So what’s the difference between a CV/resume as you know it and a value proposition? Ideally there should be no difference between the two terms at all, because your CV should be your unique promise of value expressing how you will solve an employer’s problem or contribute more effectively than any other candidate to address their needs.
Show How You Will Solve a Problem
If I adapt part of Investopedia’s definition of value proposition to a CV, I get this: “This document, if worded compellingly, convinces a potential employer that their skill set and expertise will add more value or better solve a problem for them than other similar candidates will.”
In reality, however, people don’t shape their CV into a value proposition for their target audience. Usually it is just a chronological list of job titles and responsibilities. In the best case scenario, they include some accomplishments and perhaps a few numbers.
4 Steps to Convert your CV into a Value Proposition
So if your CV is like most, how can you transform it into a value proposition? Here are a few steps that should get you on the right track:
- Take stock of your accomplishments, experiences and skills. You can read more about how to do this here. The idea is for you to lay all your cards out on the table. What hard skills do you have? What challenges have you overcome, how did you do so and what were the results? Are any of these quantifiable? And what are your soft skills? Normally I lean towards making a resume much more about hard skills because soft skills are too hard to assess on paper. (Everyone says they are a “great team player” or “great communicator,” so the statements are not differentiating and very difficult to demonstrate until you get to the interview.) However, for this “put your cards out on the table exercise,” you should list your soft skills with an example next to each describing how you have exhibited this ability on the job. Later you’ll decide whether to include them or not.
- Find out what your target audience really needs. Let’s say you are applying for a job as finance director at XYZ Company. According to the job description and information from your network, their main challenges relate to finding new ways to grow, especially through M&A, and they need to do an overhaul of their OPEX to identify and resolve inefficiencies.
- Identify which of your experiences exhibit the skills they are looking for. So now you have your cards on the table and you know their needs. Now you have to find a match. You look at your “cards” and come up with a few ways you can speak to those specific problems:
Cost Reduction | Operational Efficiencies: Reduced fixed costs €3M, expanded gross margin, and maintained average plant capacity throughout group at 95% by identifying excess production capacity.
Acquisitions | Risk Assessment: Increased turnover 30% without increasing fixed costs through acquisition of plant with €25M asset value. Negotiated favorable conditions, conducted risk assessment and forecasting based on new business model.
Profitability: Strengthened margins 3% by identifying price leaks and creating a target price tool.
Because you have 20 years of experience, you have lots more things you can say. But in order to communicate that you offer the precise value they need, you should take advantage of the “prime real estate” on your CV (i.e., where you have the reader’s attention the most, in the career summary and generally towards the top and left of the page.) That means you might have to leave lots of things off.
- Filter your experiences to prioritize content. So you have a list of about 10 really interesting things you can offer a company. But company XYZ in the example principally needs only 5 of those. The others are “nice to have” but not musts. That means, for every bullet or line you have on your CV you need to ask yourself, A: “Does this resolve their most immediate problems?” If the answer is no, then ask yourself, B: “Is it related or relevant to their business goals?” If the answer is yes, then it stays in the CV but is placed further down on the page. (You can think about it like playing Uno; to keep content on your CV, it has to match either the number or the color. If it matches neither, then it comes off.)
Remember that your CV is a marketing document that must convey the value you offer employers. That value may be different for every company so it is essential you understand who your reader is and what their main concerns are. Then shape your document into a clear solution to their problems.