Your curriculum vitae is your calling card in any quest to get a top corporate communications role. It also serves as an aide-memoire for companies and recruiters: one to which they can refer back and a way of sorting the good candidates from the others.
So how do you make your CV sell your skills as a brilliant communicator to would-be employers? Firstly, a CV is not an excuse to exercise your literary ambitions: brevity is essential. Stick to the facts.
‘Your CV needs to be succinct, to the point and objective. Bullet points are best,’ explains Edwina Goldman, managing director of JFL Search & Selection.
A good CV does not need to be any longer than two pages. Also think about the style: a CV should be a sober, sensible document. Recruiters recommend that it should not carry any photograph, nor be used as a chance to show your artistic side. It should be in black, in 12 or 14 point.
And you should use a simple, easy to read typeface – Ariel rather than Times New Roman. Don’t use Comic Sans Serif unless you want it to look like the CV of a nursery school teacher. Nor should you use capitals in the body text. Wayne Reynolds, director of Birchwood Knight points out: ‘It should be concise, easy to understand and should leave the reader wanting more: and wanting to meet you.’
The order of experience on a CV is important too: start with your most recent role and go back from that. Alice Weightman, founder and chief executive officer of Hanson Search, advises: ‘Give a short description of your duties and what you have achieved in that role. Follow it with earlier jobs and your educational qualifications. You should miss out any irrelevant jobs: no-one needs to know if you worked in a bar after leaving university.’
Don’t include interests: ‘No-one cares if you like skiing or whatever,’ says Gavin Ellwood, director of Ellwood Atfield. But do include relevant out of work experiences which show the breadth of your skills: so, for example, if you’re a charity trustee or magistrate make sure that’s on there.
But is it worth all this effort to prepare a good CV? After all, in this day and age most communication is online so a would-be recruiter can find out a lot about you without recourse to a formal written document. However, Sarah Leembruggen managing director of executive search specialists The Works, believes that a good CV is essential and it makes the difference between getting an interview and not getting one.
Your CV ‘needs to show your value as a communications director’, she says. And while it’s important to be precise when preparing a CV you also need to make sure that it shows your individual skills. That means you need to, within the confines of your CV, point to examples of your achievements in your present and previous jobs. Include specific outcomes where your skills were shown at their best, not just general statements.
It is really important, says Leembruggen, that when crafting your CV you ‘talk less about your responsibilities and more about your achievements. At the end of the day, it’s about your expertise and the benefits of hiring you. You need to sell it, not tell it’.
Think of your CV as a
way of getting across your skills – but remember no-one ever got a job just on
the strength of a CV although it might get you an interview. Treat
your CV as your first chance to impress would-be employers with your skills.
Reynolds adds: ‘The message we often get from clients is that they really value
writing skills and your CV is the first chance to show that you can communicate
accurately and succinctly. Most corporate affairs directors will say they have
a team of 20, but only two or three can write well: so, as a good writer, you
will be invaluable.’
So imagine your CV as a communications brief: it’s just that the difference is you are communicating your own, rather than your employer’s, message.
And if you’re still unsure how to create a great CV ask your recruitment specialist or headhunter: they have seen so many they will be able to guide you towards making one which will impress would-be employers.