How do you write your own CV or résumé?

A good CV should get you to the interview

A good CV should get you to the interview


If you have ever recruited anyone, you have probably seen some awful CVs (Curriculum Vitae) and résumés in your time. And it’s really easy to criticise other people’s CVs and résumés.



But when you come to do it yourself, it’s not that easy. I’ve helped lots of people with this difficult task, so if you’d like to know where to start, read on.



Is this your CV?



So many CVs and résumés list what you have spend your time doing:


  • Redesigned software platform
  • Four years project managing various areas.
  • Five years selling advertising for XX publication


The trouble is that doesn’t give a future employer any idea whether you have any skills whatsoever.



What have you achieved?



You need to identify your achievements:


  • Saved £6m/year with software platform redesign
  • Reduced expenses on projects by 20%
  • Took advertising sales from £5k/month to £40k/month in six months


Now you are probably looking at that thinking that you haven’t really done anything as impressive as that. But you probably have, you just haven’t thought about it in quite those terms. When I work with people on this, identifying their achievements can be like pulling teeth. Many people don’t realise what they have achieved.



Here’s just one example. My client was a guy I’d worked with over many years. He was one of those amazing technical wizards you sometimes come across who is capable of explaining things so that the rest of us can understand them.



He showed me his CV. One of the items listed was:



Redesigned software platform



I asked for some details. As I started digging it got quite complicated. So I asked him how his redesign had helped.


“Oh well, it save a bit of money.” He responded.


“How much?” I asked.


“Around six million.”


“Great, over what time period?” I asked.


“Over the year.” He said.


“Which year?” I asked.


“Oh,” he added with surprise that I had asked “every year.” And shrugged in a “it’s all in a day’s work” kind of way.



I suspect there aren’t many interviewers who would have really bothered to dig into the details to that degree and get past all the technical gobbledegook to discover that amazing benefit.



How do you uncover your achievements?



Here are a few things that impress most employers:


  • Increasing sales
  • Reducing costs
  • Reducing the time/effort that goes into a task
  • Reducing the time it takes to achieve something
  • Finding new customers
  • Finding better ways to do things


With those in mind start looking through your diary or calendar. That should jog your memory. If you have copies of your performance reviews or appraisals, you may also find details there. Or even copies of your objectives over the years.



As you come up with examples, identify what the benefit of what you did was to your employer. Put a figure on it if you can.



Then start summarising your achievements like this:



Saved £6m per year by redesigning the software platform for the manufacturing area. I initiated this project when I identified some new tools that could improve the efficiency of this area and took it to completion over two years.



Took advertising sales from £5k/month to £40k/month in six months. I changed the strategy of the magazine, identified ways to increase the spend of key customers and brought in five new customers.



Make your CV or résumé relevant to each job you apply for



Once you have identified 10 or 20 achievements (I know you have them there) then you can pick out the most relevant for each job you apply for. No need to bombard people with stuff that doesn’t apply to them.



Keep it up to date



Make a note in your diary to check what you have achieved, say every 2 – 3 months. Then, by the end of the year, you will have a list of achievements ready for any job you want to apply for. This will also come in very hand for your next appraisal or performance review of course.



Put your achievements on the first page near the beginning

If you do this, anyone looking at your CV will see those first and be impressed, especially if you have tailored your CV to the job.



Put your job history later (and include more achievements there if you can). You’ll find this will get you noticed far more effectively than vague lists of what you have spent your time doing.



To find out more about our recruitment service, contact us and we’ll arrange a call to go through your requirements.

What can you get from a CV or résumé?


Last week a Grapevine reader sent me a CV (curriculum vitae) he had received from a candidate, asking me if I thought it was a good candidate. It was a very poor CV, but that doesn’t mean the candidate is no good.



Here’s what one of our clients has to say about CVs:


“I get this warm fuzzy feeling when I think that our competitors will be taking on the candidates we didn’t … just because they have good CVs!


It’s what we would have done before.”



Paolo Lencioni, Partner APL Accountants





A little test



Here’s a little piece of homework for you. Identify the best and worst employees in your organisation or team. You know who they are. Now, check their CVs or résumés. Is there any correlation? Do your best performers have the best résumés? What about the worst performers?




When I did this years ago, I was shocked by the results. We had been relying on completely the wrong information and had misinterpreted the information we did have. That’s when I first started to develop the recruitment service we now provide for our clients.




We screen by getting people to do what they would be in the job. This makes choosing the right candidate so much easier.




