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Says a candidate to the search consultant: “So, how do you like my CV?” The search consultant replies: “Well, I’m actually impressed. I have never seen a CV on a yellow sticky note before.”

While I personally have never actually received a curriculum vitae on a yellow sticky note, I have had many memorable instances regarding content included on CVs and the fact that some CVs caused me to endure endless time searching for content that was well hidden or not included at all. Composing a CV seems to be as subjective as selecting a personal clothing style, but there are some corporate guidelines you should consider. You might even find out that you have spent too much time on your CV in the past, but did not include the crucial facts.


executive_search_cvProfessional CVs – The Basics

Photos – The Do’s and Don’ts of Including a Photo with your CV
Of course it goes without saying, that your photo (when applicable in your country) should be a professional one; you should look straight into the camera and not lay your head to one side or touch your chin with one hand, even if the photographer tells you to pose like this. It might seem insecure and too staged. And only include one photo – don’t laugh – we have seen applications even for top management positions with several photos (manager standing, sitting, mountaineering and one with an exceptionally determined facial expression). If the content of your CV is compelling enough, we will ask you to come for a face-to-face interview; and we will then get to hear about your hobbies and see your best poses while you sit and stand.
 

The CV Content – It’s Not Just About What You Say, but How You Say It
The CV should be written in a simple, well-structured and easy-to-read format. There are a number of really good online resources and templates which give best practice examples of how to write a CV. Regardless of the format you choose, a good CV should always include your education and degrees (schools and dates) and additional training courses or language and technical skills should be included (the search consultant will thank you later when writing your candidate report for the client). Include any references to your articles or papers that have been published on leading, recognised platforms. This shows us that you are well-informed and regarded as a thought-leader in your specific field.

The work experience part of your CV should be as short as possible and all your information should be in chronological order starting with your current position and working backwards to the start of your career. For each position, indicate a very succinct sentence or a few bullet points detailing the highlights or milestones you achieved in each position as well as a reason for leaving that position. Especially if you have changed jobs quite often – the information that you moved from country to country and company to company a couple of times because your partner was relocated might prevent the search consultant from putting your CV aside with the comment “job hopper CV.”

A golden rule to remember with your CV is that you should include the information that enables the search consultant to match your profile with the target profile. For example, in the case of a sales management position, responsibility including product groups, team size, region(s), turnover if published, success, and reason for leaving. If you want to add more details you can attach an extra page at the end. We are looking at the story of your career and we look to see what you have learnt and how you grew with each career move. Moving for a bigger salary won’t necessarily show us that you have the competences or skills that we are specifically looking for. Remember, be honest in your CV as we will pick up any inconsistencies during our reference checking and verification phases.
 

PromoteYourself Without Being Arrogant
“Holistically acting, passionate, experienced manager, dedicated, hands-on and down to earth but sovereign and highly skilled in people management as well as an excellent team player; innovative thinker and multidisciplinary executor paired with exceptional keen sense for markets & clients.” How’s that for a CV tongue twister?

Congratulations on being the super jackpot and using so many great adjectives, but there is no need to communicate all of this in the CV – trust the search consultant. He or she will judge whether you are a match to the client with regards to personality and attitude. Maintaining a balance between showcasing your achievements and not coming across as arrogant is important. Be factual when listing your achievements and always link your milestones to tangible or measurable targets. For example, if you implemented a new work-flow management process, indicate the savings your process achieved and the impact this process had on your team or the wider organisation (e.g. reduced wastage, increased turnover etc.).

Need a cover letter? OK, but keep it to the point. Or if you make it long, write a really good one, but this will take you up to four hours. Best if you briefly explain your motivation and why you are a fit for exactly this job. No need for personal strengths. Simple facts and figures will do. If you try to change from one practice to another, try to explain why you are a fit. Want to change from private banking into the GM role of a biotech group? I recommend calling the consultant before you start composing your application. In any case, check how much your experience matches the target profile. If it is below 50 percent consider not applying at all.

What’s next after sending off your perfectly-matching and well-structured CV? We just love candidates who are really flexible and easy to reach, always returning feedback quickly and in a to-the-point way – even via informal text message. On the other hand, please forgive us if the process might take some extra time on our side and you need to wait.

Finally, all examples and quotations of this article only apply to a small number of applicants and of course to the corporate management world I experience today. In my early international recruitment days I collected CVs in the format of a restaurant menu, a tabloid or even a comic – however, no yellow sticky notes so far.