Get That Interview! Make Sure Your CV Isn't Telling

By Sarah Norris b2b copywriter

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Increase your interview chances, make your CV show not tell - Blue Fox CVs

Looking for a job but not getting many interviews?

You need to make sure your CV is hitting the mark. This means you need to show a recruiter why they should shortlist you and not just tell them. They need to fill their role and they want you to be the right candidate. Make their life easier and help them to judge your potential positively by showing how you perform and the results you’ve achieved.

Remember, a good CV will show the reader exactly what they offer and how, rather than telling

Why show?

You may be an analytical, driven project manager. But adding this over-used phrase to your CV will only result in the reader thinking ‘you and hundreds of others!’ or even worse: ‘yeah, so what?’

A mediocre CV can still get its message across but it will reduce your chances of being shortlisted

Showing lets the reader know exactly how you performed and the results you accomplished rather than just telling them what you did in your role. Showing:

  • Gives the reader concrete information to position you as a strong candidate
  • Allows the recruiter to appreciate your performance in context
  • Helps the recruiter judge you against other candidates

…one of the cardinal rules of good fiction is never tell us a thing if you can show us… Stephen King, ‘On writing; a memoir of the craft’

Whilst your CV (hopefully) isn’t fiction, you can still use this idea to craft a compelling tale that lets a recruiter see your unique value with strong potential.

Create your interview-winning CV with the ‘show, don’t tell’ concept

Telling on a CV means just that - listing your responsibilities. To prove your worth, you need to demonstrate your results and the positive legacy you’ve created in the course of your career.

Be selective in your use of words

As in fiction, getting adverb-happy is not the answer. In case you’ve forgotten your English lessons, adverbs are modifying words and usually end in –ly. Top CV adverbs include: efficiently, consistently, reliably and independently.

Proceed with caution and be selective in your use of words. Peppering your CV with adverbs will only hinder your shortlisting odds as overuse weakens your message. Used sparingly and in context however, they can give the reader an insight into your professional personality. Even better, provide evidence with concrete figures.

While 'significantly increased' or 'dramatically improved' sound good, it's better to provide data behind the statement. For example, noting that you increased profits by 85% sounds much stronger.

Give statements meaning

Unless you provide evidence for a statement, you're merely telling the reader. This doesn't give your CV the impact it needs to stand out. Consider this phrase:

"Experienced project manager with proven project leadership capabilities".

Does this really say anything? It tells you the candidate is a project manager who can lead. But that isn’t enough. Meaningless, generic phrases won’t help your cause.

The answer? Quantify your results.

Give an example of a project, or portfolio of projects, that you’ve led. Provide quantifiable detail and the results:

"Project manager with 10 years' experience of leading finance sector transformation programmes".

Doesn't that sound better? By qualifying your statement, you give the recruiter a reason to continue reading and thereby increase your chances of getting onto the ‘yes’ pile.

Information set in stone

Use numbers where you can to define achievements or the size of team or company you worked for. For results, think in terms of how much –

How much did you save, how many people did you train, and how many customers did you serve? For example:

  • Managed a portfolio of 10 automotive sector accounts

  • Exceeded personal sales target by 125%

?Strong statements without numbers

What if you want to let the reader know what type of person you are without having specific data to back it up?

You may be a good negotiator, a fine public speaker or brilliant at managing clients. But how to say this without coming across as clichéd? Use of wording is the key.

Instead of stating that you’re a good communicator who gets on well with clients, try another approach. Think about backing up everything you say:

"A skilled negotiator with a diplomatic communication style; resolves complex issues without compromising company values or reputation".

Granted there are no figures involved or concrete data. If you’re struggling to add numbers however, these statements are still stronger as you’re demonstrating how you use your abilities in context.

Remember, showing what you did and the results you attained helps you stand out above your competition by allowing the reader to judge your performance in context

Finally, strike the right balance, don’t overwhelm your reader. Your CV should furnish the recruiter with enough information to help them make their decision, positioning you as a good candidate. Once you’ve hooked them, they’ll scour the document for more detail to make their shortlisting choice. This is your chance to show them how great you are and get that all important ‘yes’.

Sarah at Blue Fox CVs is an experienced CV writer and qualified HR professional who has written 700+ CVs for candidates at all stages of their career.


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