7 ways to create a modern CV
Whether you’re looking for a non-exec position, a promotion or just a new challenge, a long, generic CV is about as effective as sending the same press release to a bunch of editors and expecting your story to go viral. CV queen Victoria McLean has some tips for strengthening your personal brand story
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
ou wouldn’t dream of ploughing your PR or corporate comms budget into a campaign without understanding the needs of your target audience. Approach your CV in the same way. If you’re looking to work in a corporate team or at an agency, you might focus on your expertise in reputation management. But if you want to be seen as the go-to person for working with the latest bloggers, podcasters and influencers, you’ll need a different approach.
2. OPTIMISE THE TOP LINE
Every PR knows the value of a strong, engaging headline. In CV terms, this is more about search-engine optimisation than creativity. Recruiters might search for “PR manager” or “head of corporate communications”, but they’re unlikely to search for “PR maven” or “creative diva”.
When it comes to your executive summary, think like a journalist. You need to grab your audience’s interest and entice them to read on. Don’t be dry and boring; zero in on your most impressive and relevant achievements in a compelling way.
3. IT’S ALL ABOUT TAILORING YOUR MESSAGING
Sending the optimal messages for your target audience is crucial. Your CV needs to be concise and highlight your USP. But you also need to use the right language; the closer you can match your titles, skills and achievements to what the recruiter wants, the greater your chances of success.
4. PLAY BY THE SEO RULES
Your CV will probably need to get past a recruiter’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) before it reaches a human. These systems work like search engines, scanning documents for keywords. Once you’ve identified the most important phrases in the job description, fit them into your CV story. Mirror the language as precisely as you can: perhaps “crisis management” or “influencer marketing compliance”.
5. STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
You’re an expert when it comes to helping your clients stand out. Now it’s time to use the same skills on your own CV. Unless you’re applying for a highly specialised role, you’ll need to demonstrate:
Numeracy and data analysis, for campaign performance and analytics; Organisational skills, for ensuring crosschannel integration; Communications expertise, for written and video content, podcasts and social media; and Networking and empathy, for selling your ideas. as Google Analytics will be your best friend, providing evidence of your skills with real-world examples and measurable outcomes.
You’re an expert when it comes to helping your clients stand out. Now it’s time to use the same skills on your own CV
6. DEMONSTRATE YOUR CREATIVE GENIUS
It can be a challenge to distil a varied career into two pages of A4. Instead, try to highlight exceptional projects, skills and experiences that align with your target role. (Exceptions to the two-page rule can be made for those with a freelance or consultancybased career.)
Inject some style, but don’t go over the top. It’s tempting to use quirky designs and infographics to show how creative you are. However, an ATS may reject CVs with text boxes, images or unusual fonts and colours, so keep it clean and simple. A personal website, blog or social media profile may be a better way to show off your creativity.
7. BRAND REPUTATION MATTERS
You know how easily typos and inconsistencies can damage a corporate brand. It’s the same with your personal brand. There’s no forgiveness when it comes to spelling, grammar or formatting mistakes, so check, check and check again. Print it, read it aloud, and ask a friend to check it too. As a general rule, write in the third-person singular and ditch the pronouns where possible.