Avoidable CV mistakes executives make and how to stand out

My colleague Jeanette recently wrote an article about writing an effective CV (https://www.collingwoodsearch.co.uk/our-insights/board-insights/top-performer-six-cv-tips-to-make-your-potential-clear), which outlines some very relevant points, aside from the myriad of advice available that often points out the obvious!!

The majority of Collingwood's work involves researching and approaching the best talent for a specific assignment.  A CV therefore only reaffirms what we already suspect rather than acting as a catalyst to an individual going on a "yes" pile.

That said, a small portion of our work does involve wading through CV's. Likewise, even stable, strong candidates can occasionally find themselves in a situation where they need to market themselves to a given industry.

Common mistakes I see in CV's include:

  • Candidates not selling to their given audience. I have 15 years' recruiting within the built environment and so, admittedly, tend to grasp a persons suitability from viewing the companies, positions and timelines on their CV. This takes 10 seconds. Not all readers will have this level of knowledge. Under each position header, put a two to three sentence explanation as to the size (turnover / head count) of the businesses you have worked for, the division you work within, the product / service offered and markets satisfied (name dropping a couple of key clients).
  • Add context to the reader.  So you're a Managing Director of ABC Engineering.  Adding the above provides me with an appreciation of the size of your role but what was your brief - increase revenues and margin or to decrease stock and waste?  I want to know who you reported into, your level of ownership over a certain region / department and the disciplines that directly reported to you.
  • Quantify your achievements. This is a massive irritation of mine. So you increased productivity within the plant. Great.  I would have expected that given your main focus has been exactly this over the past four years!  Having included your brief upon accepting the role I want to know by how much you increased productivity (£ and / or %).  This mistake is especially prevalent within marketing and sales roles. Include a brief explanation as to how this was achieved but leave a comprehensive overview for when we meet (this will also help with the flow of our conversation)
  • Use language that demonstrates ownership of a given strategy, change etc.  "Directing, driving, empowered to" read far stronger than "managed, coordinated etc"
  • Ensure you use a headline / mission statement that knocks the reader for six.  Personally this can often be the difference between your CV ending up on the "yes" from "maybe" pile. Again, ensure powerful language is used and avoid generic, cliched terms like "hard working" and "team orientated".
  • Whatever you do please ensure there is consistency between this CV and your LinkedIn profile. Decision makers will check.  Labeling yourself as an Operations Director on your CV but as a Managing Director on LinkedIn is a sure fire way to your CV being deleted and you not progressing in a recruitment process.

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