Are you still using a curriculum vitae (CV) to apply for corporate positions in the U.S.? If so, you may be selling yourself short.
Although the factual, comprehensive CV is still alive and well in academia and in other parts of the world, it typically doesn’t do a good enough job of selling an employer in the U.S. on why you—and not the hundred other applicants for the position—should be called up for an interview. But the good news is, your CV provides a great base from which to construct a results-oriented resume.
Overcoming the hurdles
That said, I’ve seen two recurring hurdles when working with professionals in transitioning from a CV to a results-oriented resume: 1) getting over feeling uncomfortable about self-promotion and 2) finding the right results and accomplishments to focus on. So let’s start by focusing on overcoming those hurdles.
Hurdle #1: I’m uncomfortable with self-promotion
Somewhere along the way, likely as children, we were taught to be humble and not to brag about our accomplishments. No one likes a braggart, especially one who humble brags. But on the flip-side, if you are applying for a job, within an organization that doesn’t already know you and your great work, you’re going to have to sell them on your accomplishments to get their attention. Although your cover letter takes on some of that serious heavy-lifting, the items you include in your resume need to focus on relevant, tangible accomplishments as well.
To get started, go to LinkedIn or your job board of choice and find a job listing that sounds interesting. Now, take a look at the list of responsibilities, and ask yourself:
- In which jobs have I demonstrated excellence with these responsibilities?
- What are some of the key measurable accomplishments I had within those roles that are directly related to those responsibilities?
- Did I or my company receive public praise or awards as a direct result of these accomplishments?
Next, take a look at the mandatory and preferred requirements and ask yourself:
- What role is my most recent or most exemplary illustration of my proficiency in that area?
- For any requirements for which you don’t have a 100% match, is there something else closely related or applicable in your work experience?
Jot down your answers to these questions for each of your past 5 jobs. You’re going to start with a big list then winnow it down when we conquer hurdle #2 next.
Hurdle #2: What results and accomplishments are most important to focus on?
OK, now that you have a nice big list of your accomplishments and proficiencies arranged by job, you’re ready to tighten up your focus. Look at the job listing again, and start with the first responsibility. Now, look at your list. Which of your listed accomplishments are the best illustrations of your competencies in this area? Keep those and remove or significantly scale back your mentions in your other positions. Move down through the list of responsibilities and requirements in this manner.
Next, we’re going to do some wordsmithing. Look at your list of accomplishments and how you describe them. Are you using the same keywords and nomenclature as the job listing? If not, revise your resume to do so. Are you using concrete, measurable words to describe your accomplishments? Are you including ROI on your activities, measurements, and concrete positive outcomes of your work?
Are you getting stuck in a few areas? Here’s an example of how to change your focus from responsibilities to outcomes:
Your goal will be to consolidate and ruthlessly edit down your list of applicable accomplishments until your resume fits on 2 pages of readable type. As such, you’ll want to give more room for your activities that are more impressive/significant and more closely aligned to the job description. It’s OK not to mention all of the areas of experience in each job– you want to keep the reader focused on how you’ve successfully managed a related position, and show your areas of expertise. In your cover letter, you can summarize your overall amount of experience in any given area– you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) list out the same accomplishments in each job’s summary.
One size does not fit all
Congrats! You’re now finished with completing a resume you could use to apply for the specific job you identified. But here’s the bad news: if you’re applying for a job with a different set of requirements and responsibilities, you’ll want to go through this process again to create a resume that’s tailored to that position.
That’s right, unlike a CV which can be pretty static, other than adding in new experience and accomplishments as they happen, a resume is expected to be tailored to meet the position for which you are applying. Every time. One way to speed up this process is to create job category specific resumes to use as a base. For example, a marketing communications professional might have one base resume focused on their role as a manager, one focused on their role as an independent contributor, and one focused on online marketing. Although you’d still need to go through and tailor the resume for the specifics of the position from a language and accomplishments standpoint, you’d have a significant headstart from starting over.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had in moving from a CV to a resume? Let me know in the comments.