Tell your story
Very few people remember to add to their CV until they’re mega focused on a job hunt, and when it comes to cataloguing and editing the work that’s been keeping you busy until that point it can seem like a daunting challenge.
You can’t just rely on your LinkedIn: CVs are the chance for you to have a real voice in your future by telling your story in the most effective way. Everything from the language you use to the way it’s designed will tell a hiring manager something about you.
We have borne witness to the good, bad, and ugly of resumes and while there’s no secret formula to making yourself shine on paper, here are the most important things to remember to help you on your way.
Inevitably this will grow as you become more senior, but if you can try and cap it at three pages you won’t lose the reader’s interest. If you’re at Director level you don’t need to elaborate on your first job or internships or include your GCSE results, and a good rule of thumb is to keep the bulk of the detail to your current role, getting more and more topline the further back you go.
You don’t need to be a whizz graphic designer to have a great looking CV (although if you do know a whizz graphic designer you could do worse than to utilise their skills and time). The most important factor of a good CV is how easy it is to read; I’d much rather you went on to an extra page than the copy be so cramped it hurts to read. Think about your line spacing.
If you’re a creative industries veteran then you should know better than settling for the standard Times New Roman on your resume, but it’s worth saying that a well-chosen font can be the shortcut to a CV going from boring to eye-catching.
Work backwards from your current role and keep your company name, job titles and dates clear. If you can bullet point rather than writing in full prose that makes things far easier for your interviewer. There’s no need to include a headshot or marital status and if you’re using colour or graphics then keep it tasteful.
Opening with a snappy profile that summarises who you are and what you do is a great way to start, and it can be as simple as: “An award winning creative director with 15 years experience in digital media brands”.
If you work at Google or Nike it’s hardly worth giving a description of the business on your CV, because duhh, but if your employer is smaller and not quite at household name status yet then a link to the website or a quick overview of what they do can be really helpful. Any detail you can give about size/turnover/percentage of the business you manage without breaking non-disclosure is also going to be important.
Prioritise the order in which you talk about your responsibilities in the company starting with the most important. If you’re a polymath or Jack-of-all-trades within a small business then figure out which responsibilities are going to be most relevant for the job you’re applying for. Sometimes including everything you do can actually muddy the waters and make it less clear what your actual job is, so be mindful of this.
If you’re trying to move further into a particular industry then tailor your CV in a way that celebrates your previous experience in this area, and if you never want to work with, say, alcohol brands again then don’t elaborate on all of the wild success you’ve had with your alcohol clients in the past.
If your role has clear KPIs attached to it then bringing your successes to life in your CV will be a piece of cake. Campaigns with record-breaking engagement, initiatives that have really driven business growth, brand repositioning projects, and increases in revenue or market share are all things to shout about, and don’t be timid in the way you frame this on your resume. If you wrote the strategy and led the team that did something great then make sure you say so!
In some creative roles the results are harder to quantify, but highlighting successes like developing and nurturing strong teams or implementing processes internally will go a long way, as will elaborating on the diversity of projects you have worked across (ATL vs BTL etc).
This can be a mixture of specialist skills and more general ones, for example Adobe Creative Suite or Shopify Plus vs ‘digital strategy’ or ‘merchandising’. You can also elaborate on what personal qualities you have that make you great at what you do here, are you a big picture person or are you down in the detail? Calm and considered or a whirlwind of energy?
Regular listeners to our How to Hustle podcast will recall that the key question one guest asks herself when interviewing someone for her team is: ‘Would I like to go on a long-haul flight with this person?’
Before you even get to interview stage your CV is the first window any hiring manager has into who you are, what you’re about, what you love. It’s the bit of the resume that transforms you from bullet points on a PDF to a real person so is worth giving some thought.
Top tip: I’ve seen about 400+ CVs that talk about yoga but only one CV that mentions the person’s penchant for chunky knitwear, and guess which name I remember. Don’t be afraid to bring in a lol or two.
If you’re linking to your social media and/or website then make sure these are up to date and looking gorgeous, representing you in the best possible light.
Spell check! Send your final draft to your most literate friend and get them to check everything closely, twice.
Save as a PDF (looks better than a word doc) and with a clear file name so it’s easy for a hiring manager to find in their inbox.
Use your judgement on whether to bring a print out of your CV to an interview, a more traditional, corporate business may expect you to but a young start-up are less likely to.