When you are writing your CV, there are plenty of tried-and-tested language guidelines to follow, ensuring you produce a career document that meets expectations and delivers results. These range from minimising adverbs and avoiding clichés to starting bullets with power verbs and front-loading bullets with results. These tactics can definitely improve your CV, but beware. Don’t focus so much on CV language ‘rules’ that you stifle your individuality and make your CV narrow and contained. It needs to represent you as a one-off, an original, and most importantly, a person.
Your CV is about you. You are a person, not a robot. That’s lucky, because the hiring manager wants to hire a person, not a robot. Try not to come across as robotic. Keep it real. Don’t be afraid to let at least some of your authentic self shine through. I’m not suggesting you go crazy, injecting personality via puns, jokes, emoticons, or text speak. On the other hand, you should be comfortable that your CV represents you. It certainly shouldn’t suppress the real you.
It’s like using your telephone voice for business calls. It’s natural to want to present yourself in the most professional way, but it’s hard to sustain in real life, and if all goes to plan, your job application will get real. If your CV sparks interest, then those reviewing it will begin looking for clues about your personality and fit online. They’ll check you out on LinkedIn and hop on over to Facebook and other social networks to look under the bonnet. Then they’ll pick up the phone, and fingers crossed, go on to invite you to an interview. At one or all of these stages, they’ll discover the real you, and the words you use in conversation to describe your career.
Ideally, when this happens, there shouldn’t be a disconnect between your phrasing on your CV and your spoken word. It’s accepted that some people are more articulate in their written word than spoken word and vice-versa, but aim to avoid channelling Russell Brand in one and Jeremy Paxman in the other. Both should represent you as you are.
So, how can you achieve the fine balance between a professionally-written presentation and a poker-straight, impenetrable, and personality-free CV? Try chatting about your work to a friend, family member, or other trusted confidant, and record the conversation. You may cringe at this suggestion, so if listening to a recording of your own voice is beyond comprehension, ask someone to take notes. When you are talking to a person, face-to-face and with natural responses, you are more likely to describe yourself in a clear way that connects with the other person. This can turn up some real gems that you can transfer verbatim to your CV, showing robotic language the door.
Sometimes, if their location allows, I’m lucky enough to sit side-by-side with a client, listening to them share their career stories and describe their professional persona. They don’t use jargon or uptight phrasing; they describe what they offer, as a person, to me in language that is relatable and clear. I tend to note down what they are telling me and there, in amongst the dialogue, are often golden nuggets, phrases that make my heart sing, words that I instantly know should appear on their CV. Their career in their own words, what could be better?
Some people are so concerned about getting their CV right that they end up packing their document with language that doesn’t actually represent them. Don’t let this be you. Remember, your career prospects rest on you as an individual. Without you and your personality, your career wouldn’t exist. In every career story you tell, you were the magic ingredient that made the difference.
It’s your career, so don’t be afraid to tell it in your own words.
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