Words that do the resume trick

Q: I am working on my CV at the moment. I have all the basics in there, but it just doesn’t sparkle. I feel it is very heavy. It doesn’t spring to life. I have had a good deal success in my career but I can’t seem to get that across in the CV. Have you any tips for sprinkling a little stardust over it? (RL, email)

A: Language is very important when writing CVs, or, indeed, selling yourself in a job interview. Effective language evokes an emotional response in the listener or reader: it gives them hope that you can be the right person for the job.

A few tips I would give you:

  • Think not about what you did – but what you achieved. So it is not about your duties and your obligations in your last job, it’s about the results. The sales figures realised. The rationalisation programme effectively completed. The new territory conquered. Many people think only duties and tasks, and don’t bring it to the next stage of achievements. You can steal a march on them by thinking achievements;
  • You won’t be accused of being boastful. Talk it up. Most people wouldn’t cross the line separating confidence from arrogance, even if they tried. If you did a good job, tell them. No-one else will tell them for you;
  • Use words that convey action and enthusiasm – you initiated, you completed, you accomplished, you achieved, you facilitated, you managed, you executed, you conducted;
  • Write ‘I’ more often than ‘we’ – it’s you they wish to hire, not your previous colleagues. By all means, don’t claim credit for what you didn’t do, but don’t off-load credit either;
  • Include a personal statement or overview. When writing CVs, there is a tendency to jump straight into professional experience. Lead the reader in with a general overview of you – the skills and attributes you possess. This will encourage them to delve deeper into the experience, education and training.

This week’s top tip

Don’t under-estimate the value of the ‘small step.’

If you are at a career crossroads, or are finding it difficult to land a job, the hill can appear very steep. It is important not to try to ‘boil the ocean’ and to reduce your action plan to simple, logical, easily-completed steps.

It might be starting an IT course online (alison.com is a good resource to check out.) It might be contacting a former boss to ask them for a written reference or to keep you in mind if they hear of anything going that would suit you.

It might be dusting down your CV.

Our experience from working with clients in this situation is that small steps turn out to be not that small after all. When you do something to move things along, the benefits can be far-reaching in terms of giving you the self-belief and focus to follow up with further actions.

Is the hill very steep for you right now? If yes, cast an eye to the summit – but then focus on the step in front of you. Make that call. Start that short course. Contact that person. You are likely to find that good things will accrue once you embark on the journey.

For a copy of Sli Nua Careers’ CV checklist, email getthatjob@slinuacareers.com with CV Checklist in the subject line. Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Dublin and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. More: www.slinuacareers.com