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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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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