CV Writing by Caroline Vooght at Expion
Caroline is an experienced recruiter for the Food/FMCG industry. With over 20 years’ experience, she’s seen her fair share of CVs and is able to advise on what clients and hiring manager are looking for. As part of the Expion Search and Selection team, she offers recruitment and support for both clients and candidates and this is the first in a series of articles offering insight to the YFJ audience.
CV Writing can be a minefield if you don’t know where to start. There are hundreds of online templates and there is a plethora of advice and guides available. Everyone has an opinion. Plenty of elements people think should be included, things people think should be left off, differing opinions on ordering, layout. The list goes on…
Step 2 – Personalise your CV
Start with a personal statement.
Tell the reader who you are, what you offer and what you are looking for. Think like a hiring manager, not like a candidate. Imagine you are the person reviewing the CV. Can you showcase what the business is looking for in an opening statement? If you can, the reader will be encouraged to read on.
Read the job description, note the key requirements listed, and make sure your profile statement summarises you and your experience in a way that is directly relevant to those requirements. Make it easy for the reader and do the work for them.
If you received your own application, what would you think? Would YOU hire YOU? It is better your personal statement answers that question than relying on a busy hiring manager, recruiter, or HR professional to read through the CV and draw out the best examples for you.
Once you have a statement template then all you need to do it tweak it to fit each role. Here’s a great example:
‘Degree qualified, award-winning Marketing Director with over 15 years working in the Food Industry working across bakery, chilled and frozen categories. Proven track record of turning under-performing brands into market leaders within very short timescales. Responsible for many innovative and successful new product launches such as Double Chocolate Cookies which took 15% market share within 12 weeks against a dominant market leader. Seeking a Marketing Director role in a business within the Food to Go category working with the UK grocery retailers and the opportunity to develop, formulate and drive a 3 year marketing plan.
Step 3 – Write a brief summary of each role you have had, bullet-pointing key responsibilities and achievements underneath each one
Clearly state the business you work(ed) for, your role / job title and dates (and give months rather than just years).
Explain what the business does / did. List which products the business makes, key customers (name the supermarkets / foodservice / B2B customers) or brands, the locations and size of the business.
This quickly contextualises your experience. Repeat for previous roles (but don’t ramble). Don’t assume the reader knows what you know and don’t feel compelled to include lots of jargon or acronyms. Keep it simple and to the point.
List your responsibilities in 3-4 points (rather than copy and paste your job description), and generate 3-4 key achievements per role. You don’t have to list everything you do and have done, select what’s most appropriate to the role you are applying for. This will help with interview preparation as well but is also a very useful way to cut through a bloated and meaningless CV and inject some punch and credibility into it.
It’s not about the length of the CV (of course a 30-year career will take longer to put down on paper than if you’re a graduate 3 years in), it’s about explaining each role in a way that give the reader a quick understanding what was required of you and how you achieved this. It’s OK to be brief about roles early in your career – don’t list every responsibility you had in your first role if it’s 20 years since leaving school!
There shouldn’t be anything on there that you don’t feel reflects you in your best light and that you are not comfortable and confident talking about if asked. When it comes to an interview, your CV will be the main tool that the interviewer refers to when you meet. Having less on the CV means you can restrict it to those strong ‘interview-proof’ examples and cut out anything that may take an interview off on a tangent.
Your CV and the key information on should act as a guide for not only the internal recruiter who picks it up, but also for the interviewer who needs to fill an hour with useful conversation with you. So why not help them structure that hour with good, relevant, and impactful detail.
Step 4 – Don’t lie or be evasive
It’s much easier for someone to criticise something than to praise it. If you have a gap in your employment then be honest about it. Don’t spin some elaborate web of deceit.
Sometimes life just happens and that’s okay. If you lost your last job or struggled to find another one straight away after a maternity leave, or if you made a mistake in taking a role, and needed to leave quickly, then just say so. The worst thing is just to leave it blank. The person reading the CV will just fill in that blank with all kinds of negative suppositions and then move on to the next CV in the pile.
‘Interests’ – should you list them or not. Yes absolutely. But make them interesting….walking, going to the cinema, spending time with family and friends. Let’s face it, we all do this. Say something about YOU. Do you raise money for charity, have you won awards, trained for a goal? These are great ways to show something about your personality and may well strike a chord with the interviewer.
The Final Step - The ‘Essential Skills’
All employers look for some essential skills in their employees. Once you’ve written your CV, go back through it and check you’ve included these in some form.
They could be in your responsibilities, achievements, and even interests.
It’s important to demonstrate the essential skills that most employers seek, whether you are looking for consulting roles or an employed position at this stage in your career:
- Teamwork and planning for the whole organisation, not just one area / department. Show this across several roles and it will become a ‘theme’ and unless you’re working in a very solo role, will be important to any hiring manager.
- Leadership especially where you are able to demonstrate effectiveness at enhancing the skills and outcomes for others, leading teams through change, as well as making difficult decisions around performance and redundancy.
- Problem Solving and showing value to a future employer by finding solutions. This could be all sorts of things but make them relevant to what you do. If you’re in sales, identifying and bringing on new business, is one thing, but delivering the business within the parameters of new SLA’s or business processes is an enhanced skill.
- Creativity and the ability to think outside the box. Whilst that sounds cliché, think about where you’ve come up with ideas that are different to the norm, and maybe not done before in the business. Think laterally.
- Presentation skills and the ability to manipulate data (which is becoming ever more prevalent) in the workplace today. Infographics and visual presentations are becoming more important than even in the presentation of data.
- Listening and where you have been able to support others, listen and act on the requirements of business leaders or take the initiative and foresee a situation and respond proactively to change an outcome.
- Goal setting for yourself and others, and leading people/taking them on a ‘journey’. You can demonstrate this through examples through your career where you’ve defined goals and delivered against them as a team.
And there you have it – nothing more, nothing less. There is no magic to putting together a CV, but there is a science behind it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all by any means, and some industries have their own particular requirements and expectations, but a lot of people can agonise to the point of stagnation over putting a CV together, particularly if they have not had to do one for many years.