Unlock the Secrets to Crafting a Winning CV

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Mar 14, 2024

Crafting the perfect CV is an art that requires a strategic approach to highlight your strengths and achievements in a professional and compelling manner. Your CV is often the first point of contact with potential employers, and making a strong first impression is crucial, as most recruiters will only spend a few seconds scanning it before deciding whether to keep reading.


Layout and Formatting

A clean, professional layout is the foundation of a good CV. It should be easy to read and visually appealing. Search the internet for modern templates you can use.

  • Use a sans-serif font like Arial or Calibri at size 10-12 for body text and 14-16 for headings. This ensures readability across different devices and platforms.

  • Implement a clear hierarchy with bold section headings (e.g., Education, Work Experience), and use bullet points for listing details to make the content easy to scan.


Consistency in Action Words

Initiating each bullet point with a dynamic verb effectively conveys your contributions and sets a proactive tone for your CV.

  • Instead of saying "Was in charge of," use "Managed." It directly showcases your leadership and responsibility.

  • Swap "Helped in making reports" for "Spearheaded the generation of monthly reports." This highlights collaboration and specificity in your role.


Using Achievement-Oriented Language

Shift from a task-based description to one that focuses on accomplishments and outcomes. This approach illustrates your impact and value-added.

  • Rather than "Responsible for sales," say, "Increased sales by 30% within six months through strategic client engagement and product promotion."

  • Instead of "Participated in team meetings," prefer "Contributed to team strategy sessions, resulting in a 20% increase in project efficiency."


Quantifying Contributions

Incorporating numbers into your CV provides tangible evidence of your effectiveness and achievements.

  • "Managed a team of 5" becomes more impactful as "Led a team of 5, achieving a 95% project delivery rate on schedule."

  • Convert "Worked on budget management" to "Administered a budget exceeding $100,000, cutting costs by 10% without compromising on quality."


Summarise your Achievements

A concise statement at the top of your CV that summarizes your experience, skills, and career objectives. This section should be tailored for specific roles and detail how your background aligns with the job requirements.

  • Example: "Dynamic marketing professional with 5 years of experience in the technology sector. Proven track record in driving brand awareness and sales through innovative strategies. Seeking to leverage expertise to contribute to the marketing team at XYZ Corp."


Include Relevant Skills

The skills section of a CV is a critical component that showcases your abilities and competencies, enabling you to stand out from other candidates. Focusing specifically on hard skills, which are the technical, tangible abilities you've acquired through education, training, and experience, can significantly boost your attractiveness to potential employers.

  • Example: "Business Analysis & Strategy Development, Project Management, Data Analysis & Visualization, Client Relationship Management."


Interests and Activities

If space allows, including a brief section on relevant personal interests or volunteer activities can provide a fuller picture of who you are and may offer talking points for an interview.

  • Example: "Volunteer social media coordinator for a local animal shelter, increasing adoption rates by 40%."


Optimise for ATS

Tailoring your CV for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is crucial in today's job market, as many companies use these systems to manage the overwhelming number of applications they receive. An ATS-friendly CV can greatly increase your chances of getting your application seen by human eyes. These systems scan CVs for keywords and phrases that match the job description, so including relevant terms related to the position and industry is essential. By optimising your CV for ATS, you ensure that your application passes through the initial screening process, thereby improving your chances of being considered for the role.

By carefully crafting each section of your CV and tailoring the content to highlight your achievements and the value you bring, you can significantly increase your chances of catching the eye of hiring managers. Remember, the goal of your CV is not just to show what you've done but to inspire potential employers to see what you can do for them.


What to Avoid

When crafting your CV, it’s as much about what you leave out as what you include. Here are some key things to avoid to ensure your CV focuses on your competencies and accomplishments:

  • A Photo: Including a photo can open you up to potential discrimination, as hiring decisions should be based on skills and achievements, not appearance. Exceptions exist for roles where appearance is directly relevant.

  • Hyperbole and Generic Adjectives: Words like "hardworking," "team player," and "ambitious" are overused and lack specificity. Instead, focus on concrete accomplishments and quantify your achievements.

  • Redundant Contact Labels: Listing your email and phone number on your CV is essential, but prefacing these with "Email" and "Phone Number" is unnecessary. The formats are recognisable enough without labels.

  • Outdated Education Details: If you have more than five years of professional experience, detailed listings of your academic accomplishments are not needed. Older educational achievements can usually be summarised or omitted.

  • Full Postal Address: A full postal address is not required and can be a privacy concern. Listing your general location, such as "London, UK" is sufficient until a job offer necessitates providing your full address.

  • Political Affiliations or Sports Team Preferences: Sharing your political views or favourite sports teams can inadvertently create biases or judgements. Keep the focus on your professional qualifications and achievements.

  • Personal Details Unrelated to the Job: Age, sexual orientation, and religion are personal details that do not affect one's ability to perform a job. Including these can expose you to discrimination and detract from the focus on your skills and competencies.

By avoiding these elements, your CV will present a professional, focused, and achievement-oriented image that appeals to recruiters and hiring managers. This will ensure that you are judged solely on your merits and suitability for the role.


How (Not) to Fail at Consulting

Jack Przemieniecki, managing partner at Cogneo Group, authored "How (Not) to Fail at Consulting" and "The Consulting Handbook" with the aim of guiding aspiring consultants through the complexities of the industry. These resources are designed to provide practical advice, strategies, and insights drawn from interviews with consulting leaders, helping newcomers avoid common pitfalls and succeed in the competitive world of consulting. Through these books, Jack seeks to equip readers with the tools and knowledge necessary to navigate their consulting careers effectively, from securing clients to delivering impactful advice.


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About Cogneo

About Cogneo

Cogneo is a leading independent digital transformation consultancy focused on accelerating innovation and engineering advanced technology, data, and artificial intelligence solutions that empower customers and teams.

We leverage CX, AI, ML, and data analytics to craft bespoke strategies, robust platforms, custom tools, and CRM/ERP integrations. Our collaborative, human-centred innovation approach rapidly identifies opportunities to drive meaningful results and deliver tangible value. Contact us to transform your business and create something truly remarkable. 

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