Writing a Winning CV? Start by being Specific.


When it comes to writing Winning CVs, Google’s top exec has constrasting ideas compared to Google’s results…

Last year Laszlo Bock, SVP, People Operations at Google, wrote a piece on Linkedin titled: My Personal Formula for a Winning Resume which, I have to say is one of the best free piece of advice, if not the best, that you can get for writing a CV/Resume.

If you are like me, and I assume you are, given that you have somehow found your way to this page, you have probably read tens of articles, if not hundreds, in your pursuit for creating a CV that actually works – a CV that intrigues and ignites the curiosity of the recruiter to an extent that s/he virtually feels compelled to call you in for an interview.

Be Savvy – Discern and decipher

And while I humbly accept that there is plethora of very useful advice floating about out there, it is not uncommon that of the 7 things that one article tells you to avoid, 6 are among the ingredients to create an impressive CV according to another article.

For instance, one article on using Microsoft Word tricks to improve CV, suggested using the header and footer margins for contact details etc. in order to better utilise the “precious” space in the main body of the CV. While this appears to make sense, at least initially, I would argue against using this trick for four reasons namely:

  • The header and footer space is essentially part of the same document;
  • Maintaining sufficient white space in the document is essential to keep the CV reader friendly and attractive;
  • The margins are flexible up to a certain point in any case which means that the header and footer space can be reduced to create more space in the core body; and
  • Text in headers and footers in unlikely to be read by HR systems and career websites which can only pickup freely floating text. The same also applies to text in tables and columns.

This is one of many such examples. The fact remains that there is too much information out there that is generic, contradictory, based entirely on personal views and whims or is just there because a creative writer felt the urge to diversify into a new niche’, which happened to be CV writing.

Ring fence your research

While I accept that there are lots of creative/influential writing techniques that can be used to enhance a CV, but that does not mean all creative writers can write impactful CVs. So if you are doing research to write a robust and powerful CV, it is important that you use your time and effort savvily, pick a couple of experienced CV writing experts – ones that do CV writing / Career consultancy work day in day out as a profession – and stick with their advice.

And if you are thinking, thorough research can only be good, because the more you read on the subject the better your chances of writing a winning CV, then please think again. The more articles you read on the subject, the more likely you are going to be confused for one simple reason: most writers only focus on one or two elements or aspects of the CV writing process and seldom provide a holistic view. Even if they did give you a comprehensive blueprint of how a winning CV should be tailored/structured, there is no guarantee that it would work for you or you would be able to use and adapt their methodology to your advantage.

The Perfect CV – which? where?

One other thing that you NEED to realise is that there is no absolute and perfect way as to how a CVs should be written and structured and although the process of writing CVs is becoming increasingly scientific (with eye movement tracking software, sophisticated algorithms that focus on keywords/meta tags and reading in to psychology of recruiters etc.), ultimately the decision to recruit involves human judgement which will always have a subjective bias – at least until recruitment decisions are delegated in their entirety to computers.

Specificity is King

Coming back to Laszlo’s article, I should probably be the last person, and I probably am, to tell you that his winning formula actually works. And the key to using this formula effectively is “specificity” as also concluded by Laszlo in the same piece.

So in effect, not only should your CV be more achievement based rather than task based i.e. what you achieved and how you achieved it rather than what to you did or do, but also those achievements should be relevant and specific to the role and the organisation that you are applying for.

Where possible, you should do your best to quantify your achievements so the recruiter(s) can instantly see the tangible benefits that you are capable of bringing to the role and the organisation.

The more specific your achievements are to your target job and organisation, the easier and less time consuming is for the recruiter to reach a decision about your suitability for a certain role.

Ready set go!

Now, equipped with knowledge of a winning formula, you can go right ahead and start writing your winning CV OR you could spare yourself the hardwork and have a professional write an impactful winning CV – a CV that actually gets results. We write CVs that get results and we can do the same for you. Get in touch to have a free no-obligation consultation about your CV.

P.S. In my next piece, I will elaborate more on the concept of ‘specificity’ and how I practically applied it to help secure an interview at ‘Innocent’ – yepp! That cool smoothie company.

2 thoughts on “Writing a Winning CV? Start by being Specific.

  • Interesting stuff. First step nowadays is passing the auto selection process. It purely based on meta tags and key words the CV has specific to job. 80% of CVs are selected online to first pass the post system via electronic filtering system. Getting over this is first step.

    The details of CV revolves around personal experience with the organization one was working in. SMART concept are getting specific to CVs as well. Specially at executive level, I think.

    New dynamics are internet flotation of CV via agency or web portal, ticks and style? Getting CV specific to job requirements, key words? Reducing CV to one and maximum 2 pages and creating curiosity for prospect to invite candidate to get to know him/her

    Over all excellent article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *