Soft skills

The story that your CV must tell: Who you are and what value you’ll add

Soumi Das
Soumi Das
Posted on 24 Oct 2021
17:16 PM

Edited by Saikat Chakraborty

The key to a strong CV is knowing what the hiring professional is looking for
How you arrange the information and how relevant it is can make or break your CV

Drafting your first CV could be a daunting task because it is most likely that you still do not have a lot of work experience to list down. It is also challenging perhaps because you are still trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do in life.

And that’s fine. Writing a CV is not a one-time task. Your CV will develop over time. It will reveal your professional identity, motivations and aspirations. Your CV will alter its appearance, priorities and narrative throughout your career.


What purpose does a CV serve?

The purpose of your CV is to give someone a glimpse of who you are professionally and present to a potential employer what value you can bring to a certain position, team and company.

Research shows that hiring professionals hardly spend 30 seconds (depending on the industry and organisation) on one CV. Your aim would be to have them hooked to your story and crave for more. But even before your CV lands in the inbox of a human, it might be scanned by an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS).

Hence, it is essential that there is structure and coherence along with a compelling storyline that is not only relevant to the hiring professionals but also to the preliminary screening system.

Making past the robots

Not all industries or organisations wield the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), but there is a gradual increase in the use of such software in the hiring process. So, better be safe than sorry.

Here are some points to keep in mind to have an ATS-compatible CV:

  • The best file type for your CV is a Word document in .doc or .docx. Use this file type unless other formats are requested, like Pdf.
  • Avoid including important information like contact details in the header or the footer of a page. Put this information on top of the page sparing the header margin.
  • Use keywords that accurately reflect your academic qualifications, skills and experience. Such keywords could be ‘digital marketing’, ‘MSc’, ‘project management’.
  • Stick to simple bullet points instead of intricate characters.
  • Use a clean design with a clear hierarchy. Avoid using complex designs or unusual formats.

Know your audience

One of the key factors of good storytelling is solid knowledge about the audience. Irrespective of whether an organisation uses ATS or not, a recruiting and/or hiring manager would still play the most crucial role in the hiring process.

As a starting point, read the job advertisement carefully and understand the role you are applying for. It is absolutely necessary to make your CV as relevant to the job as possible. Then, ask yourself -- What is the recruiting/hiring manager looking for? What would interest them in your CV? Why would your story appeal to them?

The Setting:

This component involves the chronological elements of your achievements. For instance, the year you completed your last educational pursuit. Or, the month and year you joined a particular company and the month and year you left it; its location and so on.

Remember to arrange the achievements in a recent-first approach. The recruiters will need to understand when you achieved your various academic and professional milestones at a glance to assess how relevant your experience is to the job position.

The Plot:

The plot is the framework in which all the other components of a story interact. For your CV, you would have to present a well-structured and coherent sequence of events.

If you are a fresher without any work experience, you may want to focus on what educational qualifications you have achieved, delineate projects in which you have been involved and how you demonstrated your skills.

If you have work experience, your plot should be constructed on your previous or current job responsibilities and achievements.

The Characters:

As an applicant, you are not only the central character of your story, you are also its narrator. The whole CV is about you, but be mindful that you will need to give space to other characters as well to make your story more convincing.

Remember to include in your CV who you reported to, who you supported, if you were directly dealing with clients and customers or you were managing a team.

The Hook:

It is the hook that keeps readers’ interest in a story. The hook prepares our mind to keep going and yearn for more. Your story should give a reason to the recruiter/hiring manager to move forward with your application.

It is necessary for the hiring professionals to be able to establish a link between an applicant’s educational and professional background, existing skill set and the requirement of the job. The hiring decision is not only based upon who you already are but also on what you could become.

You can browse the internet and find ample information on the standard structure of a CV. But be mindful of preserving your CV’s originality and guarantee the necessary customisation.

Things you need to make sure:

  • Add a summary of your qualifications, skills and achievements right in the beginning.
  • There is no mistake in spelling, grammar or punctuation.
  • No irrelevant personal information is included.
  • No reference is added.
  • No incorrect, misleading or false information is shared.

Soumi Das is a clinical psychologist-turned-learning and development professional. She is currently a Programs Specialist for Leadership Development programmes at Saint Gobain, Paris.

Last updated on 24 Oct 2021
18:16 PM
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