Tips for writing a great CV

Now, I’m not a professional CV writer who will go through your background tooth and nail to pick out every skill and minor achievement and consolidate those into a perfectly drafted document, but I have over 20 years of recruitment experience so probably seen over 100,000 CVs, some good, some not so.

The role of a CV shouldn’t be taken lightly, it could be the difference between being invited for an interview or not so make sure its doing its job and telling your story the right way.

There is a stat I recall, I don’t know how accurate, that someone will spend 6 seconds looking at your CV before making a decision. I hope its wrong, but its good to have that in mind so you adapt it so the relevant information is easy to find.

  1. Keep It Concise – A CV should include the most important information about you and should be kept concise. Best practice is reverse chronological (i.e. most recent first), and assuming your relevant experience is the most recent, include more about this than that of your first job (if it was many years ago). Use bullet points.It doesn’t need to be kept to 2 pages, but anything over 4 and you are probably losing your reader.
  2. Highlight Your Achievements – Make sure to highlight your key achievements and successes which could help you stand out from other applicants. This is probably the most common omission I see on CVs, listing your duties will get you so far, but if you want to differentiate yourself from others this is a way to do it.
  3. If you have external links to your GitHub repo or portfolio then ensure these have decent content and arent a graveyard of your old work.
  4. Explain gaps. Rather than leaving the reader with questions, give them answers.
  5. Accuracy is important. Don’t exaggerate, check your dates and certainly don’t make stuff up. I would even go so far as to remove old tech skills that you only worked on for one semester or over 10 years ago for one project. Be prepared to answer questions about anything on your CV and if you aren’t confident with it, leave it out, or make it very clear it’s minor knowledge (see point 1 – be concise).
  6. If you are including a summary or profile then make it useful, not just a load of meaningless fluff.
  7. Make sure your contact information is included, correct, and up to date. Sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised.
  8. Be aware of your language, I don’t mean foul language, with more and more automation being used think about the terms that you use and what keywords may get picked up by systems. Avoid using uncommon acronyms, or provide an explanation if you do.
  9. Lastly, and just as important. make sure you proofread it and ideally get someone else to proof it too.

What is the STAR interview method? Why should you know about it?

The star interview technique is a structured approach to interviewing that focuses on past performance and experiences. The technique is based on the idea that an individual’s past experiences can be used as indicators of their future performance. Pretty normal stuff, right!

Many interviewers will ask questions that require a STAR response without really knowing it and that’s why you need to know and be able to present your examples in this way for maximum impact and benefit. In fact most questions where you are required to give an example would benefit from a STAR response.

The STAR technique is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Situation – explain the context of a situation you faced

Task – what was expected or required of you in that situation.

Action – what steps you took to address the situation.

Result – what was the outcome of their actions in the situation.

It is important that you understand when a question would benefit from a STAR response as by providing specific and detailed examples of how you have handled situations in the past, you are giving the interviewer greater reassurance of how you would deal with a similar situation in the future and in my experience, how someone presents their answer can make all the difference.  Not only that, but clear, succinct yet comprehensive answers demonstrate you understand how your roles or task fits into the wider objective and is generally a sign of good communication which features as a must in most job specs.

How does this look in reality. So, a simple example answer for a star interview technique type question could be:

I was working on a project with a tight deadline (situation) and my role was to ensure that the project met the deadline and all deliverables were completed (task).

I assigned tasks to each team member and set up regular check-ins to track progress. I also worked with the team to troubleshoot any issues that arose (action) and we successfully completed the project on time, and all deliverables were met (result).

This is a basic example, and you would certainly want to be more detailed than this, but you can see how it would flow in an interview.

Interviewing for Cultural Add: Crafting the Perfect Interview Questions

As we looked at in a previous article, Cultural Add or Cultural Contribution alongside ‘fit’ can be a very important element of assessment for hiring, but how does one go about determining if a candidate meets this criteria?

Firstly, we must understand that in many cases Hiring for culture fit began to be confused with hiring for similar personal backgrounds, interests, or even appearances. That mindset could result in companies full of employees who looked, thought, and acted alike. This often would lead to discrimination and stagnation in company growth and innovation.

Before thinking about questions for the candidate, there are questions you should go over before and after you’ve interviewed a promising candidate. They help determine what exactly you are looking for, why you require that, and how a person can fulfil that need.

  • What gaps in our company’s knowledge or culture can this candidate fill?
  • Does the candidate have skills in new processes or techniques that we would benefit from having?
  • Could this employee challenge our way of thinking and suggest improvements to our processes?
  • Does this candidate represent a voice or viewpoint for our customers that we lack? Would they help us better communicate with potential customers by having this voice or perspective?

Crafting the Perfect Questions

When it comes to crafting the perfect interview questions to assess cultural contribution, the key is knowing what is important to your organization. Is it service-mindedness, team work traditions, or a particular way of working? Once you know what you are looking for, you can craft the perfect questions to assess this.

For example, if you are looking for a service-minded attitude, you might ask questions such as:

  • How do you handle difficult customer requests?
  • What have you done to ensure customer satisfaction?
  • How do you approach problem solving with a customer?

What are some other common culture add interview questions?

Here are some questions hiring managers can ask in a culture add interview.

