Obviously a Curriculum Vitae is all about you, about the course of your professional life. But if you look at your own CV, you might be surprised to see how many opportunities you missed to tell the reader exactly what your role was in a major achievement or endeavour. If you’re not careful, the words you choose and how you structure a sentence can take the spotlight completely away from you.
Here are very basic tips that can help you keep the reader’s attention exactly where it belongs:
- Always start your resume sentence with a verb. A verb means action. Action means getting things one. (Nouns on the other hand are stagnant, inert.) And behind every action, there is a subject. That subject is you!
- Wherever possible, make sure that the action links back to you. Also tell the reader how you did it and with what outcome.
Before: “Improvements of company’s main application.” The sentence starts with a noun. No action there. And let’s see… it doesn’t state who did the improving and what those improvements contributed to the company. By asking my client a few more questions about the improvements, we can put the spotlight back on him and his talents.
After: “Reduced development time 50% by introducing n-Tier architecture and ORM technology.”
- Not all verbs are created equal — so choose them wisely! There are some that are a lot meatier than others. Always choose a verb that faithfully reflects your actual role, but that also speaks to your audience. Let’s see how we can fix this sentence:
Before: “Support negotiations by helping account managers with the business proposal preparation and pricing negotiations.” OK, this sentence does start with a verb, and continues with more verbs. But “support” and “help”, though they may truly represent her effort, (yes, it was indeed very helpful), don’t say too much about her role. When I asked her what she actually did to support negotiations and prepare proposals, I discovered that she did a lot more than this sentence initially leads me to believe. How does this sound instead?
After: “Led seven-member team in industry analysis and together identified competitive pricing as key issue to incorporate into business proposal.”
- Avoid the passive voice altogether. Keep all your writing in the active voice. I won’t go into any grammar jargon here. Basically, the passive voice, as it implies, is a bit roundabout. It normally uses the past-tense form of the verb be (was) + the past tense of another verb.
Before: “Project was executed in a timely fashion.” See how this wording doesn’t say anything about who actually carried out the action? Was it the candidate? The team (with or without the candidate’s contribution), the department, the guys in the mail room, or the summer intern? If we turn it around into an active voice we get:
After: “Executed the project implementation in a timely fashion.”
But even better: Let’s say how the candidate was able to execute the project in a timely fashion. “Ensured on-time project implementation through proactive trouble shooting and prompt conflict resolution.”
- Don’t forget the numbers! Keeping the spotlight on you has a lot to do with your ability to quickly communicate how you influenced outcomes. A good verb choice and the use of the active voice make for a great start. But really and truly, numbers often speak louder than words. They are easy to grasp at a glance and give the reader something they can really sink their teeth into. So if you improved something, sit down and figure out by how much. Numbers don’t always have to do with increasing sales and revenues; they can also relate to improving efficiency and much more. For example:
Before: “Professionalized approach to customer service, significantly increasing retention.” That’s great, but how and by how much? It might require some research, but believe me, it will be well worth it.
After: “Increased customer retention from 30% to 75% by introducing and training staff on a personalized service approach to first-time clients.”