Do you judge candidates by their CV or résumé?



4 enevelopes containing unread CVs

What can you get from these CVs?

So many people I have met judge candidates on their CVs. This is a big mistake. Why? Well, because so may excellent candidates have really poor CVs or résumés and so many poor candidates have managed to get someone to write them a very good résumé.




The trouble with CVs



I often help people to write their CV or résumé and what strikes me every time is how poorly people sell themselves. Let’s take a current client. He is an amazing salesman. However, when it comes to selling himself, ‘underselling’ hardly begins to describe what he does.



He works in the field of magazine publishing. As you may know, many magazines are struggling with getting advertising revenue at the moment. If you publish an industry magazine you often send it to people for free and rely on advertising revenue. But advertisers prefer it if much of your circulation is to people who have requested the magazine. This guy turned a 0% requested circulation (i.e. no one who got it had asked to receive the magazine) to 100% requested. In other words he managed to get people to read the magazine and want it, so the advertisers were keen to pay for advertising in it.



He also came up with a new web-based platform for generating income for his magazine that, within 3 months of going live, was generating £5k ($7.5k) per month and is still increasing. He has taken so-called “dead” clients (clients who for years have not bought any advertising), resurrected them and turned them into profitable clients. And that’s just the start.



Needless to say, none of this was mentioned in his CV. If there were an Oscar for hiding your light under a bushel he would certainly be nominated in most categories. And remember, this is a top-notch sales guy. So just think what it’s like for normal people.



(If you would like to interview him, just let me know by replying to this email and I’ll put you in touch.)




You could be missing out on great candidates (and probably are)



In our recruitment process we don’t look at the CVs till we have screened in other ways. When we do look at CVs we are judging them using a few specific criteria. Unless the candidate needs to have good written communication skills, spelling and grammar are not included.



Did I hear you gasp at this point? I can understand that. But I can also tell you that we have recruited some excellent candidates who had very poor résumés or CVs, including bad grammar and spelling.




Get your criteria right



Your goal is to get the perfect candidate for the job. If you are hiring someone to write CVs then of course you expect a perfect résumé. If not, an excellent CV is not a requirement.




However, you can usually tell how much detail a candidate likes (a long CV indicates someone who likes detail). And you can often tell how frequently people like to change jobs.




Our recruitment service



Our recruitment service includes helping you all the way through the process, including screening candidates right from the first so that you don’t end up interviewing people who aren’t going to be good in the role. If the candidate doesn’t work out we help you to deal with that situation and hire a candidate who does work out at no extra cost. We charge a flat rate of £4500 + VAT – less than agencies charge you just to get you a CV or résumé.  To find out more contact us.




If you can’t wait that long, get our booklet “How to Hire Well” now.

Why you should try new things sometimes and my old Beetle


For the last 10 years I have owned a bright red Beetle car, Legolas. For the first time, this

Me standing by my Beetle with my daughter

My new Beetle in 2003

week he broke down.



I managed to get him into the garage and went off to do some shopping, hoping he could be repaired in time for my trip the next day. Finally they called me to say that it was bad news. There was really no hope. The turbocharger had broken and bits of it had been sucked into the engine. So the only way to repair him was a heart transplant.



I phoned Charlie with the bad news. As always, she came to the rescue and worked out a plan. Very shortly I had a hire car arranged.



So now I had a plan for a temporary solution. But my mind was racing with thoughts on how to repair my dear Beetle and get him back in working order again.  The idea of changing my lovely car didn’t even enter my head.




The hire car



My very kind neighbour, Mary, gave me a lift over to the car hire place and, with a heavy heart, I drove away in an almost new, anonymous blue plasticy vehicle, still carrying that fragrance so beloved of men; “Eau de New Car”.



It took me a while to work out how to open the boot. I was seriously concerned that I would not be able to plug my iPod into the stereo. But I was cheered to discover that there were heated seats. I decided to be grateful for small mercies.




The instruction manual



That evening, between sips of wine to help me get over the shock of my poor car, I leafed through the manual and was relieved to see that I would be able to plug my iPod into the sound system. Not only that, but it looked like I could plug it in in a rather more sophisticated way than before, so I would be able to switch the tracks using a button on the (heated) steering wheel.



I raced to the car and, sure enough, it worked.



Things were looking up.



The next hurdle was the sat nav. I had to work out how to use it in tim

e to pick up my daughter from an address I hadn’t been to before. This was a bit more of a challenge; till I got the car outside into the light and realised I’d been pressing the wrong button for the last 10 minutes.




