So you’ve just got a call from a recruitment consultant. And you need to send them your CV pronto. No problem, you still have the CV that you had made a few months / years / centuries ago when you applied for this job, and all you need to do is update your current role and submit it. Right?

Wrong.

Your CV, or for those with an eye for detail, Curriculum Vitae is a brief biography of your expertise, achievements and potential. It’s an advertisement to the world of recruiters, talent managers and organizations, showcasing your uniqueness in this vast sea of mediocrity. It’s your chance to get what you think you deserve. A properly written CV can open doors for you. Of course, the interview matters a lot, but you won’t get to that stage if your CV sucks.

How should you approach your CV? Let’s look at some of the aspects:

  1. A CV is more than chronological order of your job titles: Yes, you do need to provide information in some format. And yes, that format is better presented in a chronological order, starting with the current job you are handling, and running backwards. Having said that, a CV is not only a listing of your job titles. If you are amongst the majority, that information is already available on your LinkedIn profile.  The CV needs to add flavour to this chronology, and it needs to bring out your traits, strengths, focus areas, what do you excel at, and your aspirations.
  2. Length of the CV matters, but not in the way you think: A lot many times job aspirants are advised to restrict their CV length to one page. The reason given is that recruiters don’t have time these days to go through lengthy autobiographies. That is right to some extent. No one is interested in knowing how good or bad your schooling years were, or how many crushes you had in college. But don’t let brevity become the enemy of important. It is important to highlight the value you bring to the table, and if that requires a longer description, by all means spend that extra effort and ink.
  3. What is your story: All of us make certain career choices, and we have our reasons for making those choices. To an outsider, some of them may look baffling, random or outright incorrect. And if that outsider is the recruiter, you  will have a hard time getting through the screening process. What is your story? What has led you to your current job? What are your motivators? What excites you? Do you have a coherent action plan, or are you driven by luck and opportunity? If you’ve taken a road less travelled, you need to highlight your story. If you have stuck to a more traditional career choice, you need to highlight your rationale behind that.
  4. Actions versus words: For the action oriented, a CV can feel like such a waste of time. Why bother writing much, when you can highlight your career achievements in one word. Perhaps you have a great social media fan following, or you contribute to expert forums. That’s great! Put that on your CV. But show something that links your sense of achievement to hard facts.
  5. Will anyone even read my CV: With the advent of automated screening software, a lot of job aspirants worry that their CV will not make the cut. If you were to google it, you will come across quite a few service providers who can ‘search optimize’ your CV. By all means research this topic, and take action as per your understanding. However, even after automated screening, a human being is still going to go through your CV!

So where should you start? Here is a list of things you need to keep in mind while working on your CV.

  1. Update your CV regularly. This has multiple benefits. Firstly, when you go through your own CV, you may end up finding errors, grammatical mistakes, or factual inaccuracies. Second, whenever you achieve a goal professionally, it’s much easier to remember the details and jot them down. A few months later, all your achievements in existing job may start looking very hazy, and you may miss out on mentioning some wonderful work you have achieved. Third, and most important, you come across as a far more coherent story. As an analogy, a CV is like building a very complex structure, and it’s always work in progress. If you try to rush the job, it can indeed look very shoddy!!
  2. Never copy paste someone else’s CV. I know, the temptation is just too much. All you have to do is remove the parts that don’t apply to you, and you’re done. But therein lies the pitfall. It’s like trying to force yourself into someone else’s shoes. Even if the size matches, you will be very uncomfortable, since every shoe adapts to its owner’s feet. You can get ideas, you can also copy the format, but please, do justice to your professional skills and write your own stuff.
  3. Take feedback and inputs on the stuff you’re putting into your CV. While you may believe that you’ve achieved significant milestones, or have a very good story to tell, take feedback from others. Ask your friends, mentors, or if possible, a recruiter to give you unbiased opinion on your CV.
  4. Tell your story please. Don’t just rattle off numbers, achievements, titles, awards. Tell the world what excites you, what are you passionate about, what your dreams are, and what potential do you have.
  5. Last but not the least, be professional. You can find innumerable pieces of advice on writing your CV. The most persistent, and the most common advice you will come across is the use of proper language. NEVER EVER compromise on that. Typos, slang, grammatical errors, shorthand, jargon, sarcasm….well, you get the drift.

Landing a job is dependent on a much larger set of things, including demand and supply, economic scenario, job market, role related developments etc. Your first interface, in most circumstances, will be through your CV. Work on it properly, and it can become your ambassador and trusted war horse. Use it unwisely, and you may end up waiting for your dream job, while others move on with their life.

And seriously, your CV deserves a better treatment from you for all the work it gets done!!

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