Paint pictures with words in your CV
When you read a book, your brain converts this into a visual experience within the mind. Think of the best novels you have read, how the author immerses you into their world by describing the characters, environments and story. You want to do the same with your CV. To evoke a visual picture of your achievements that leave a lasting memory. You want the reader to clearly see the great things you have done for previous employers and by inference, the great things you can do for a new employer.
Visual references are powerful
Words on their own mean virtually nothing. It is the association we place on words and phrases that give them context and meaning. The more clearly you can articulate your actions into words, the stronger the visual reference becomes and the more engaged the reader will be. This is why it is important to steer clear of hypothetical statements – like generic job descriptions. It is difficult to visualise a hypothetical statement, it is much more powerful to visualise a real life experience. Your experience.
Do not copy and paste job descriptions into your CV
Too many CVs read like copied and pasted job descriptions. Some job seekers don’t even hide the fact the information has been pasted from a job description (give away: sentence that starts ‘the postholder will…’) A CV should be a personal account of your work experience. It should highlight actual experiences and achievements – not a generic list of responsibilities. If you can support your achievements with facts and figures, then this looks even better.
Providing specific examples of achievements makes your CV much more memorable. This does mean you need to be selective. But it cannot be too difficult to think back over the last 5 years and list your top 10 achievements? Use facts and figures to highlight the scale and scope of projects or initiatives you have worked on as well as the results.
Example hypothetical statements v specific examples
Let’s take look a look at a couple of examples to demonstrate how easy it is to turn a dull hypothetical statement into something much more compelling.
“Responsible for providing regular and accurate management accounts” could read:
“Developed management accounts with improved visibility of costs enabling renegotiation with suppliers that saved 5% in IT support costs a year”
“Responsible for all VAT and indirect tax management and reporting across the EMEA region” could read:
“Introduced a new centralised and automated VAT reporting across 19 countries within the EMEA region saving the company $1.2m in external costs a year”
Tell your own story
The examples above show how points in a CV can be much more powerful and memorable by being grounded in actual experience. Also, placing an emphasis on the results of your work rather than just the actions gives even more impact. So be explicit, descriptive and show the reader visually what you have achieved. No recruiter is expecting you to write the next Harry Potter novel, but your CV will certainly be much more memorable through painting pictures with words.
This article is written by Neville Rose, Director of CV Writers.
CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers.