No such thing as a CV sellout

A few friends have recently asked me to lend them a hand, and it struck me
that it may be worth summing up a few of the ground rules.

A CV is designed to be a complete breakdown of everything about you that a
potential employer might need to know. From where you live, to your educational
and professional qualifications, to the skills you have developed through your
career. And these basics are, of course, fine.

But there is a much more important factor to consider when you are putting
your CV together ­ it is designed to be a selling document. The sale it is
designed to make is you.

This means that you have to write a CV in the way that’s going to market you
as best as possible. Now, it has to be said that I can be a little cynical about
some of the ‘CV tricks’ that people seem to use, so forgive me if you don’t
agree with what I am about to say.

First, I am not a fan of the five-line opening paragraph extolling your
virtues. I have yet to read one that says: ‘Average finance leader with an OK
sense of humour who can be pretty intolerant when people don’t deliver to

On that basis, I tend to think they are like the blurb you read on houses for
sale, or dating websites. They should be treated in the same way ­ and that’s
with caution. It’s the substance that matters, not the packaging.

A CV will sell you in two ways and the first of them is how it reads. If you
want to be seen as ‘waffly’, then waffle. Length is irrelevant, as long as it’s
worth reading.

I wanted to dispel the rule that says your CV must fit onto two pages. Eight
pages are too long, unless, I suppose, you have had a 30-year career. The crux
of the matter is to remember why you’re writing this thing.

Of equal importance is that a CV needs to be written in a way that is
designed to elicit the questions, whose answers make you the obvious candidate
for the role. For instance, bullet-point the achievements of which you are
proudest, and which you have enjoyed the most.

This will sell you better than talking about things for which you have no
passion for at all.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers, Ray &

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