By Marlo Martin
Firstly, I’m sure most of us have been faced with the daunting “mountain-climb” of writing a marketable CV. Yes, I use the word “marketable”, because that’s exactly what your CV should do for you. It must market – YOU! Your education, skills, knowledge, achievements, work experience equates to VALUE, which you are going to offer to your prospective employer.
Tom Peters, an American writer on marketing, said the following: “All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEO’s of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called YOU.”
In this blog article, I will discuss 3 core elements in detail when presenting & writing a marketable CV. Core elements such as: structure & layout, font, length, marketable and persuasive wording of job responsibilities etc.
Structure & Layout
Layout of your CV plays a vital role in marketing yourself. My recommendation is to stick to a clean, professional look and feel. I recommend that you start with your first name and last name in BIG BOLD CAPITAL letters at the top. Following that, you should include your key contact details – your address, phone numbers, and email address. According to James Innes, bestselling careers author and founder of the CV Centre®, it’s much more professional to present these as a letterhead, rather than in a list like form. It also saves a lot of valuable space. Other personal details you could add includes language proficiency, driver’s licence and date of birth, depending on the specifics of the job advert.
Following key contact details, you may wish to include a “Professional Profile”. The Professional profile is a brief statement of one paragraph, at the beginning of a CV. It can be used to briefly summarise your skills, strengths, work experience and the specialised knowledge you are offering, that is specific to the job you’re applying for. It’s a statement where you can effectively market yourself immediately.
An example of a “Professional Profile” for a teaching CV could be something like this: Offering X years of educational and teaching experience within the FET Phase. Specialised knowledge and expertise within the subject areas of XYZ. Strong academic achievement, CAPS trained and proficient in MS Office. My strengths include a combination of effective lesson planning & sport coaching skills coupled with strong leadership & organisational skills to provide innovative and valuable contributions to the school.
You’ll notice I don’t start each new sentence with “I” as the CV is about YOU in the first place. Also take note that, in the above “Professional Profile” example, this prospective employee highlights and sells their strengths, skills, value-offering & contribution, experience, knowledge and expertise immediately. The above is just an example, make sure that you tailor your “Professional Profile” to what the specific school or organisation is looking for in the job advert. Take note that the example is related to teaching, but the guidelines are still applicable when applying for other positions.
Then follows your “Education” – section. You need to consider the following questions when writing this section: “Do you include the name of each institution attended?” “Do the details have your current course first and then work back?” “Are the start and end dates given for each institution attended?” “Do you give the full title of the courses?” “Do you focus on modules most relevant to the application and highlight your strengths?”
Following education, will be the heading “Work Experience”. Ask yourself the following questions: “Do your details start with your most recent experience and work back?” “Are the start and end dates given?” “Do you name the company/organisation/school?” “Did you mention the job title?” “Do you give brief short and succinct bullet-points of your main duties and responsibilities?” Writing your bullet-points will be discussed in the next section.
Following experience, you could include a “Skills” – section. Importantly, consider if the skills outlined in this section reflect the skills required by the employer, it’s crucial that you mention the skills they are looking for. Lastly, your “References”-section needs to include the names, job titles and contact number of the referee. Additionally, make sure that you first ask the person if they can act as a reference for you.
Persuasive wording of job responsibilities using action verbs
Remember, when writing your duties and responsibilities in bullet-points, you want to write it in such a way that demonstrates what you’ve done, but most importantly, what was the result that you’ve obtained. When writing for e.g. “Responsible for lesson planning”, it tells me you were responsible for lesson planning. But what about it? One needs to be a little bit more specific and give some results.
Here’s a more effective example, “Planned & implemented effective lessons according to the CAPS curriculum, ensuring a well-organised class.” In this second example I’m being more specific and telling the prospective employer what the result was of my responsibility. I also use action verbs such as “planned” and “implemented”, to be more descriptive. Here’s a link from www.themuse.com of a list of action verbs you can use when writing your bullet-point responsibilities: 185 powerful verbs that will make your resume awesome.
Length, Relevant Information and Font
I’ve always believed in the saying “less is more, quality over quantity.” And this saying also resonates with a well-written marketable CV. The length of a CV all depends on a couple of factors such as years of experience, career stage and position applied for etc. For entry-level, I’ll stick to two pages. More senior-level positions, I’ll try not to go over three pages. If there are previous jobs you’ve done in the past, which you feel are not relevant to the specific position you’re applying for, then leave that out. The best font-types I recommend to choose from when writing your CV include Arial, Garamond, Helvetica, Calibri or Times New Roman. Stick to one type of font throughout your writing. Furthermore, I’ll preferably stick to an 11-12 font size and a size 14 for section headings.
I trust these CV writing tips will definitely be of value and assist you going forward in your career to help you stand out and market yourself more strategically.
All the best,
Innes, J. (2016) The CV Book – How to avoid the most common mistakes and write a winning CV, 3rd Edition, Harlow: Pearson
Editor, T. M. (2015, December 01). 185 Action Verbs That’ll Make Your Resume Awesome. Retrieved November 05, 2017, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/185-powerful-verbs-that-will-make-your-resume-awesome
- Teacher CV examples: https://resumes-for-teachers.com/teacher-resume-examples.htm
- UCT Careers Service Resources: http://www.careers.uct.ac.za/cs/internal-resources
- Dawkins, K. & Codrington G. (2012). Navigating Your Career: 5 Steps to success in the new world of work. Penguin Books – South Africa.
Marlo is a qualified educator, facilitator and speaker. He is also a registered counsellor specialising in careers, education (school) with the HPCSA.
For the past three years he’s been working as an Academic Support Facilitator & Teacher, within the Technical and Vocational Education & Training (TVET) College sector, where he presents Study Skills & Job Readiness classes to students. Furthermore, he’s been invited to be a guest speaker for two years in a row, at a Psychology Festival of Learning in Cape Town. His signature talks focused on the areas of Positive Psychology and using Psychology to maximise your impact and develop your Personal Career Brand.
He is passionate about inspiring, influencing and developing human capital through the power of teaching, blogging, writing & speaking. Marlo speaks & writes on the topics of personal & career development, academic development, study skills & personal mastery. He is currently in the process of developing his personal and career development blog called “Resilient Shift.”
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