If you are struggling to identify your personal qualities and capture them on your CV, then I’d recommend building a sandcastle. It may seem like a strange suggestion, but read on.

When writing your CV, it can be hard to represent your true self. You want to convey your unique qualities and attributes, but they can prove elusive or hard to describe. You may find your head swimming with clichés, which anyone and everyone could note down on their CVs. Quoting hackneyed phrases may seem like an obvious and easy solution, but using banal, worn language on your CV can do more harm than good. Taking time out to rediscover yourself and capture your innate qualities is a better idea.

A few weekends ago, when the sun was still shining, we took a last-minute trip to Broadstairs, a beautiful, blue-flag beach located about 20 miles from Giraffe CVs’ HQ. We didn’t arrive until after lunch, having been delayed by rugby league training and knock-on traffic from Operation Stack; but the glorious day made the trials of the journey worthwhile.

On route, I suggested a sand project (seen on Pinterest, naturally). “Let’s make a sand sofa!” I said. “It’ll be fun!” I said. Enthusiasm mounted, and soon everyone was on board. Some needed to see the blueprint, but we all agreed to pursue the dream.

On arrival, we dumped our stuff and excitedly discussed where we should build our masterpiece. I was all for just starting where we were, but the children pointed out that the closer we were to the shore, the wetter the sand, and therefore, the easier it would be to work with.

We ran to the shore, selected a construction site and got straight to work, digging whilst thrashing out our method. Roles quickly emerged.

For the next 30 minutes or so, I dug and heaped sand onto an increasing mound. My rationale was that we needed to start somewhere and steady, consistent action would give us something to work with.

Child number one elected to source sodden sand from the shore’s edge, transporting it a spadeful at a time to the construction site to reinforce the structure.

Child number two self-elected as leader, directing strategic placement of the wet sand and guiding the project at a high level.

The third child engaged to some extent, but diverted to his own castle and moat project where the waves lapped the shore.

Chattering continuously as our structure gained mass, we called a meeting to agree the next phase of construction. My husband was raised from his sunbathing (a wise call, given the colour of his back the next day), and took the executive decision on where to slice the mound and shape our seat. He explained his rationale and took the brave step of cutting into the sand. We all held breath, concerned it would collapse. It didn’t. Work recommenced, and soon enough, we had this to enjoy. Once we sat on it, it did look like a toilet, as you’ll see below, but that’s by the by.


Not quite the Pinterest version, but we were proud nonetheless.

Everyone played a part in this project, and their involvement revealed many of their core qualities. I could pick apart our actions and motivations, but my purpose is to discover each team member’s positive traits, which would be useful to convey to a potential employer.

Me? I’m full of enthusiasm and action. I come up with ideas and get people on board. I take steady, consistent action to complete a task.


Child number one? He’s creative and intelligent, selecting the best tools and materials for the job. His consistent effort and sheer enthusiasm supported steady progress.

Child number two? He’s a leader. He’s best placed when directing and overseeing a project at a high level, ensuring the outcome reflects the vision. The other builders in our team consulted him – “Where do you want this sand?” – and looked to him for direction.

Child number three? He liked and supported the project, but also held his own ideas and enjoyed independent pursuit of those. He floated in and out of the exercise, but didn’t feel the need to participate as a core team member. He was confident and satisfied to create something of his own.

My husband? Although he didn’t rush to get involved, his advice proved invaluable at the right moment. He took the brave decision that the rest of us were afraid to take, and executed it with total assurance and resolve.

So, there you have it. An hour of digging and patting uncovered some of our core qualities.

Although these words may not make it verbatim to a CV, and I wouldn’t necessarily use a sandcastle as a career example, the traits and values you bring to one project are likely to be the same traits and values you bring to others.

Once you are aware of your qualities and behaviours, you can better describe your personal input and results.

Knowing yourself is key to writing a great CV. Remember, your CV is about you, and needs to be unique to you. Stock phrases won’t do you justice. Instead, take the time to identify your traits and outline them simply, using language that you feel comfortable with. Convey your offering through your profile and through your quoted career stories. This way you can show the reader what you bring to the table that others don’t.

Be you, and own it. As Oscar Wilde said, “Everyone else is already taken.”