CAREER MANAGEMENT Unleash the Ferrari Within – How top executives sell themselves through their CV

Nobody in their right mind wanting to sell Ferrari would place an ad saying “Car for sale. Four wheels. Goes. $355,000”. The ad ignores the abilities and features that make the Ferrari so highly prized. So why do so many top executives undersell themselves in their CV? Sassy Ferrari sellers reword their ads to focus on the car’s 290 horsepower, top speed of 350kph or 50 years of racing history – highlighting the tangible and factual features and revving up the Ferrari’s desirability immensely. Smart executives should be doing the same.
Most recruiters spend just 10 to 20 seconds initially assessing CV for match against particular role. So even at the most senior levels of management, CV must quickly and concisely communicate the relevant information that will tempt the reader to take an application to the next stage.
HR and recruitment professionals despise subjective data that has no proven basis. Despite this, people still include within their CV subjective prattle such as ‘a quality communicator’ and ‘a team player’. While this may be true reflection of your skills, it merely serves to negate any possible positive impact.
Your name is your brand. In the same way that Nike and Coca-Cola market their logo and brand to specialist markets, you must do the same with yours. Understanding that you must market yourself to prospective employers, your personal ‘brochure’ must be focused towards specific role.
So if you are applying for position with leading insurer, your objective and your summary sections must concentrate on your experience and achievements within this field. If you then apply for role in the banking sector, the CV should be altered to exhibit different flavour. Generic CVs are no longer acceptable.
While it’s increasingly rare to find business brochure that waffles over 10+ pages, recruiters and HR professionals must daily wade through CVs filled with subjective data, that have no real purpose or direction, and are stuffed with irrelevant facts.
A quality, senior level New Zealand-focused CV should be between two to four pages long and come with well-written and focused cover letter. If the CV is any larger than this, the reader may feel that the candidate is verbose and cannot communicate facts in concise and professional way.
The job description for almost any position will list specific functions and skills that are deemed important for the role. Just as marketer determines that certain demographic area will have demand for particular product or service, you must also:
• Understand what specific factors are required to demonstrate competency for the available role; and
• Outline your skills and achievements focused towards these aspects, thereby ensuring demand for your application.
Start by highlighting recurring keywords in the job description that are central to the position. Next, determine your skills and experience within these areas and quantify and provide specific examples of your achievements.
Stating, for example, that you are an “exceptional communicator” is pointless unless you can give examples of when you have demonstated this. So outline occasions where you have delivered message at conferences, staff meetings or presentations to clients. Detail the approximate number of people listening to your message as well as the level of expertise you were sharing.
For example: “Successfully presented seminar entitled ‘Future Technologies in Digital Communication’ to over 750 senior IT professionals at the New Zealand Information Technology Conference – 2006.”
This statement demonstrates number of important factors:
• You have communicated competently (it is presumed) to large number of IT practitioners.
• You are seen as specialist within the future technologies and digital communications environments.
• You have the ability to communicate complicated technical information.
Without breaching any confidentiality provisions, include aspects such as dates, percentages, dollars and brand names to assist in lending credibility to your achievements and experience.
For example, an individual may outline their current role within their CV as sales manager. However it is important to quantify your results in this role to ensure desire is created for your application. Therefore the person may choose to demonstrate that they were sales manager who exceeded all sales budgets set for them. This is excellent. However, an even better example is to show themselves as sales manager who exceeded the firm’s sales targets by 183 percent over certain period.
For example: “Created new market strategy that resulted in monthly sales targets being exceeded by 183 percent within the first three months.”
Within the construction or engineering industry, person could outline individual projects worked on, their approximate construction value and the fact that deadlines were met within cost structures.
For example: “Project managed construction of the ABC Bank Head Office, Auckland. (Value $38 million. Achieved all construction targets within defined time frames and within the set budget.)”
Projects are good way to demonstrate competency across wide range of skills. As there usually is start and finish date or certain goal to be reached, it is possible to demonstrate how business or department was improved under your guidance.
It is vital to clearly identify promotions in your ‘brochure’. Too many CVs show promotions as separate positions or fail to mention that person was promoted at all. Clearly show how you have reached your current level of expertise and appointment within your CV. Promotions are an achievement and indicate stability.
If you have been involved within specialist industry for considerable number of years, be sure to detail this in the summary. Immediately when recruiter sees that you have “15 years’ experience within the plastics manufacturing environment”, they will understand that you have strong knowledge and are desirable candidate.
Have you received any inhouse or industry awards or acknowledgements? If so, ensure these are included, illustrating your competence in your field of expertise.
Have you been awarded further responsibilities in your organisation but not received acknowledgement in the form of new title or increased remuneration? Be sure to detail new aspects outside your general responsibilities.
For example: “Commenced as marketing manager. In 2005, awarded senior level human resources and recruitment responsibilities for the group.”
Finally, detail your computer literacy within your CV. Outline the software you can use competently and pay particular attention to your comprehensive know-ledge of industry specific software.
Overall, it is vital to show to recruiter that you are person who excels in the specific areas they are seeking. By quantitatively and objectively demonstrating competence in these areas, you will be acknowledged as person who can add value to the position. You are must-see for an interview.

Tom O’Neil is managing director of (NZ).

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