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As a senior executive recruitment consultant, I am often asked by many on my network “Is this a good CV?”.
To which the broad reply is usually, yes, if it reflects who you are and what you’ve done.
However, it is impossible to answer that question without fully understanding the individual’s career in context, and, usually for us, the specific role they’re applying for.
A good CV is good for a number of different reasons.
But is a good CV good enough at the senior executive level?
For me, what really matters is if it’s an effective CV.
And by effective, I mean, will it secure a conversation about that next role?
It needs to grab my attention as much as provide an overview of your ‘history’.
At its most basic function the CV is simply a response document that helps you respond to a requirement in your professional life.
Something we all do on a regular basis in other business situations.
However, as a senior exec or C-suite professional, communicating your education, career and achievements into a couple of A4 pages can be a tricky task (you’re allowed 3 pages if you’ve got the experience to merit it)!
A task made even more difficult when you factor in the need for a document that will ultimately separate you from the crowd and get you on the yes, not the maybe or no list.
What distinguishes a good CV from an effective CV?
A good CV at the senior executive level is clear, concise and to the point… No waffle!
It should address the role brief directly – “I am what you are looking for”!
First. Tell me who you are and where your are (I usually need to know!) and how to get hold of you (don’t hide your email and telephone number).
If you’re writing an opening paragraph or summary, keep things short, simple and to the point, and in a format that is professional and easy to read.
I prefer numbers to too many adjectives – P&L, budget responsibility, size of teams managed etc.
Then straight into reverse chronological roles – Most recent first.
Tailor the CV to reflect the requirements of the role – Make it easy for me to match you to the brief.
An executive CV should be polished, have the ability to stand out in a pile, and ultimately catch a CEO or HRD’s attention, not just mine.
Use a regular font, straightforward format and layout – It’s important.
Focus should be on high-level accomplishments and the key contributions you’ve made to your current and more recent previous employers.
Put some values to your achievements – I grew sales by £Xm from £Ym, for example.
Exploit your unique market position
Basic Marketing 101… What is your advantage over other candidates? Be explicit, don’t make me hunt for it.
What is your unique selling point? Mix of experience? Review the role brief.
Make sure your CV contains evidence that you meet the key deliverables and candidate profile requirements.
Think about the language you use to get their attention.
You’re allowed adjectives but again, I prefer relevant industry language – Do you talk my clients language?
Be clear in your own mind what our clients are looking for – The CV is your response to those requirements!
Focus on the measurable not personality traits
It’s one thing to say you’ve experience in X, however, it’s infinitely better to quantify that claim with Y.
You’re telling my client how much you’re going to make their organisation or save them if they hire you.
Numbers add context and attract the attention of those making the hiring decision – Don’t they?
In describing your achievements, show the scope of your role, significant contributions and your key achievements, ideally in order of value to the organisation.
Give our client a material sense of what you’ve achieved in previous roles and how you were able to deliver real results.
Past performance is the best indicator of future potential.
Remember that different metrics are important in different roles and industries. Talk the same language!
Focus on your career ‘wins’
At the senior exec level we’re focused on the impact each prospective candidate has had in their previous position, and more importantly what they’ll potentially bring to the role for which we’re recruiting.
We’re looking for the best achievers so don’t distract by writing a list of career objectives or responsibilities.
Focus on what will illustrate how you’ll tackle the role you’re applying for. Concisely.
Use the role brief, it’s designed to attract a specific profile of candidate.
Remember your CV’s not a static document
Tailor your CV to the brief you’re responding to. Identify and analyse the requirements of the role and the organisation you’re applying, and update/tailor your CV to respond to specifics of the brief.
If your CV isn’t focussed on the role, you may miss out.
Tailored CV’s are easy to spot and appreciated, ‘general’ CV’s less so.
Know what to include (and exclude)…
At the senior exec level, the hardest part is often deciding and knowing what to leave off your CV.
Look to reduce older detail.
Don’t leave any gaps but it has to be relevant, concise and easy to digest.
As you currently hold (or recently held) a senior position, then your career trajectory will demonstrate much of what is needed to perform at that level. We can see progress.
Avoid the old clichés of “strong team player” and “driven senior executive”. Everyone is “dynamic, goal-orientated and focussed” etc.
Limit your CV to 2-3 pages, career history, detail from the last 10 years, focus on the recent roles relevant to the one you’re applying.
The older stuff, summarise in a simple line or two – Job titles, dates, employer, sector.
Education? School, numbers of GCSE’s (O Levels) and A Levels. University, dates and qualifications (plus any post-grad qualifications). Keep it strictly professional!
Competition for the top roles is fierce, so we’ll be checking your LinkedIn…
LinkedIn profiles are like opinions – everybody has got one.
Make sure it is up to date and supports your CV, is professional but not necessarily too detailed.
As a senior exec you must advertise your suitability for the role on paper, online and in person (or via video conferencing at the moment).
These days LinkedIn is often a fundamental component of your overall professional presence, and, despite its imperfections, the most relevant social media platform for modern exec careers.
It’s good practice to make sure your profile is as polished as your CV, up to date and offers me and perhaps others considering approaching you, the right first impression.
If you’re clever, customise your public profile URL to something easy to look at and type out from the printed CV. Or, if like me and prefer instructions, try LinkedIn’s help pages here.
Leave them off for now… Our clients generally only require references at the end of the process and for shortlist or preferred candidates only.
Many of our candidates will often have two, three even four stages of interviews and assessments for you to tackle before references come into play.
On occasion, we may reference earlier in the process, but not usually.
If our client does make an offer, it’s then we’ll ordinarily talk about references.
The aim of your CV is to simply get you in the game. Use the space to stake your claim – We’ll validate later.
Stick to the facts
Tell the truth. Sounds obvious? Be positive but it should go without saying that embellishments, exaggerations or bare faced lies have no place on a CV.
Once I don’t trust you, it’s game over.
You may be surprised with some of the CV falsehoods we’ve exposed over the years. Not very often I may hasten to add, but…
Ask a trusted friend to look at it
Get a fresh pair of eyes on your CV, a new perspective.
Does it represent you well?
Are you under-selling yourself?
You’ll be surprised what other people will find, from missed typos to suggesting better ways to phrase.
Ask a few fellow trusted professionals in your network to give their opinions.
Feedback can be subjective so get a few different opinions.
In executive recruitment, connections and industry expertise are essential to landing new roles, so use them.
A strong effective CV is the starting point, and you can always offer to return the favour in the future.
Once you have your ‘generic’ CV you can tailor it to suit individual responses. It’s purpose is to secure the next call or interview.
Of course if you’re not a strong match to the role brief, no amount of tailoring will fix that. Move on to the next opportunity, the one where you are what they’re looking for. That’s when the phone rings.
If you’re looking for your next role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation. If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.