Leonardo DaVinci is credited with drafting the first “CV” in 1482 when he wrote a letter to the Duke of Milan to gain his patronage.
Equally skillful in his job search prowess as his artistic talents, DaVinci made sure the letter focused on the strengths he had that were most closely aligned with the Duke’s needs. So although known for his budding artistic abilities, he instead focused on his aptitude to “make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them” (click here for a full copy).
DaVinci had already made some impressive contributions to the art world, including the two Madonna paintings and the Annunciation. However, these were left out of the list of accomplishments in his “CV” in favor of focusing on what his target audience was most interested in, which ultimately landed him the role of Director of Festivities in Milan.
While CVs have gone through several updates in terms of formatting, style and language, the key goal remains unchanged. A CV is designed to spark interest in further conversation – an interview usually.
If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your CV, these strategies will ensure it gets a second look:
- Rebrand. Your CV isn’t about you – it’s about the value and abilities you bring to solve an employer’s problems. Even if you haven’t done the exact job previously, you likely have transferable skills that will inspire an interviewer to want to learn more. Hint: Dig beneath titles to uncover what you do at the most basic level. Usually these foundational skills are very transferable.
- Reorder. With only 8 – 10 seconds to grab an employer’s attention, it’s important to put the most relevant information front and center. A Summary at the top of your CV can bring the achievements that are most aligned to the desired job to the forefront, regardless of how long ago you did them. Hint: Don’t forget volunteer work or special projects. Experience counts, whether or not you were paid.
- Remove. When you’re creating a targeted CV, it may be necessary to remove accomplishments that you’re proud of, but which do not align with your brand or support your candidacy. Don’t fall into the trap of listing every historical fact, but rather cherry-pick the achievements that best show your abilities to the hiring manager. Hint: More is not always better. Don’t let the great stuff get lost in the good stuff.
- Revamp. If your CV reads more like a job description, it’s time to replace those bullets that begin with “Responsible for...” with accomplishments that show, rather than tell what you’re capable of. Starting with action verbs, draft bullet points that entice a hirer to want to speak to you. Include numbers to show scope and add credibility. Hint: If your role doesn’t have clear metrics, consider how your work contributes to furthering the team’s mission or growing profits, even in an indirect way.
- Relate. Career stories have replaced career histories. Your CV is a marketing document, so you get to choose what to include. Hint: Comprehension is key, so if your titles are very company-specific, craft a market-appropriate alternative and put the official one in parentheses. Example: Sales Manager, New Products (Innovation Evangelist)
- Review. If something is on your CV, you must be able to back it up with evidence, so be truthful and think through how you’ll support the information, even if the project was from three jobs ago. Also, check for grammar or spelling errors, which are easy to overlook. Hint: Spellcheck doesn’t catch errors in words that are ALL CAPS unless you set it to do so.
Despite the hype that CVs will be replaced with infographics, video bios or social media, this hasn’t happened. Sure, these mediums are a nice supplement to your CV, but after more than 500 years, employers are still looking for a thoughtfully crafted document that demonstrates you understand their greatest challenges and come equipped to solve them.