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Confident & Capable: How to Write a CV Skills Profile This document guides you through writing the skills profile that will form one part of your CV. There are two reasons for writing a detailed skills profile on your curriculum vitae. 

Your skills profile is a one-stop easy-to-read showcase for the skills and attitudes that your dream employer uses as criteria for assessing which job applicants to invite to interview.

Writing your CV skills profile will strengthen your ambition, and improve your confidence, enthusiasm and ability to write persuasive graduate job applications in any format. Most major graduate employers select using competency-based online application forms rather than CVs. Structuring your evidence using the STAR format will improve your applications and interviews.

Here’s how… 1) In addition to explaining what you do, explain how you do it and if possible why you do it. For example “At half-time I listen carefully [how] to colleagues in the hockey team to encourage everyone to contribute and discuss [how] game strategy suggestions so that we can all agree on the best approaches to beating each team we play [why]” RATHER THAN “I can discuss match strategy with other players in the hockey team” [what without how or why]. You need to take ownership of your skills and confidently sell the style through which you achieve your productivity and your particular kind of excellence. 2) Jot down your basic ideas as a draft before you forget the idea. THEN improve the language. 3) Write in the first person active voice (“I led the team” RATHER THAN “the team was led”). This may be different to your academic writing style, and often feels unfamiliar and awkward. 4) You need to evidence attitudes (optimism, curiosity, ingenuity, drive etc.) as well as skills. For example “I enjoy [attitude: enthusiasm] finding [attitude: curiosity] new [attitude: ingenuity] faster [attitude: ambition] ways to accelerate my software learning, for example by identifying the best online video tutorials [how in addition to what] and sharing these with my colleagues [attitude: seeking win-win solutions, Stephen Covey’s fourth habit of highly effective people]” RATHER THAN “I can [sounds almost reluctant] teach myself to use unfamiliar software” 5) Stretch: make your skills look bigger by suggesting the breadth and the high level of your skills. For example “Rapidly [high level] producing a broad range [breadth] of structured [high level] documents such as [suggests documents other than those in the following list] business and scientific reports, and professional correspondence [breadth] to tight, rigid deadlines [high level] using software such as [breadth] MS Word. Typing speed 65wpm. [High level. You can measure your typing speed by completing an online typing speed test, perhaps attempting the test several times and using your highest score]. 6) Suggest versatile capability rather than recording specific restricted experiences. For example RATHER THAN “I baked [experience] a Dundee cake for my Aunt Maud who doesn’t like almonds and chocolate Danish pastries for my dog”, you could write “Meticulously following and adapting classic recipes [capability] to create a broad range [breadth] of delicious [high level] cakes and pastries to suit a variety of customers’ tastes and special dietary requirements [attitude: customer orientation]. 7) As you write one skills statement, evidence of other skills pass through your mind. Jot this down without improving the language or thinking about where (which section) it will fit in your skills profile before you forget it. Then get back to the statement you were writing. R11np42 | 12 August 2013


8) Writing skills statements means writing, editing and rewriting. Every time you review your statements, you’ll improve them. Boring? Your CV may add £10,000 to your graduate salary. 9) You need to build a “warehouse” or “source” CV with a skills profile SYNTHESISED from a) A fairly complete audit of skills from all of your academic, work and sports activities. Your everyone-can-do-that attitude is wrong two ways. First: everyone can’t, you’re blinded by your unconscious competence. Second, even if they can, how will the employer know? b) Prospects generic graduate skills | HEA subject-specific & generic (page 142) skills c) The skills that you need for specific roles in which you want to work, for example analysing i) Job profiles such as this from the Prospects occupation descriptions ii) The job descriptions and person specifications that many employers provide when you respond to their advertised vacancies. Here’s how to analyse these documents. iii) Skills profiles from UK professional bodies’ “career” web pages, such as UK-SPEC d) Vocational skill frameworks such as the Skills Framework for the Information Age

Irritated & Reluctant

10) The first time anyone does anything is normally the hardest. Evidencing your skills will leave you feeling more confident BUT paradoxically it’s normal to feel doubly incompetent as you start to learn to describe your capabilities. Reading back through your increasingly persuasive evidence of attitudes and skills that employers want will restore your confidence. Past a tipping point, you will enter a “virtuous circle” where evidencing your capabilities generates self-confidence which in turn inspires you to write more… and so on.

Confident & Capable

You never show your customers around your warehouse CV. Each time you apply for a job you have analyse the employer’s job description and person specification, and then copy and paste together a “shop window” or “targeted” CV that exactly matches that employer’s selection criteria for that role. Your customer looks into your shop window and immediately wants to buy. Here’s how employers will assess the CVs that you and your competitors write. You need to get past here!

 Time spent writing skills profile

11) Finally, you can re-title your skills profile. If you’re applying for a marketing job, you can use the title Marketing Skills, for an engineering job you could use Engineering Skills and so on… A Couple of Additional Resources Want a colleague to help you to write your skills statements? Help them write theirs. You’ll need to familiarise yourself with these principles and resources by drafting your own skills profile before meeting to listen to them, ask them how and why they did what they did, and help them organise their evidence into sections that match employers’ selection criteria. Then accept their offer to do the same for you, and include statements about how you “help colleagues to edit and improve the quality of their written work, and enhance colleagues’ professional development” into your CV. Here’s an example skills-based CV which will help you think about layout and style. Don’t even think about copying any of the content – that would prevent you from writing persuasively about your authentic attitudes and skills. Copying the example CV content would be one of those short cuts that turn out to be a long way round. Your CV will be considerably better than this example. Watch the Virtual CV Adviser video, review these resources to see a more complete picture of how to write your CV and explore how to sell yourself on employers’ online application forms. R11np42 | 12 August 2013


How to write a cv skills profile