Idealpeople Blog: CV Tips Part One: Lose the Adjectives

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

CV Tips Part One: Lose the Adjectives

Over the next few weeks, we'll be bringing you all some sensible strategies for putting together killer CVs.

CVs themselves are under a bit of fire at the moment - there’s an emerging school of thought that says that they are the worst way of selecting someone to hire (or even of distinguishing between candidates who should be interviewed and candidates who shouldn’t). This, in part at least, is down to the fact that pretty much everyone writes them in totally different ways: and a lot of people write really bad CVs.

Some great candidates write terrible CVs. Some weaker candidates write brilliant CVs. Love them or loathe them, for now at least they’re still the primary means for securing your dream future job and it’s vitally important to write a great CV if you are to get yourself to the interview ahead of the weaker candidate with the great CV.

The good news is that writing a great CV is relatively easy, provided you’re willing to follow a few simple steps.

Step One: Lose the Adjectives
It probably seems a little bit crazy, but one of the key principles of writing CVs is to use as few adjectives as possible.

A great CV, you see, is able to convey what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved and what you’re capable of. These three things are all completely and entirely measurable.

Adjectives mean description. Description means opinion. Opinion never won an argument.

Measured facts mean proof. Proof always wins arguments.

Consider the following:

I am a reliable, articulate, professional individual able to pick up new ideas and concepts quickly. I have significant ITIL expertise and a long background in delivering smooth change processes.

We see this a lot. What does it actually mean? It means the author thinks they are reliable, and that they think they are able to pick up new ideas and concepts. And it means that they think they are an ITIL expert.

Unfortunately, so do the other 400 applicants for this particular job.

Now consider the following.

In my last role, I managed the implementation of ITIL, saving the company over £10 million the following year.

Which is more impressive? Which of these statements stands out as being able to add value to a new employer? The £10 million candidate, or the articulate, reliable expert?

For all we know, the person writing the first statement might well have their company £20 million a year. But all the first person did was claim to be an expert. Indeed, for all we know, the first candidate might be just as good as the second candidate, yet the second will get interviewed long before the first purely on the basis that their CV is more compelling. And this is purely because it’s written from the point-of-view of fact and not opinion.

This is, of course, a simplistic example. However, if you go through your CV and try to take out every single adjective, you force yourself into talking about what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved and what you’re capable of in measurable terms.

And you’ll have a far, far more powerful CV.

Getting rid of adjectives isn’t easy. Even if you can’t physically take them all out, don’t despair: the practice of trying will force more measured detail, and less subjective statements.

Keep your eyes peeled for Step Two...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you employed by us? If not, why not? Seriously, if you would like to moonlight, I would welcome your joining my team of 80 CV Writing Consultants.


Well said!

Best regards

Rebecca Fuller