CV: Content Vital

CV Pic

Copy of an article we were asked to write for CQI magazine about CV’s that get results.
(Original article can be found at

Over the past 30 or so years, I have read a lot of CVs. And by a lot, I mean more than 20,000.

Having looked at almost every shape and size of CV (yes, I have even received a 3D one!) I have picked up some best practice knowledge along the way and know what helps a CV stand out from the crowd.

So, here’s a couple of key tips for writing a CV that grabs the reader’s attention.

Personal summary

In my opinion, you should always start your CV with a strong personal summary that encapsulates what you can offer.

Something like this: “BSc qualified, quality manager with over 20 years’ experience. Worked both on and offshore and in the North Sea, Middle East and Far East. Expert knowledge of quality management processes and procedures, including ISO 9001. Natural leader, adept problem solver with excellent people management and communication skills.” (Please note, this is a condensed version. You should flesh your one out more.)

The purpose of the summary is a bit like the News at Ten headlines: it gives the reader a quick summary of everything you can offer – skills, qualifications, knowledge, personality, sector expertise etc. It can also reduce the risk of a CV being put in the ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ pile, when being looked at by a busy hiring manager.



Every company/vacancy is different and if you want to sell yourself as the perfect candidate, you need to mirror exactly what they are looking for. A very well written generic profile may fit some of their key criteria, but if half a dozen other candidates look like they may be a better fit, chances are they will be called to interview ahead of you – even if you are a better candidate overall.

First impressions count, so make your opening paragraph as strong and role-specific as it can be.

The ultimate aim here is to have someone read your profile and think you are exactly what they need and to get them excited about wanting to read further. As a recruiter, other than a successful placement, nothing beats the feeling of a perfect CV landing on your desk.


I read too many CVs (and again, I mean way too many!) where the main content consists of a dull cut and paste from every job description the candidate has had. The problem with this is it tells the reader what the applicant did, but misses the single most important part – how well they did it. I call this the difference between telling and selling.

To sell yourself as the perfect candidate, you should talk about how well you have performed in your role by selling your key achievements.

So, a dull, generic ‘job description type’ sentence like this:“Responsible for managing projects, team and budgets.” Can progress into something like this: “Lead a multidisciplinary team of technicians on the ABC project. Delivered the project ahead of schedule and below budget, through effective project management.”

Try to tailor your achievements to mirror the requirements of the role. Clearly the very best candidate would have amazing achievements that are directly in line with what the prospective employer is looking for with the actual role. You hopefully get the gist.

But we are not quite there yet on perfecting our achievement statement.

The key to a good achievement statement is the CAR formula:

  • Challenge: Briefly explain the issue/problem faced. What was the challenge?
  • Action: What was your involvement? What did you do?
  • Result: What was the impact/quantifiable result of your actions?

If you then add statements regarding quantity/scale/size/value etc, it ends up sounding much better.

So, your final achievement statement should read something like this: “Due to an unexpected staff resignation, promoted internally to lead a multidisciplinary team of 30 technicians on the £1.4m ABC project. Delivered the project two weeks ahead of schedule and 5 per cent below budget, delivering a £700k cost saving, through effective project management.”

As a quick recap:

  • In your opening statement, reflect exactly what the hiring company are looking for in the role – make sure you sound like the perfect candidate for each and every role by customising your profile to suit.
  • Use your achievements to to sell yourself as the ideal candidate. Talk about the amazing work you delivered and the impact you have made. Don’t just tell them what was in your job description.

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director

Improve your CV – Workshop:

My perfect team? I haven’t got a “Scooby Doo”…

Scooby Doo Team

My kids were watching a certain cartoon on TV the other night and, I wondered if the inhabitants of the Mystery Machine might actually be a near perfect team?

What might Belbin Team Role Theory have to say about our ghost chasing, haunted house exploring, villain catching crew?

Let me offer some of my Scooby thoughts;

Size – according to Belbin Team Role Theory , the optimum team size is between 4 and 6 people. Check.

Behavioural Selection – the perfect team mix would have strong examples of all 9 Belbin Team Roles represented amongst the team members. I’d suggest the following team profile for our leading characters;

Scooby Doo Team Wheel

Scooby Doo

Talk about an unorthodox specialist – he’s a talking dog that has done nothing but creatively solve mysteries for c 50 years!

Plant – Creative, imaginative, unorthodox. Generates ideas and solves difficult problems. Specialist – Single-minded, self-starting, dedicated. Provides knowledge and skills in rare supply.

Shaggy Rodgers

Trusting, loyal team servant…(Hey, Scooby, old pal)… I’d say he not only averts friction, but runs a mile from it at every opportunity. Always making Scooby snacks for his canine companion.

Team Worker – Co-operative, perceptive and diplomatic. Listens and averts friction,

Fred Jones

The leader of the gang…the voice of authority with a very grounded and practical approach. Puts plans into action and fixes the van when it breaks down.

Shaper – Challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure. Has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles. Implementer – Practical, reliable, efficient. Turns ideas into actions and organizes work that needs to be done.

Daphne Blake

Outgoing, charming and communicative, with an eye on the bigger picture objectives.

Resource Investigator – Outgoing, enthusiastic, communicative. Explores opportunities and develops contacts Co-ordinator – Mature, confident, identifies talent. Clarifies goals. Delegates effectively

Velma Dinkley

The analytical and detail expert…full of left brain logic, with an underlying hint of OCD thrown in for good measure. Creates a strategic plan for the team.

Monitor Evaluator – Sober, strategic and discerning. Sees all options and judges accurately. Completer Finisher – Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors. Polishes and perfects.

So, assuming we have their behavioural profiles correct, I think their team role profile looks very well balanced and complete.

But what about team performance?

Playing to strengths – they do this with aplomb as each team member has a critical part to play in the team and they all play to their respective strengths and manage their weaknesses.

Engagement – communication is regular, open and honest, with feedback and support provided between all the team members.

Staff Retention – the team have worked very well together, without any change, for almost 50 years apart from a short-term addition to the team, Scrappy Doo. I’d argue that the team dynamic was possibly adversely affected by the introduction of Scooby’s nephew, the super pup. So, moving him on from the team was perhaps no bad thing…

Delivering against team objectives – my 5 minutes of googling indicated that Scooby and his pals have featured in 478 TV shows, films, DVD’s, plays and video games. To the best of my knowledge, they have a 100% success rate of delivering against their key objective – catching the villain.

(If you know of any episodes where they failed, let me know and I’ll adjust my calculations…)

That’s a high performing, successful team by any measure.

What lessons can we take learn from this?

Effective team selection, achieving the right mix of behavioural strengths, maintaining engagement and open communication, true collaboration, focusing on the key objective at hand at and working hard / playing hard together as a team…can deliver amazing results.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog or any examples of great teamwork in action – in cartoon or real life.

Always happy to chat with anyone on a no obligation basis that may be interested in improving their own team / organisation or learning more about Belbin Team Roles. We can even provide the tea / coffee and Scooby snacks…and I promise there will be no meddling kids to mess up the plan…

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director

For further information on Belbin Team Roles, visit