Why we dislike writing CVs–but shouldn’t

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For many of us, writing our own CV is unpleasant, a thing to be put aside until it needs to be done. Often the resistance is because a CV rehashes the past, forcing you to highlight your genius, repeating how many times you’ve re-organised the company and saved the day.

Seldom do we write–or talk–about ourselves in a grandstanding manner. Better to be judged by hard work, rigour, effort and results, which can be shown without all the accolades and puffery. And when we meet a potential employer face to face, it’s easier to explain what we do, much more impactful than the CV.


No. Completely wrong.

A well written CV speaks volumes about how you view yourself professionally, as opposed to social media. It is your personal marketing collateral, and states–with elan–what you’re known for, what you’re very good at, and how you’ve done it. The CV will evidence what you’ve managed, grown, saved, contributed, streamlined, created, negotiated, influenced, operated, or blown up. That’s more than enough.

A CV must therefore highlight what you do well, clearly, concisely, and confidently, accentuated and repeated.

People hire on strength, never weakness, thus the well-phrased CV allows you to stretch and strut, pound your chest with flair. In other words, license to professionally brag. And so you should.

Why is the CV still asked for today?

It’s easy to look at your LinkedIn profile, (which we all do anyhow) so why do companies still ask for a CV? In part to see how you sing your own song. Not though the lens of social media, but your voice, whether you’re 22 or 52. As I wrote above, it is your marketing collateral, and others want to look over a summation which nicely guides and edifies.

Here are 4 points on comfortably writing your own opus.

  1. Put that pattern of YOU in the forefront. Patterns reflect ability, in different circumstances and companies. Not because you’ve gotten it right every time, but to show the roles and obstacles you’ve taken on. And by the way, because it is about YOU, don’t use the 3rd person (‘Bob is’) or 1st person ( ‘I was’). As Joe Friday said, “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” The more you are genuinely proud of what you’re good at, the easier the conversation.
  2. Write with brevity and panache. Few of us read a CV; we all scan it. Therefore, view a CV as you would a poem; use the language sparingly. Each word is measured for impact, nothing superfluous or unnecessary. Writing with bullet points in mind is different than a policy paper, but liberates [and forces] you to cut away all the fat. Try not to repeat the same ‘led and developed’ phrases too often. English has enough synonyms to make it interesting without making it flowery. This doesn’t mean you need a one page CV, 2-3 pages is fine.
  3. Delineate your functions from your accomplishments. Many people put all the things they did on the CV, but little about what they and their teams achieved. Divide your functional work from your achievements; they are not the same thing at all.
  4. If you are a senior executive, bear in mind that no company hires at a top level based on function alone. Work is grounded in character, character is charted by values, energy, and integrity—all of which are captured on a well written and reflective CV.

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight
They seem to become natives of that element
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls

–Marge Piercy


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