The headlights



Much of my time was spent trying to work out how to turn the headlights off and how I had accidentally turned them on. At length I discovered that these arduous tasks are now carried out automatically depending on the level of light.




Trying something new – it doesn’t always hurt



As my experience with this car went on I started to realise that it might be time to get a new car, rather than repair the old one. At first I admit, I felt as though I was betraying my lovely old car. But after my 350 mile round trip, my mind was made up. (And to salve my conscience a dedicated Beetle restorer wants to buy the car and repair him.)



Many old ways are perfectly acceptable. But sometimes things have moved on and life can be a lot better than you imagined.




Why I developed our recruitment process



I was forced to develop this process because we work with so many clients in Australia. This means we must be much more efficient and use our resources, like the windows when we can speak, effectively.



I find it’s often the case that when you are constrained you make improvements that you just wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise.



So I have developed a process that, once set up, requires the minimum work from you (no more sorting through piles of CVs and resumes from people who are completely unsuitable) and also finds you better candidates.



Our recruitment process is different in some ways to what you have done before.



The frightening bit



The really frightening bit is only interviewing one or two candidates. So most of our clients end up interviewing more than that for their first recruitment with us, because it makes them feel safer.



However, once they realise that it’s a waste of time interviewing people who just aren’t right for the job and they learn to trust the process, it’s a different story.  



The key is that our process weeds out those who would not be suitable at an early stage, so you don’t waste your time or theirs on taking things further.




I would never have changed



Weeked at Cothelstone manor in 2004

The Beetle enjoys a weekend with friends in Cothelstone

I will confess that had it not been for my old car breaking down, I would never have

decided to get a new car. And I think that’s what you often do in many situations. You put up with how things are because you simply have no idea that they can be any better. You feel comfortable and safe so you don’t look for new ways.



Sometimes you need to say “goodbye” to the old ways in style. Here is a lovely video of the band Baltic Crossing saying “goodbye” to their car (who had an irretrievable breakdown just the day before my dear Legolas).




Our recruitment service



Our recruitment service includes helping you all the way through the process; setting it up and helping you screen the candidates. If the candidate doesn’t work out we help you to deal with that situation and hire a candidate who does work out at no extra cost. We charge a flat rate of £4500 + VAT – less than many agencies charge you just to get you a CV.  To find out more contact us.



You’ll find it all in our booklet “How to Hire Well” now.



To find out more about our recruitment service, contact us and we’ll arrange a call to go through your requirements.

Should you ask all candidates the same questions?


Should you ask all candidates the same questions?



My very first job as a school governor (equivalent to a school board member) was to

Should you ask all candidates the same questions?

Should you ask all candidates the same questions?

recruit a new deputy head.



It was quite clear who the best candidate was and I can say, without doubt, that we recruited the wrong candidate. I arrived at the meeting and was given a piece of paper with my question on it. I had to ask all the candidates this one question. My other eight colleagues had their own questions, which they also put to each candidate.



The candidate was sat on a chair in front of the long table where we all sat.



I could not believe that people were still using this process.



When I asked the other governors about their method they told me that this was ‘fair’ and we had to treat all candidates the same. This is to completely misunderstand the whole recruitment process.



The purpose of the interview



In this case (because the process was so poor and the interview was the only screening we were using) the purpose of the interview was to identify if the candidate could do the job.



Instead of asking about actual experiences and finding out what the candidate had achieved, we were asking “What would you do if…?” questions whose answers were completely unreliable (this was clear from the performance of the individual we recruited).



How can it be fair to ask different questions?



Your objective in this kind of interview is to identify if the candidate has specific skills and behaviours. To do this you need to employ your investigative skills. Many candidates have excellent experience, but are poor at letting you know. So you have to dig.



Now it may be that you start off with the same question. Here’s a recent example:



Have you made any unpopular decisions?



Depending on the answer of the candidate, you really need to follow this up with very different questions:



Candidate: Yes

Interviewer: What was the most difficult?



Candidate: I don’t think so

Interviewer: What about decisions that your team or boss did not immediately like?



Candidate: Unpopular with whom?

Interviewer: With your team.



Now it may be in this case the interviewer thinks the job is going to involve lots of unpopular decisions because that’s what it would be like if he did the job.



But usually you are asking about unpopular decisions because it is likely to lead to examples of the specific skills you are looking for. These could possibly be negotiation skills, resilience or communication skills.



