How to write a CV that stands out

Jun 12, 2024

"Networking is not about just connecting people. It's about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities." — Herminia Ibarra

Blink your eyes a couple of times. That’s about how long it takes for a hiring manager to decide if your resume stands out.

Writing a great CV is crucial for any leader looking to advance their career. Your CV is not just a record of your career history; it's a strategic document that markets your unique value proposition. Here are some insights and tips to help you create an exceptional CV, drawing from real-world experience and best practices.

Tailor your CV to your audience

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to resumes because you need to consider your career story, your goals, and your target audience. Your CV is a marketing document. If you don't know who your audience is, you're not going to market yourself appropriately. Understand the company’s strategic goals and align your narrative to show how your skills and experiences meet their needs. This aligns with the strategic thinking we emphasise in our RISE Accelerate program, a 90-day career initiative designed to help women make their value more visible at work.

Make the first page count

Recruitment processes are often hasty. Recruiters and hiring managers scan documents quickly. Use the first page of your CV as a one-page version of your resume. Include a clear value proposition, present your skills profile, and provide a snapshot of your career highlights. This approach ensures that the essential information is easily accessible, allowing the reader to grasp your value quickly.

Focus on specific achievements

Be specific and outcome-oriented. Avoid generic lists of responsibilities. Instead, highlight specific details, outcomes, achievements, and results. This specificity builds trust and credibility by providing proof of your abilities. For instance, rather than stating you are a “great communicator”, describe how your communication skills led to a successful project outcome. Specific details and outcomes are the gold in your resume, proving your skills and demonstrating your value. This is a topic I discussed in depth with CV expert Salam Akhnoukh in Episode 59 of the Your Brilliant Career Podcast, where we explored how to write a great CV in today's business environment.

Maintain conciseness and clarity

Conciseness is key to an effective CV. Use clear, crisp sentence structures without fluff or repetition. A concise CV is easier to scan and digest, increasing the chances that key points will stand out to the reader. Over-information and border-to-border text are common pitfalls. Instead, provide key highlights and achievements relevant to the role you’re applying for.

Use professional layout and design

Formatting plays a significant role in making your CV easy to read. Use consistent font types, sizes, and bullet points. A clean and structured layout draws the reader’s eye to the most important information, making it easier for them to quickly grasp your qualifications and achievements. Consistent formatting helps in creating a document that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional.

Showcase leadership and strategic thinking

Executives are expected to be strategic leaders. Highlight instances where you have driven organisational change, led successful projects, or developed innovative solutions. Demonstrating your leadership and strategic thinking can differentiate you from other candidates and position you as a visionary leader.

Optimise for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Many organisations use Applicant Tracking Systems to filter CVs. Incorporate relevant keywords to increase your chances of passing through these systems. Analyse job descriptions and industry standards to incorporate appropriate keywords and phrases without compromising the natural flow of your CV.

Writing an exceptional executive CV requires a blend of strategic thinking and practical application. By tailoring your CV to your audience, making the first page impactful, focusing on specific achievements, maintaining conciseness, using a professional layout, showcasing leadership, and optimising for ATS, you can create a document that not only captures attention but also effectively communicates your value. Take control of your career progression with a CV that truly reflects your executive capabilities and potential.


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