Google’s dictionary defines a ‘task’ as ‘a piece of work to be done or undertaken’, and ‘responsibility’ as ‘a thing which one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation’.
Listing tasks or responsibilities on your CV tells the person reading it nothing more than what you were required to do. It makes for a dry and dull read. It doesn’t tell them how you made a difference, what your results were, why you were an employee or supplier worth retaining.
What’s more, anyone has held that position could, in theory, list the same tasks or responsibilities. You could end up presenting a similar CV to other applicants, making it hard for the person reading your CV to understand how you are different.
By contrast, Google’s dictionary defines ‘achievement’ as ‘a thing done successfully with effort, skill, or courage’. A much more dynamic definition!
Outlining achievements (what you accomplished) rather than tasks and responsibilities (what you were required to do) will strengthen your CV, giving the reader a better understanding of your experience, skills, and future potential.
I appreciate that it can be tricky to think of what you achieved by performing a defined task, which is perhaps why some people resort to listing duties and responsibilities instead. So, I thought it might be useful to share some questions that will help you to define your achievements.
Question 1: What was your task or responsibility?
Let’s use an example.
Imagine if you were a banquet attendant at Hotel XYZ. One of your tasks might be to set up tables and chairs. If you were simply listing responsibilities on your CV, you might write ‘Set up chairs and tables for hotel events’.
So far, so boring. But how can you transform this straightforward if highly physical task into something more dynamic? Let us move to question two.
Question 2: What might have happened if you hadn’t done it?
Consider what might have happened if you hadn’t done that task at all, or hadn’t done it well.
In our example above, lots of things may have happened if you hadn’t set up the chairs and tables for the event.
Paying clients may have entered Hotel XYZ’s banquet hall and discovered an unprepared venue with insufficient seating.
As a result, they may have been late to sit down for their meal, throwing the event timetable into disarray. The caterers, who planned on serving dinner at an agreed time, may have needed a plan B. Catering and serving staff may be required to work extra hours to accommodate the delay, meaning more expense and less profit for the hotel. The wedding speeches may have been delayed, postponing the moment when nervous speech givers could truly relax. The band may have had a later start time than planned, and may charge clients more for a later finish or offer a shorter set.
The wedding party and their guests may not have received the service or experience they had expected Hotel XYZ to deliver. They may have got a poor impression of Hotel XYZ. They may have complained. They may have asked for a discount. They probably would have told others about their experience. They might even have left adverse reviews online, affecting Hotel XYZ’s positive rating on TripAdvisor or another review site. This adverse publicity may have put others off booking Hotel XYZ for their wedding or event. As a result, the hotel may not meet its sales target for wedding packages. Revenues may have dipped; staffing would necessarily reduce, all because you didn’t put the chairs and tables out on time!
I acknowledge this is an extreme representation, but it goes to show that all actions have a reaction, and tasks and responsibilities have a consequence, for your employer and their clients. Let’s move on to question three.
Question 3: What benefit did you achieve by doing it?
For every answer outlined in response to question two, consider the opposite situation. This will help clarify the benefits you delivered by performing your task.
Looking at the answers above, it seems like by doing my job well, I have most likely helped Hotel XYZ to meet and exceed its clients’ expectations, thereby ensuring their satisfaction, avoiding any negative feedback on- or offline, and maintaining its overall reputation. My actions also helped Hotel XYZ to protect its profit margins by ensuring weddings and other events ran to time, avoiding unplanned costs.
Having identified the benefits you delivered, you can use them to craft achievement-focused bullets for use on your CV. Here are some examples:
- Positioned Hotel XYZ to achieve and maintain an average 4.5/5 TripAdvisor bubble rating by ensuring timely, accurate set up of weddings and events
- Facilitated cost-effective and quality delivery of hotel events by ensuring timely set-up of chairs, tables, and equipment for each booking
- Helped Hotel XYZ to secure 50 new wedding bookings for 2020 by working as a team to deliver a high-quality wedding experience for 2019 clients
You can read more about how to create strong bullet points here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-write-bullet-proof-cv-bullets-lis-mcguire/.
