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CV Mistakes: From CPO to Graduate Buyer

April, 2024
Adam Richardson

Throughout your career the 1-2 sheets of paper that constitute your CV will form the spine of any job application you make.

They will be used to determine whether you are worth considering for a role, to help companies to vet you and as the framework for interview questions. As such your CV needs to be accurate, informative, easy to understand and concise if it is to be effective. 

As recruitment consultants we look at dozens of resumés and LinkedIn profiles every day so I thought it would be useful to highlight the most common shortcomings as well as making some suggestions about how to make your CV stand out in the right way… 

From Assistant Buyer to Supply Chain Director the basics matter!

The fastest way to get your CV (or LinkedIn profile) dropped to the bottom of the pile is by simple carelessness and/or laziness. You would be amazed by the number of CVs we look at (from all levels of applicant!) that have typos, poor grammar and/or inconsistent formatting. To the author, who is often sick of looking at and tinkering with their CV, typos may seem a trivial thing, but they do make a CV harder to read and more importantly they scream “I don’t really care about this job application.” If you’ve become blind to the page as a result of reading and rereading your CV then ask a friend or colleague to look at it with fresh eyes.

Part of making information easy to absorb is about layout and structure. For example, using bullets and bold font but trying to avoid underlining makes CVs easy to digest. Similarly employing a formula for presenting achievements (such as “objective” or “challenge” followed by “impact”) for each role or task on the CV makes it very easy for the reader to understand what you did and the impact you made. 

A third-party review can also be helpful to identify sections of the CV that could be improved. For example, what may appear clear to us as authors of our own CVs, may lack context or make little sense to the reader. Similarly, an independent review can help finesse the amount of detail to share for various achievements. 

Less is more – tailor your CV to make relevant achievements stand out:

It is always tempting to include all the achievements you can think of on your CV, however the more information there is on the page, the harder it is for the reader to identify achievements or sections that are particularly relevant to the role you are applying for. 

For more experienced candidates this may mean omitting achievements from the CV altogether but irrespective you want to tailor your CV for each application so that the experience that is most closely linked to the job description stands out. This means that keeping a master CV with all your achievements that you can tailor for each new application is often the most efficient way of applying for roles as it is then easy to remove sections that are less relevant and potentially move others towards the top of the page while remaining confident that nothing has been left out. 

Getting flagged by automated applicant tracking systems (ATS):

The recruitment industry (both in-house and consultancies) is increasingly sophisticated in its use of technology. One development that many candidates are unaware of is automated applicant tracking systems (ATS). This software searches through candidates resumés (or online profiles) to identify and prioritise CVs that most closely match the job description. In other words, it is more important than ever to include key industry terminology, relevant acronyms and the language used in the job description to maximise the chances that the ATS will shortlist your CV for the recruiter or hiring manager to review.

What you should include:

A significant proportion of candidates conflate responsibilities, experience and achievements. Being able to articulate the impact that you made in a role, or ideally to quantify your achievements, will give the person reviewing the CV something to focus on. The leadership aspect of more senior roles means that candidates at this level can credibly take ownership of their teams’ achievements, at a more junior level mentioning the overall success of a project can be good but focus on spelling out your personal contribution. 

Achievements need not be exclusively cost savings, efficiencies and growth. Evidence of effective interpersonal, communication and other soft skills, especially in managerial and leadership roles is critical. Similarly, membership of trade bodies and a commitment to training and professional development will further reinforce the candidate’s commitment to their chosen discipline.

Don’t forget your online presence:

Having invested the time and effort necessary to get your CV onto the shortlist, remember to also review your online presence. Not only are an increasing number of prospective candidates identified online but recruiters, hiring managers and reviewers are increasingly conscious that the discrepancies between social media accounts, a public LinkedIn profile and a confidential CV can provide telling insights. 

About the author:

Adam Richardson - Managing Director

Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the construction sector.

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