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8 Creative Writing Techniques to Build a Brilliant CV

8 Creative Writing Techniques to Build a Brilliant CV

If you want a brilliant CV that stands out then using creative writing techniques could be just the approach you need. And that doesn’t mean creating a work of fiction but a presenting your career story to engage recruiters.

Having read more CVs than I like to recall it’s sad to say that many don’t merit a full read. If you don’t want to be skimmed, take my creative writing approach to CVs. I will use ideas from novel writing to aid you to think about the quality and coherence of what you are producing for the benefit of your readers.

1. Have a synopsis that draws the read in

Most CVs start with a profile or summary. Too often, this can be a bland reduction of who you are that doesn’t encourage further reading. Well marketed books have a good blurb or synopsis on the cover that is designed to hook the reader in.

In novel writing, a synopsis will tell the potential reader what type of book or genre it is. In the same way, your profile should talk of the type of roles you perform (e.g. technology, research, accounting) and sectors you work in (e.g. construction, healthcare, publishing).

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A synopsis will often introduce the hero and their situation which is where the intrigue is to pull the reader in. Your profile should offer intrigue  through generating interest so the reader (the recruiting manager) will want to read on further to find out more.

2. Have relevant themes that stand out

All great novels have themes and so should your CV. The major themes of your CV should be the skills and experience that you can demonstrate that are a match for your target role. This can be hard when aiming for a trainee role where your experience is light.

I’ve often reviewed piles of CVs for trainee roles in IT teams. Those that say nothing about their IT experience don’t get very far. Those that have highlighted even a small project that used technical skills or how they are learning relevant skills in their own time will get due consideration at that level. This also applies to more senior roles. First note, down everything that you’ve done and can do that is relevant and then pick only the best bits for the CV. It may mean leaving out other stuff however noble you thought the work.

3. Don’t lose the plot

The plotless novel is a niche of literary fiction which only a few great writers can pull off. If your CV doesn’t have any meaningful plot, by that a mean some narrative progress, it’s going to be hard. Ideally, it would be nice if all your roles were perfectly aligned to the role you’re applying for. According to research from The Ladder, recruiters often don’t get past skimming that sort of headline detail.

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What you can to is emphasize what is appropriate and make your career coherent to the reader. One way of doing this is to make sure your job history emphasizes the major themes of your skills and sector experience. Job titles can be a tricky area – never change them just to match the job you want. It is reasonable though to add clarity by summarizing long titles or changing niche terms that obscure what you did so that they make sense to a wider audience.

The best place to change a job title is when you’re in that job. I’ve done this and the little bit of effort with HR and your manager is worth it to avoid confusion later. In the end losing the plot is having an incoherent CV that isn’t tuned to each opportunity.

4. Make it a page turner

Well-chosen words mean you’ll have a chance the recruiter will look at the second page. But, remember if it’s a page-turner there’s only a need for one (or in exceptional situations two) page turns. No one likes to receive an epic CV to try a pick through it for relevant content. Make every word count and work for its place on the page. So, leave out the dull job descriptions in favor of what you achieve. Also, never ever reduce the number of pages by making the font very small. Assume the reader has tired eyes from reading too many other CVs and that they’ve lost their reading glasses.

5. Leave out the flowery prose

Clear writing is what you’re aiming for. Avoid jargon, business-speak, and abbreviations except for when these terms are part of the understood language of the area you work in. Kind of like sci-fi will have some odd terms, it’s okay for accountants to use terms like accruals that other mere mortals don’t understand.

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CVs need to be written in tight language and bullets points. Leave out the long-winded drivel and let the relevant stuff have room to be seen by a reader quickly skimming the content.

6. Make sure you’re the hero

One section that is an absolute must is the recent achievements section. This is your chance to shine as a hero. And that’s the point; the CV is your story, you’re the hero. The issue is not how great who you worked for was but how great you were. List your achievements not those of the organization.

Recruiters only look for extras when there’s a film being made so write about your contribution and what you did. You might not think your achievements amount to much but it will make a big difference if you present even the simplest one well.

7. Tie up loose ends

In first drafting your CV do what any self-respecting writer does and get into a state of flow so that you’re getting the words down. You can always edit later. Don’t be critical of the content or worry about missing information like end dates and specific qualification titles. Add a note in in brackets as a reminder to add the details later.

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But having done that you must then go away and find out all the specific dates and descriptions that you need and accurately add them in afterwards. Don’t leave anything out you meant to put in and don’t leave anything that looks half-written.

8. Review and edit

By now you should have a reasonably good draft of your CV, especially if you have tidied up your first draft. It’s tempting at this point to send out the CV too quickly but time spent improving the details now can really lift the CV to new heights. Here’s an editing check-list:

  • Is there anything that’s unnecessary or missing?
  • Can you improve the flow?
  • Do your achievements stand out and have you quantified them e.g. how much did your initiative/project save the company?
  • Is it 2 pages in a standard font of normal size?
  • Is it relevant to the role it’s targeted at?
  • Is the profile an exciting representation of who you really are?
  • Does a quick skim still give a good picture of you and your career story?

Once you’ve done this then you can then get a trusted friend (ideally a mentor and not just a drinking buddy) to give it a review and out their editor’s pencil to work. And if it’s doesn’t work keep submitting it and keep improving it.

Featured photo credit: Scabble Application/Flazingo Photos via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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