Your CV is your First Foot in the Door

I sometimes wonder for how long CV’s will remain to be the ubiquitous instrument to market new talent to prospective clients. The CV is a rather cumbersome, limited, single-dimensional and, quite often, a misrepresentation of the candidate – especially executive candidates, who have a diverse and multi-faceted career history. Various companies are testing different approaches to assess talent for their organisations. Some companies are experimenting with doing away with CV’s altogether, and replacing them with upfront Assessments, Case Studies and Online Games with varied success. Notwithstanding these innovative new talent assessment tools, the CV or Resume is still, globally, the most widely used talent introduction tool. A CV has enormous power, it can literally open or close doors for candidates. As a result of our on-going concentrated engagement with executive candidates and clients, we have collated a few valuable trends that help to accentuate the important elements of a CV, which may differentiate candidates.

1. Do clients care about “Roles & Responsibilities”?

The majority of CV’s that I review everyday consistently list the roles and responsibilities of each role. We specialise in placing executive candidates, therefore, clients are certainly aware of what the key roles and responsibilities are, for most executive roles. For example, a company looking for a CFO will certainly know that a CFO will need the following experience:

•Strong technical accounting knowledge
•IFRS Statements and reporting
•Group Consolidations
•Strong knowledge of Tax regulation
•Financial systems, processes and controls
•Budgeting, forecasting and cash flows
•Preparation and presentation of Board Packs

Most executive candidates that apply for such a role will list the above for each of their past roles. How does this list assist clients to differentiate candidates based on the CV?

2. What about Achievements?

We assume that by the time candidates have become executives, they have built up an impressive list of achievements. Achievements in each role are, arguably, the most powerful facet of a CV. Hiring managers are keen to assess previous experience as an indicator for future success. Achievements in a particular role give an extremely useful window into future success. Achievements should be quantifiable, and should be closely linked to the role. If an executive candidate is targeting a sales role, the CV should contain sales targets and performance for the last three years. Other sales ratios like: sales per consultant, productivity, profitability etc. will be incredibly valuable to differentiate a profile. If the role is a CFO role, then cost efficiency targets, or appointments and exposure to certain boards or experience in a specialised financial area would certainly be valuable.

3. Placement of Achievements

A person reviewing a CV shouldn’t need to look for achievements, rather, achievements should flow throughout the CV. The key achievements representing each area should be placed at the top of the CV, just below personal details. Thereafter, each role should have a few lines summary of the role, with unique experience gained. Thereafter, a highlighted list of achievements. Thereafter, academic achievements placed directly under each academic record all the way back to Matric. And, finally followed by personal achievements and appointments relating to sports, community or volunteer work at NGO’s.

4. Does size matter?

Hiring managers typically don’t have a lot of time. A CV probably has a “one minute sell by date” or written “elevator pitch” duration. The CV should be short, punchy and focused, and achievements relevant to the role should be highlighted. Depending on the longevity of tenure, typically the last three roles are probably the only roles that are relevant. All previous roles should be listed, but not elaborated upon, unless there are specific achievements to be listed. A CV shouldn’t be longer than 3 pages.

5. Does one Size Fit all?

Regarding CV’s, generally not. An executive candidate should research the company and specific role before presenting a CV. One should then tweak and refine one’s CV for each specific role, highlighting areas of achievement relevant to the role. It is certainly worth the extra time and effort invested in sharpening one’s CV for each role.

Executive candidates are busy: they are managing complex jobs with huge demands on their time. We often get “push back”, “I don’t have time” or “just take the information from my LinkedIn profile”. We encourage executive candidates to prioritise the drafting of their CV’s, do the necessary research, and spend the time. It matters. It may be the last time.