By Angela Tjalsma, CV Editor, Sli Nua Careers (Ballinrobe)
Q: I am looking for something to give my CV a bit of ‘oomph’. I feel it is quite drab. I am a shy person by nature and I don’t really like talking myself up too much. I know from your previous columns that the onus is on me to sell myself, but are there any other ways of promoting myself without appearing to be boastful? (RH, email).
A: Before I give you one tip that can have a transformative effect on your CV, I would reiterate that, as you say, the onus is on you to ‘talk yourself up.’ This is a point I cannot make too often. In the job-searching arena, the impetus must start with you, and you must accept responsibility for portraying your best skills, attributes, characteristics and experience to the employer.
In terms of giving your CV a lift in the manner you describe, there is a technique we use which can have the required impact. First of all, it involves getting written references from previous employers, tutors, customers or others who can vouch for you. As a general rule, you should accumulate references as you move through your career – and the time to get them is ‘when the iron is hot’, rather than ten years later when the person who knows you best may have moved on to a different company, retired or perhaps even died.
Select the best couple of sentences from one of these references. By ‘best’, I mean the sentences that highlight your skills, characteristics, attributes or experience in the strongest manner. Near the top of the front page of your CV, create a section called Referee Description, and place the selected sentences there. Attribute them to the person who wrote the reference.
This will have the effect of offering a third-party validation of your skills. It is no longer just you saying that you’re great; it’s somebody else doing it for you.
Be wary of questions that deceive
Here are just some of the question types you may have encountered in job interviews:
- Ones that lead you up the garden path – where you don’t realise that while they are sitting their nodding their heads enthusiastically as you unfurl your answer, in fact you are talking yourself clean out of the job by revealing fatal weaknesses;
- Ones that distract you – you come out saying “they really liked me – you wouldn’t believe it but one of the guys on the panel also played Nicely Nicely in Guys’n’Dolls. That was some coincidence, wasn’t it? We talked for ages about how we both interpreted the part.” Nice, Nicely Nicely, but unlikely to convince them beyond all doubt that you are just the night watchman they’ve been looking for all this time;
- Ones you should virtually ignore – by all means answer the question in the strictest sense, but if it doesn’t naturally lead to a point where you can score points, the onus is on you to bring the answer to somewhere you can.
Angela Tjalsma is CV Editor with Sli Nua Careers and works out of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. You can make a booking HERE to have your CV, Personal Statements and Application Forms completed by Angela.
More articles from her blog can be accessed HERE