Career Workout: The 5 Golden Rules For Writing Your CV


Ever thought about what happens to your CV after you’ve pressed “APPLY”? You may have given it hours, but the truth is that your CV will most often be flicked past as part of a batch of 100s or glanced through in the lift down to the interview room. In fact, research shows that employers spend on average just 8.8 minutes looking at each CV they receive. Step Up has worked with 100s of women to help them deliver kickass CVs. And guess what? Those same behaviours that hold us back at work – lack of self-promotion, lower confidence – hamper our efforts as job applicants too. Whether it’s because of nature – (those pesky female brains) – or nurture – (ever called bossy as a child?) – recruiters won’t make allowances. So follow these 5 golden rules and put yourself on a level playing field with the men.

Focus on concrete achievements rather than responsibilities. As women we tend to think in terms of process rather than results. But hiring managers don’t want to just know what you’ve done, they want to know how what you’ve done has contributed to your team’s bottom line. Use concrete and focussed language to focus them in on what you could do to drive their profits.

Talk numbers not niceties. Women like to talk diplomatically – it’s ingrained in us to be conciliatory. But your CV is a place to be direct not discreet. If you’ve pushed a valuable project over the line, take ownership of the value you’ve generated for your company and save the diplomacy for later.

Promote yourself. As women, our brains are wired to make us less boastful. But modesty and your CV don’t mix. Think of it as the shop window for your career – your way of hinting at the amazing contributions you could make in a new role. And what would you put in a shop window? Your best merchandise of course.

Take control. Change the tone of your CV from passive – “I was given responsibility for” – to active – “I did.” Yes, we know everything you did was part of your job, but the female tendency to downplay our part in things can signal weakness and lack of seniority. So choose strong, purposeful verbs (executed, delivered, created…) to highlight the fact that when required you will take control.

Be succinct. Do you apologise a lot? We’re all guilty of it. Are you an overexplainer? Us too. Sadly, the CV is no place for this kind of thing. Think of the shop window again. Or a film trailer. We’re looking for the highlights. Be clear. Describe rather than explain. And watch the interviews roll in.