In this guide we will deconstruct a real CV and suggest changes to improve the impact. [Some details have been amended for confidentiality reasons].
The original CV and
the improved CV can be viewed in full.
Summary of Original CV
Overall, this CV has many of the elements we would want to find and does not
suffer from some of the common mistakes when writing a CV. However, they can be enhanced to provide significantly more impact to get noticed. Remember, you only have 30 seconds of the reader’s time to achieve this!
Whilst examining the CV we are looking to identify opportunities to develop changes which will improve the impact and targeting and maximize the chances of:
- getting read at all.
- gaining that all important interview.
Our other articles discuss in further details how to target your CV
and why a generalized CV does not work.
Let’s look at each section in turn to see how it could potentially be improved.
The original profile:
|I am a versatile and energetic problem solver and manager. I have experience in
facilities management, project management, staff management, system design and
software development. With fifteen years experience in Information Technology I
am looking to take my expertise into an organisation requiring a manager
focusing on end user requirements.
This is not targeted to a specific opportunity. It describes a range of skills
that can be offered and invites the reader to select one of these goodies from
An agency does not place an advert for an all in one ‘Facilities Manager,
Project Manager, Staff Manager, System Designer, Software Developer’ so we need
to target what they want to hear. For the sake of brevity we will assume the
target position is Project Manager.
In the advertised vacancy it will probably define experience required and
industry sector. We need to ensure that the profile will capture their
attention in about 5 seconds (yes, really!).
One last point is that it is better format to drop the word ‘I’.
A revised profile might look like this:
|Versatile and very successful PROJECT MANAGER with a
wealth of technical and commercial skills acquired across a wide range of
demanding roles with over 10 years experience within the insurance and
commodities sector. Now seeking next challenging and rewarding opportunity to
demonstrate substantial abilities and make an effective contribution in a
successful, end user focused team.
So, we dropped the use of ‘I’, targeted it towards a particular position and put
in some words and phrases that matched the job description. We also capitalized
and made bold the job seekers main skill title to match that of the advert.
Now, let’s look at the next area on this all important front page.
The original expertise:
||UNIX implementation and administration
||Network Design & Implementation
||Report Writing for technicians and end users
||Studying for Security+
As written, this reads more like a list of courses and training which have been
attended and does not effectively describe all the skills that will match the
job title Project Manager in the profile. Note that courses and training would
be better placed in a section on the second page.
The expertise should describe a list of skills you have that are directly
relevant to the position to which you are applying. It should also have a
combination of skills, both technical and personal.
Here’s a revised version:
Powerful project planning
and implementation skills - delivery focused.
Skilled with MS Office, Windows and UNIX implementation and administration.
Full project life cycle
: configuration management and change management.
Systems design and software development skills for insurance and commodity
Reliably meets demanding deadlines
and targets working under pressure.
Track record of academic achievement and career development – fluent in German.
Effective communication and negotiation techniques – skilled in account
...and so on. You need about 10 bullet points here
Notice that we have used bullet points for more readability. For the items that
are most relevant we have put them in bold to make then stand out during a
quick visual scan.
Note that if we where looking to target a systems designer role we would amend
the profile and expertise list to suit. The golden rule is always tell them
what they want hear and not your life story.
The only remaining section to add to the high impact front page is
This is completely missing from the original CV and is probably the most
important section of the front page. It shows you have used your skills and
expertise to deliver some benefit for who you have worked for.
There are some clues in the work history and we can use some of these to
develop some achievements like this:
Played lead role in successful initiative to rapidly expand client base to
twelve clients across twenty sites and generate half of company’s annual
Used extensive technical skills and experience to develop bespoke software
packages which gained competitive edge in insurance and commodities market.
The achievements section is one of the hardest sections to write. We have
dedicated another entire article on
explaining How to write an achievement on your CV.
Let’s now move on to page two and we open this with –
Here’s part of the original section:
XYZ COMPUTERS LTD 1989 – 1994
XYZ Computers Ltd provides subscription and advertising management software to
the magazine publishing industry. At my time at the company I had a customer
based role, spending much time on site making bespoke changes to software
systems. The systems programming role developed as the company undertook a
project to convert the bureau system from a legacy mainframe platform to an
open UNIX base.
UNIX systems programmer on an application conversion project.
Create job and print managing systems familiar to VMS operators.
Automate the conversion of legacy JCL script to UNIX shell script.
Created a JCL script generator for UNIX.
Specify and code changes to the standard subscription packages.
Specify and code bespoke modules as defined by clients.
Liaised with clients at board level regarding change requirements.
The original section of the career history is on the whole pretty good. There
are a few areas for improvement:
Remove the use of ‘I’.
Rather than writing sentences it is easier to read in bullet form and boiled
down to the essentials, making some words bold so they stand out when scan
Here’s an improved version:
|1994 – Present
||Director of Facilities Management
||ABC Software, London
Software and FM solutions for Lloyd’s insurance brokers and commodities traders
Provide consultancy and bespoke software solutions – negotiate at board
Successfully expanded department
to service twelve clients over twenty sites
Grew profitable client revenues to generate half the company’s annual revenue
Technical consultancy and translate client requirements into technical
Account management responsibilities
and day to day technical assistance to staff
Manage and develop eleven staff, budgets and growth in line with objectives
Develop opportunities and ensure highest levels of client service
Outstanding job performance gained series of career promotions
Created and developed
very successful the facilities management department
Provided high level account management for a variety of company clients
Carried out specialist project work relating to software systems integration
Software systems design
for insurance and commodity trading packages
Software development for insurance and commodity trading packages
This section is well written. It simply lists degrees and A levels without
giving address of schools and colleges and years attended.
Training and Development
The original CV does not have one. It would be the place to list all the
relevant courses and training.
Interests / Personal
The content is fine, although it might be worth swapping ‘divorced’ to single
and removing the boxes for readability.
The repeat of the personal details at the top of the second page can be
removed. It is not required and uses valuable space as we want to get the whole
CV onto two pages only.
The original CV has many elements to commend it, however, with some selective enhancements to the profile, expertise and achievements sections we can dramatically improve the impact on the reader and get that all important interview.