Idealpeople Blog: How to Write a CV Part Two - What's In it For Me?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How to Write a CV Part Two - What's In it For Me?

How to Write a CV Part Two - What's In it For Me?

Welcome to Part Two of our CV writing guide. In case you didn't catch it, part one is here.

Before we begin, let's talk about selling for a moment. There are many different ways of "selling" a product or service. We're generalising a little, but a bad sales pitch generally follows the structure of get in touch - talk about what the company/product do or does - ask if it's of interest. A good sales pitch, on the other hand, follows the structure of get in touch - identify problems - explain how the product/service solves those problems - close deal. This is called a "benefit-led" sale. The relatively simple premise is that you have a far higher chance of gaining interest if what you're offering solves a problem faced by the customer than you do if you just tell them about the product's features.

For all intents and purposes, a CV is a Sales Pitch. It's your chance to pitch your background, skills and experience to a hiring manager. As with any Sales Pitch, it's vital that you make room in the CV document for Benefit-led-selling. It's a very powerful technique - particularly because hardly anyone does it. Now, before you wince at the thought of selling yourself, which often requires hideous amounts of 'self assessment', take a look at this easy methodology.

First let's look again at the problem. We would rate the majority of CV's we get sent here at Idealpeople (And we are talking about a prevailing number of people in the £40,000 and higher bracket - nearly twice as high as the national average wage in the UK) as poor - primarily because

They simply offer a monotone historical dialogue - they almost read like your average job specification.

For Example:

- I was in charge of the corporate website
- I managed a team of 15 developers
- I conducted business analysis of a proposed CRM system

OK, so we concede that this type of information is useful to a point, and we also know that there's a hangover from Auntie or Uncle telling you that urban legend about CVs needing to be 2 pages or shorter or else they won't be read (quite simply the worst piece of advice ever given out).

Think about why companies recruit.

Do they do it just for the sake of it? No.
Do they do it just because they fancy having another employee knocking around the office? No.

They do it because they have a problem or problems which need solving. They need to buy people and skills to solve that problem.

What a CV should really do is answer the questions in the employer or recruiter's mind:

- What will this person deliver for me?
- Will they be able to solve my problem?
- What kind of return am I likely to get on my investment in this person?
- What has this person delivered in the past and what was the benefit for their employer at the time? What problems did they solve?

So, in simple terms, you should, where possible, mention a benefit or impact for every 'feature' of your experience, and even in every descriptive point about what you did. Think for a second what measurable value your last employer(s) gained from you being there. What was the impact of what you did?

Applying this principle to the above statements, we can change them to:

- I held responsibility for the corporate website, and was the driver behind a total design overhaul of the 3000 pages it contained. The outcome of this overhaul was a five-fold increase in visitor traffic and improved user feedback. This extra traffic led to a £500K increase in online sales.
- Through my management of a de-motivated team of Developers, I managed to reduce staff attrition from 60% to 6%.
- I conducted business analysis of a proposed CRM system, and the results were presented to the board. A decision was taken to implement the software, and as a direct consequence, customer uptake increased from 2000 to 3400 in a six month window.

Now, you could argue that we already solved the problem in our last set of tips - getting rid of the adjectives leads to facts rather than conjecture, and reveals proof and fact rather than personal opinion. Well, we think that by applying a further layer of features AND benefits, rather than just plain old features is a design overhaul your CV probably desperately needs. Also note that, yes, there ARE adjectives in the above statements. However, not a single one of them is subjective in nature of sits without being backed-up by hard statistics, in benefit form.

CVs with no benefits suggest someone who's never had a positive impact on their employer - otherwise known as someone who's never solved a problem, otherwise known as someone who isn't that attractive to hiring managers.

Take another look at your CV and ask yourself: "How many of my features need benefits?"


DSEyers said...

Nice article!

Do you offer a service to revamp/improve CV's?

Do you have a common mocked up CV and an improved version of the CV you could attachment to the blog?

Idealpeople said...

Hi Darren,

At the moment no, we don't offer a service. However, I'd be happy to have a look at the CV for you and offer you some free consultancy. E-mail me here and I'll be happy to help.

Idealpeople said...

Sorry Darren, that link doesn't work...I meant here :