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How focusing your CV helps you stand out?

Even if you haven’t needed to go the traditional route of sending a CV to apply for a job, the process of writing a focussed, up-to-date CV helps you crystallise your working strengths and career goals. As a marketing document, it should obviously sell you (in as little time as possible) to a hiring manager. But it’s also a concise statement of which skills you’ve developed, where you’ve excelled, and what you now aspire to.

But truly effective CVs are written with a specific purpose: to obtain a particular job at one company in one sector. So if, like most people, your main objective in writing a CV is to get an interview, your CV must reflect this purpose. There’s no point sending out the same CV for all jobs, as they simply won’t be focussed enough (= read “relevant to the hiring manager”) to convey your ability to do the job.

Here are four steps for creating a focussed, relevant CV:

1. Keep it up-to-date. 

Your most relevant or recent roles, responsibilities, promotions and achievements should be prominent. Also assess your skills-list critically to omit any that are now obsolete or taken for granted, or include any which are in demand.

Incorporate appropriate keywords and industry-specific jargon to show you understand what the role requires.

Take into account current CV trends. One recent shift has been to scrap objective statements in favour of a professional summary and clear brand message. Another is to replace an “I did…” style focussing on responsibilities with a more concise achievement-driven bullet-point style.

2. Focus on the role

Often the most difficult aspect of writing a CV is knowing where to start. What do you need to include or leave out? Your challenge is to make it apparent right from the start of your CV what you offer, so that a hiring manager doesn’t have to spend time trying to work out why you might be a good fit.

As a first step, focus on what you want to achieve with your CV. What role are industry are you aiming for? Everything you write needs to be focussed on this, so work out what makes you a good candidate. What key skills, achievements or personality traits make you stand out from others? What is your unique value?

To demonstrate this level of clarity in your CV, you’ll need to write a different CV focussed on each role or sector you apply for.

3. Differentiate yourself

What makes you special? What benefits will the employer gain from hiring you?
In short, what is your brand value?

Personal branding is what differentiates you from every other job seeker out there. Let’s suppose that you are in sales and marketing. Well, so are millions of other people. When you create and showcase your personal brand in your resume you are giving the employer a snapshot of who you are, as well as the talent, passion, and vision you can bring to their organization.

Your personal brand is (…) a combination of your accomplishments, contributions, talent, passion, and vision. These five points separate you from the massive herd of other job seekers. What is even better is that most job hunters are completely clueless about personal branding—yet it is such a vital part of your job search. Including one means you are already light years ahead of everyone else. “

To determine your brand value, work out how you can distinguish yourself from others.

– How have you made a difference?
– What has made you a valuable employee?
– What blend of characteristics has allowed you to work well with others, solve problems, be a creative spark and so on?

Look beyond job titles to find your defining achievements – those which illustrate your best abilities. How did you exceed expectations, win more business, please more customers, or gain promotion and extra responsibility?

What do other people say about you? Do you have any testimonials to prove it, such as performance appraisals or thank you notes from clients? These can reveal what you did that went beyond a simple call of duty.

You will probably find that your particular working strengths and the types of roles you naturally gravitate towards have been similar throughout your career. Personal characteristics like adaptability, flexibility, resourcefulness and tenacity are the traits you have which consistently allow you to hit and exceed targets or solve problems ingeniously.

4. Back up your brand

Make sure you’re supporting your reputation for greatness throughout your CV by choosing relevant achievements or career milestones which prove it.

But it’s not just achievements that are important. A website designer might owe her eye for design or colour to a passion for photography, while a freelance writer might have developed a trademark writing style from years spent volunteering at a hospital radio station, thinking up one-liners to amuse patients and staff. Common career themes, personal interests, or projects undertaken outside work all contribute to an individual’s brand and value.

How can you incorporate your brand into your CV?

– under the title of the job you’re applying for.
Write a short (one-sentence) positioning statement that sums up what you can offer.
“Customer-focussed car sales rep with record of exceeding targets by 20% for last five years.”

– professional summary.
Write three to five sentences that summarise your career history, the impact your work has had, your personal strengths, etc.

– throughout the rest of your CV
Give supporting details, examples and success stories that illustrate the unique value you bring.

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