  • Describe a time when you helped a coworker or direct report with a work problem.
  • Describe a time when you received feedback from a supervisor or someone on another team. How did you react? What was the result? What lessons did you learn? 
  • How do you measure success at work? How does a successful day at work look for you? 
  • A team member calls in sick 2 hours before a team presentation is scheduled. What do you do?
  • What does a healthy work-life balance look like for you?
  • In what ways do your colleagues benefit from working with you as opposed to one of your coworkers? 
  • Tell me about a time when understanding someone else’s perspective helped you accomplish a goal or resolve a conflict. 
  • What is your impression of our company’s culture, values, and mission? 
  • From your perspective, how do you think we can improve our culture or values? What values would you bring to our organization? 
  • Tell us about a time when you came across a situation or decision that you didn’t agree with. How did you handle it?
  • What’s something you’ve learned in the past year that you’re proud of? 
  • Tell us about a time when you changed your perspective about a situation or issue at work. What happened, and what was the end result? 
  • How do you like to be managed? What characteristics do you look for in a leader? 
  • How do you typically approach working through a tough problem? What’s your approach to teamwork and collaboration? 
  • What key values or behaviours are most important to you in a company?
  • How do you see your personal value system aligning with the organization?  
  • Tell us about a time you learned something you’ve never done before. How did you approach it? What was the outcome? 
  • What attracts you to the company values? How do our core values align with your own personal value system? 

The questions you ask will depend on what you are looking for? But being aware of what you want and why will go a long way.

Hiring for Culture Fit vs. Culture Add

Cultural fit is often cited as one of the key criteria for new hires, which is all well and good but if you base your hiring decisions on culture fit, you can be promoting bias (especially unconscious bias).Also, similar-minded, uniform groups can foster groupthink, which can lead to negativity or even animosity in the workplace.

Groupthink as the name suggests is the tendency for people to unanimously support a popular opinion or decision. Choosing group consensus over thinking critically. When groupthink happens, people silence their own objective thoughts in favour of conforming.

When it comes to hiring decisions, it’s important to consider both the candidate’s cultural fit and their ability to add to the existing culture. Cultural fit is a good indicator of how well an individual will fit into the organization, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. Evaluating a candidate’s cultural contribution will provide a more complete picture of the value they can bring to an organization. Some research tells us that cultural fit can actually be detrimental to your organization’s success. Hiring for culture fit can be extremely detrimental to your belonging, equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts as well as inhibiting growth and innovation.  

Culture Fit

Culture fit considers how a candidate’s values and beliefs align with the organization’s values and beliefs. It determines whether a new hire can work well with existing members of the team and integrate into the existing culture. Candidates with a high degree of cultural fit will likely be able to adjust quickly and become productive quickly. So its very easy to understand why this is an important element when deciding who to hire.

Culture Add

Culture add essentially looks at how a new hire can contribute to and expand the existing culture. It evaluates a candidate’s capacity to bring new perspectives, skills, and expertise to the table. It’s an important factor to consider when an organization is aiming to innovate or make a shift in direction.

By taking both culture fit and culture add into account, organizations can ensure they are making the best possible hiring decisions and maximizing their potential for innovation and growth. This is especially important as organizations become increasingly global and diverse, as different cultures can bring unique perspectives that can drive change and help expand the existing culture.

In summary, examining a candidate’s cultural fit and cultural contribution can provide a more comprehensive understanding of their potential value to an organization. When making hiring decisions, look for candidates who can not only fit into the existing culture, but can also add something meaningful and unique. By doing so, organizations can ensure they are making the best possible hiring decisions and unlocking their full potential.

Look out for the next post which will provide some examples on how you can interview for Culture Add.

Get the Most Out of Your Interviews: Move Beyond Asking the ‘Biggest Weakness’ Question

Have you ever asked this question or a variation of it? What did you learn from it? That someone has prepared for their interview in advance by coming up with an answer that could equally be considered a positive or negative.

If you have asked this question, I’m sure you have heard something along the lines of “I work too hard”, “I strive to find the perfect solution and put myself under greater pressure than is necessary” or “I can be overly critical of my own work”.

Continue reading “Get the Most Out of Your Interviews: Move Beyond Asking the ‘Biggest Weakness’ Question”

Unlock the Potential of Your timid interviewees

Do you ever interview people where you feel they maybe have more to offer than they are letting on? Not everyone is good at “selling themselves” after all.

I bet you have had a worker who has been great at their job but is a little timid or introverted, does your interview process encourage success for these types of individuals?

Continue reading “Unlock the Potential of Your timid interviewees”

What are the top 3 things hiring managers or interviewers do that turn off candidates?

There are many things that candidates find frustrating during an interview process, and not providing timely feedback is top of most lists. However, with a candidate driven market its often the conduct and rapport during the interview that powers a candidates intuition on whether a role or company would be good for their next destination and ultimately be the difference on whether they choose you.

Continue reading “What are the top 3 things hiring managers or interviewers do that turn off candidates?”

What are the top things that candidates do that turn off hiring managers? (that are easily preventable).

Interviewing can be tiresome for both parties, but a little effort goes a long way and I would strongly recommend allocating time for prep prior to each interview no matter how many interviews you have done.

Continue reading “What are the top things that candidates do that turn off hiring managers? (that are easily preventable).”