Crafting a good CV

Crafting a good CV

Your CV is your personal sales pitch, so read the person specification as well as the job description, put yourself in the shoes of the reader – and sell your story.

When you’re looking to convince employers to hire you, a good CV is a core piece of your armoury. You may be a great candidate, with lots of skills and ready to make an impact – but if your CV is poor, recruiters may pass on giving you a chance. So what does good look like? 

Preparing your CV

Be Clear - In general, people don’t read CVs – they scan them. Set out your roles clearly so the reader can scan through your experience at a glance. List each role, the company and dates clearly in bold on one line, if possible, followed by an explanation. Your best qualification for your next role is often your current one so get it high up on page one and in the summary draw out the main responsibilities, taking care to ensure areas relevant to the role you are applying for. In order to maximise your worth, you will need to be leveraging as much of your previous experience as possible whilst still leaving room for professional and personal development.

Be relevant - When looking for your first role, you will need to list your student jobs and internships but bring out the areas that can be seen as relevant to your chosen career. Aspiring company secretaries and governance professionals should be highlighting experience in administration, influencing stakeholders, preparation and detail. Later in your career you can leave these out or summarise them all on a line or two.

Personal statement – Do you or don’t you? If your previous roles set out a clear direction of travel in your career and you intend to stay on that course, then a personal statement is often unnecessary unless there is something else you need potential employers to know. If you are starting out your career then I think a personal statement is important to set out your motivation for a company secretarial career and why. Or, if you have career experience and are planning a divergence from the path your career has taken to date. In either case, tell the reader why they are reading your CV. I call this the spill the beans statement!

Death by bullet point – there is a trend amongst employers to set out a job description purely with bullet points but candidates should avoid responding similarly. Bullet points are not the most efficient or effective way of communicating your experience. That is best done by short paragraphs followed by just a few bullets to draw attention to particular areas of note. Use bullets as you would a headline. If there is a whole page of headlines, then none will stand out!

Efficient with language – employers are looking for confident and efficient communicators who can say what they need to get across with efficient use of language. I draw the parallel between CVs and board papers. You need to give the reader just the information they need to make the decision in front of them, not all the information. There is no point telling us in your personal statement that you are a great communicator if you can’t demonstrate that with your CV.

No errors – it sounds obvious but be consistent with your punctuation and formatting. Your own words are often difficult to objectively appraise, so give your CV to a friend to proofread. Remember that an experienced company secretary or governance professional will be reading itand will be used to scanning text for errors.

Finally – question what the careers officers at school told us all which was to ‘Make your CV stand out’. I think this is the wrong takeaway. I think your CV should fit in: Fit in with what the reader is expecting and wants to see in a potential candidate. If you don’t think it does, it is probably not the right role for you.

John Roundhill FCG

John Roundhill is a Fellow of the Institute having qualified over 20 years ago with a long career advising listed companies. Ingen Partners is a recruitment consultancy specialising in the recruitment of company secretarial teams for UK Listed companies.

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