Creating The Ultimate CV
Why It's Important
Most CVs receive less than a minute-and-a-half of reading time, so creating a strong CV which stands out is essential. The best way to do this is to rewrite your CV for each and every opportunity, tailoring it to the specific role for which you're applying.
Your CV should evidence that your skills, knowledge, experience and personality are a good match against the role, and ideally demonstrate that you can add value.
Whenever possible, make time to investigate the customer organisation. Consider these questions:
- What are the organisation's values and strategic goals?
- Where does the role sit within the company, and why is it needed?
- What is the focus of the organisation's business change programmes and projects?
Having this background knowledge and using it to help you shape your CV may help you stand out from the crowd.
Language and Tone
Take note of the specific language used in the advert or job specification, as well as the general tone of their publications and website. You may wish to reflect this in your CV. Similarly, if the job specification lists a particular methodology (such as PRINCE2), it can be helpful to use the methodology's language to describe your work experience and achievements. This will highlight your compatible skills and your ability to step seamlessly into their organisation.
Your CV should be written in third person, using the past tense. Use active language and 'action' verbs such as “achieved” or “delivered” to describe your work experience. Avoid passive phrases such as “responsible for”.
When revising your CV, we suggest you include these sections:
- Education and Professional Qualifications.
- Security Clearance, Nationality and Right to Work in the UK.
- Key Experiences and Skills.
- Recent Work Experience.
Use a short statement at the top of your CV's first page as an opportunity to showcase your skills and strengths. It's well worth tailoring your profile each time you submit your CV against a new role. Keep it fairly brief, one or two paragraphs will do, but ensure they reflect the skills and experience which are relevant to the post.
If you're a Project Manager, be sure to highlight your managerial experience, including budgeting, methodologies used, team leadership, etc.
- Specify how many years of project management experience you have, and bring attention to the range of customers, size of projects and matrix of stakeholders with whom you've collaborated.
- Use active language to convey that you have analytical skills, are able to work on your initiative, and that you can understand and respond to your customers needs.
- Remember to evidence your softer skills such as sponsor and stakeholder management, communication, etc.
- Mention the range of sectors you have worked across or specialise in, as well as any relevant technologies or methodologies in which you're proficient which match the customer's requirement.
2. Education and Professional Qualifications
Include any professional certifications and licenses in this section, as well as training courses, relevant educational qualifications and ccurrent professional memberships. Keep the list short and appropriate to match the qualifications required for the job.
- List your relevant qualifications in reverse chronological order, i.e. beginning with the most recent.
- Make a clear division between personal qualifications (such as a degree or PhD) and relevant professional qualifications (such as PRINCE2 Practitioner, ITIL Foundation etc).
- When listing your professional qualifications, specify the course title, the level reached, and membership number where appropriate. Distinguish training courses from accreditations and certificates.
- If you belong to any relevant organisations, specify the type of membership you hold.
3. Security Clearance, Nationality and your Right to Work in the UK
If you hold a current UK security clearance, specify the level and length of time you have held it for. If you are not a British citizen, indicate that you have the legal right to work in the UK.
4. Key Skills and Experience
Your key skills must be relevant and a direct match to the role you are applying for. What specialist knowledge, skills, or methodologies have you acquired that match the requirement?
Present your key skills and experience in a clear and logical format, making sure to use examples that are directly related to your work history. The use of bullet points can help draw attention to specific points you wish to communicate upon.
- If you are a Project Manager, use this section to show your ability to lead and manage, qualifying the size and complexity of the projects you have delivered. Provide short examples of your experiences; requirements gathering techniques, relationship building, stakeholder management and your role and project management responsibilities.
- List the major projects that you've worked on, summarising the key objective in one sentence and the key issues to be addressed in another. Use this to demonstrate your awareness of customers' objectives. Where this is not possible due to confidentiality arrangements, identify this issue and consider how else you can communicate your achievements.
- Detail the range of management responsibilities you held, the number of reports you managed, and who you reported to. Also outline who you had to consult and collaborate with, both internally and externally.
- Describe your customer management responsibilities, such as helping customers with change management activities.
- If you provided, or developed documentation, user training, or skills transfer, mention this.
5. Recent Work Experience
As with your qualifications, present your work experience in reverse chronological order. Specify job title, duration and company, and briefly summarise your role, including metrics and scope.
- Define, quantify and qualify all your achievements, and highlight any projects that you've led throughout the entire life cycle, from design through to completion and benefits realisation.
- Mention the size of the teams you've been involved with and the number of departments and/or organizations you've liaised with on projects
- Emphasise where your projects have completed to time and to budget, and evidence objectives met and benefits delivered. Where problems arose expand on the restricting factors that influenced project delivery and how you managed them.
- Evidence your experience and understanding of all key stages. Identify that you have understood, defined and shaped customers' needs through successful delivery and do mention the number of users involved, as this conveys the scale of the work you've successfully overseen
- Include achievements that demonstrate your ability to design solutions to meet customer needs and your ability to engage with new ideas, products and industry developments.
- Take the time to tailor your CV and highlight specific achievements to suit each new role.
- Use positive, confident language, and include key words and phrases from the job specification.
- Emphasise your key experience and skills.
- Keep it short. If possible to a maximum of two pages in length.
- Keep it simple. There's no need to include photos, date of birth, or marital status.
- Always ask someone to proof read for typos and errors before sending.
- Ask for feedback whenever you can and keep improving and simplifying the content at all times.