range of questions about how you respond in certain situations this will give you a feedback report to help you better understand yourself and the work environments that are right for you. More food for thought and again, like asking others about your strengths, it can confirm strengths you’re already aware of and possibly throw up some new ones you hadn’t thought of before.
To really help bring home to you that you have particular strengths and skills, take each one in turn and use the formula of SSSO. Write down a situation, the skill(s) and strength(s) you used and the outcome of what you did. These are great for building your confidence further and helping you to take ownership of your skills and strengths. And because employers want evidence, not bland assertions of the “I have great people skills” variety, you should use pieces of your evidence in your CV and have some to draw on when you’re interviewed.
So, if you want a CV you can believe in it really boils down to switching your headset from “what’ll impress them?” to “what do I truly have to offer?” Once you know the answer to the last question, then you can go about the business of linking your evidence to the job description.
And never again will you feel a sense of unease about how you’ll be able to elaborate on what you’ve written when you land that all important interview….. “