If your CV features tasks and responsibilities, use these three questions to turn them into attention-grabbing bullets that will intrigue your target reader to find out more.
In September 2016, LinkedIn announced a redesign of its desktop (non-app) user interface. The announcement noted, “This is the largest redesign since LinkedIn’s inception.” The design update is expected to bring the desktop experience closer to what users of the LinkedIn mobile app are used to seeing.
More important than how LinkedIn will look once the redesign is rolled out is what features will — or won’t — still be included.
In the past, when LinkedIn has refreshed its user interface, it has removed features. This may happen with the forthcoming redesign, so consider backing up your LinkedIn profile to avoid losing any data. This exercise involves two steps and will take you 10 minutes at most.
Step 1: Save a PDF of Your LinkedIn Profile
The first is to save a PDF of your profile. This will save the content in your profile only (no photos or graphics).
Log into your account and click on “Edit Profile” under the “Profile” menu.
Next, click on the blue “View profile as” button and it will show the dropdown menu.
Choose “Save to PDF” and it will immediately save a PDF of your LinkedIn profile to the default download location on your computer. You’ll be able to open the PDF and view your content.
Step 2: Archive Your LinkedIn Data
The second step is to archive your LinkedIn data.
This will create spreadsheet files (in .csv format) of your LinkedIn account — your connections, contacts, email inbox, positions, and profile. It will also include a “Rich Media” folder with images included in your profile.
In contrast to the PDF of your LinkedIn profile, the spreadsheet files will allow you to copy-and-paste your data into your LinkedIn profile, should you ever need to. Also, if LinkedIn removes sections with the user interface redesign, you will be able to add this information back into your profile, if you want to.
You can find the full listing of what is included in the data archives:
Here’s how to get your data archive.
Note: This feature is only available using the desktop version of LinkedIn, not using the mobile app. Also, because your backup may contain private information, do not download your data using a public computer.
Click on your profile photo in the upper right-hand corner of your LinkedIn profile. On the drop-down menu, click on the blue “Manage” button next to “Privacy & Settings.”
Once on the “Privacy & Settings” page, scroll down to “Getting an archive of your data.” Click on that link.
That will open a drop-down menu.
You will be able to choose whether you want a “fast file,” which includes selected information from your account or the “fast file with other data,” which includes account activity and history.
Choose the option you want and click the blue “Request archive” button.
Once you’ve made your choice, you will be prompted to enter your password. Once you’ve done that, click the blue “Done” button.
You will receive confirmation that your request has been received. You’ll also receive a notification email with a download link.
When you click the download link in your email, you will be taken back to your LinkedIn profile, where you will find a blue “Download” link. You have 72 hours to download the file. LinkedIn will send a second email when the rest of the data file is ready (within 24 hours).
Clicking the “Download” button will create a zip folder. Once you unzip it, you will see the .csv files with your connections, contacts, inbox, positions, profile, and registration information, plus a folder containing your Rich Media.
For your first-level connections, you’ll receive a file that contains First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Current Company, Current Position, and Tags.
If you get an error when trying to request your data archive, try it again using a different Internet browser, or try it again later.
Premium LinkedIn Sales Navigator Accounts
If you use a premium LinkedIn Sales Navigator account, export your notes and tags to Sales Navigator. It is rumoured that the notes and tags feature is going away with the user interface update.
Log into your Sales Navigator account. Move your cursor over your photo in the top right corner of the Sales Navigator home page and select “Settings.”
Under “Import LinkedIn.com,” click “Import to Sales Navigator” next to “Notes & Tags.”
Now Make It a Habit!
Now that you’ve seen how easy this is to do, make it a habit to export your data — once a quarter is probably sufficient if you don’t add a lot of new connections regularly, or once a month if you do.