But let me take you back to some recruitment I did where we were looking for managers with just such skills. My client defined “resilience” and being able to keep calm and to your course of action in the face of hostility. I had designed a very robust process for these candidates.



They had to take part in various activities and role-plays while we observed them. Every now and then we would see candidates where we could find no examples of resilient behaviour through the entire day. Not because they weren’t resilient, but because they were such good negotiators that they never encountered the hostile behaviour that other (often more argumentative) candidates seemed to attract.



So a really skilled candidate would have found ways to make “unpopular decisions” palatable and may not even see them as “unpopular”, which would mean you would not get very useful evidence from this question.



Different questions



You need to have a selection of questions so that if you do not get examples of the behaviours and skills you are looking for from the first question, you have plenty more areas to search in. This is not cheating and it is not treating people unfairly.



When I prepare lists of questions for clients to ask their candidates in the final interview, I make sure there are alternatives if first one doesn’t give you the information you need. This is much fairer to the candidate who just hasn’t had the experience you are asking about. It’s also fairer to you, because it means you are more able to find the candidate you need.



What happened to the candidate who should have got the job?



In case you are wondering about my original example here, the candidate who should have got the job, Liz, was already head of science at the school. She didn’t get the job because she was “too good in her current role, we can’t afford to lose her from that”.



Of course we did lose her – she went to another school as their deputy head and I’d be very surprised if she didn’t go on to be an excellent head teacher. She did well but we lost a very good member of the team.



Our recruitment service



Our recruitment service includes helping you all the way through the process, including helping you with interview questions and screening the candidates. If the candidate doesn’t work out we help you to deal with that situation and hire a candidate who does work out at no extra cost. We charge a flat rate of £8,000 + Advertising + VAT. To find out more contact us.



If you can’t wait that long, get our booklet “How to Hire Well” now.



To find out more about our recruitment service, contact us and we’ll arrange a call to go through your requirements.

5 Recruitment Mistakes You Must Avoid – Thinking you are done when your new hire starts.


Induction – the final but crucial step in the recruitment process



I once worked with a company that made transformers. My project there reduced their turnover rate to 25%. This meant that, as a result of my work, only 25 people out of every 100 employees left every year.



You may think a 25% turnover rate is nothing to shout about. But it is when you know that before the project, it was 100%.



How on earth could it have been so high? It was this high because, once the company had got a new starter in through the door, they thought their job was over.




The terrifying induction



They would bring the new starter into the huge factory full of loud bangs and clangs and sit him or her down in front of a terrifying, greasy, noisy winding machine. Then they would run through the process of adding the coil windings to a bobbin just once before abandoning that individual to the mindboggling din of the factory. They didn’t even tell them where to go for the tea break.



Some didn’t stay long enough to find out.



I introduced a training program for new starters that helped them through the process along with an induction program that introduced them to the company. We got this improvement in just six weeks.




It’s not over till the new hire is performing in the role



There is no perfect recruitment process where the perfect candidate arrives on your doorstep with a perfect set of skills and behaviours for the job from day one. Every new recruit needs to be inducted into your organisation in some way. Even if that is just familiarising themselves with your process or finding out how to use your software.




Make sure they get off to a flying start



So it’s a good idea to have a plan ready to make sure that your new recruit will be up to speed as soon as possible and feel welcomed into your organization.




Clear objectives and measures

How to Write Objectives that Work

Clear objectives and measures



This includes having a clear set of objectives and performance measures right from day the start. The new hire needs to know what’s expected of them and get regular feedback on how they are doing. That way he or she can get up to the standard required quickly.




Sometimes things just don’t work out



Even with the very best process, there is always a chance that the candidate is not quite the right fit for you. If this is the case, you need to find out as soon as you can and deal with the situation. Often a little help or training can resolve the situation, but sometimes that will never be enough and you (both) need to admit to having made a mistake.



If you are monitoring your new hire’s progress carefully, you will spot this quickly and be able to deal with. You will be able to avoid a situation where someone is with you for three years and has cost you a fortune in poor performance.




Our recruitment service



Our recruitment service includes helping you all the way through the process, and does not finish till your new hire is performing successfully in the role. If the candidate doesn’t work out we help you to deal with that situation and hire a candidate who does work out at no extra cost. We charge a flat rate of £4500 + VAT – less than agencies charge you just to get you a CV. To find out more contact us.




If you can’t wait that long, get our booklet “How to Hire Well” now.




To find out more about our recruitment service, contact us and we’ll arrange a call to go through your requirements.