The first set of ‘eyes’ on your CV may not always be human. I’m not being rude about recruiters. I’m talking technology. Technology is transforming the recruitment process, making it quicker and easier for recruiters to identify the best candidates for open positions.
Although not yet a widespread tool in UK recruitment, a growing number of recruiters and organisations are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to help them manage applications, mine applicant data, and sift and rate CVs.
Jobvite’s 2015 UK Social Recruitment Survey reported that 73% of UK recruiters did not have the technology in place, but summarised that ‘The UK is approaching a turning point in the way its businesses recruit’ with ‘technology… a must within our recruitment teams’. The respondents that were using an ATS confirmed the benefits, with 75% reporting an improved ability to onboard candidates faster. In contrast, ATS have been around for some time in the US and have become an accepted norm.
If you are sending your CV directly to your target hiring manager or a warm internal lead, you can afford to be less worried about ATS requirements. If you are applying via a job board, or via the company website you need to consider the possibility than your initial fate lies in a robot’s hands.
How likely is this scenario? Applicant numbers will influence the likelihood of an ATS. Larger and global companies are more likely to use one than an SME or start-up, for example. Regardless, the chances that your CV will be screened by a robot are increasing, so it’s a good idea to find out how these systems work, and how to get around them.
ATS provide a central database of past and present candidates, allowing recruiters and employers to search for candidates that fit their specific needs. Automating the initial candidate sift saves both time and money.
There is more than one kind of ATS on the market, and not all are created equal. Different technologies offer different capabilities and have different tolerances, impacting how CVs are parsed. Whichever system is being used, there are implications for candidates, who risk an immediate rejection if they don’t know and apply the rules.
These tips will help you present your CV for ATS success.
- Keywords are critical. If your CV doesn’t contain the right keywords, you run the risk of it not showing up in an ATS search.
- Avoid ‘black hat’ or unethical practices like keyword stuffing or hiding keywords in white font. Your CV still needs to be readable and engaging. Plus, as ATS evolve, they are increasingly looking for keywords used in an appropriate context.
- Spell out acronyms, e.g. Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
- Add a clear headline that reflects your current or target job title.
- Use clearly defined and obviously named headings (e.g. Profile, Skills, Experience, Education) to signpost your content. This will help the ATS to decode your CV.
Use an Appropriate File Type
- Different ATS have different tolerances for format elements. Some systems can read .pdf and .doc files, and these are more likely to handle formatting. Those that can only read .txt or .rtf files won’t recognise or cope with more complex formatting. A job advert will sometimes specify the CV file type required, giving you a clue about the system in use.
- Follow the specified file requirements or, in the absence of instruction, use a Microsoft Word .doc file, as not all ATS can read .pdf or .docx files.
- Save your document using a meaningful filename so the content can be easily identified.
Keep the Format Clean
- If you can find out which ATS is being used, you can research specific format requirements. If not, err on the side of caution and adopt a simple format, omitting graphs, charts, diagrams, text boxes, tables, horizontal lines, italics, symbols, borders, shading, or columns – single column presentation is best. Stick to standard bullet points rather than fancy symbols.
- Make your font size 11pt or 12pt and select a sans serif and web-safe font such as Arial, Tahoma, Georgia, Lucinda, Calibri, or Trebuchet.
- Left align your text.
- ATS can’t always read or interpret header and footer content, so reserve valuable information for the body of the document.
List Each Role Properly
- List the full company name for each position – even if you’ve held multiple positions with the same company – along with your job title and dates of employment.
- Place any dates on the right-hand side.
- List full years e.g. 2016, rather than abbreviations, e.g. ’16.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
- If you misspell a keyword on your CV, you are less likely to make it through an automated sift.
Remember, Humans Matter Too
- Think of the ATS as a gatekeeper that can pass your CV through to a human recruiter or hiring manager. Your content and presentation must appeal to these readers too.
Want to ace your CV?
Download my book, Ace Your CV, Elevate Your Career, on Kindle. Click on the book to view and order: