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Writing a CV in the Internet Age

The following attached article was written by Paul Chittenden, the Managing Director of Critical Project Resourcing Ltd, for the publication Rail Connect. The article makes suggestions on the type of content you should consider on your CV, including quantifying your experience.  The article gives a simplified view of how rail recruiters work with job boards and search through thousands of CVs using keywords, exploring how these should be included in your CV so that it can be found by recruiters more easily.
In one example, Paul illustrates a popular railway job board where over 18,000 people mention the word “project manager”, but only 9,500 mention the word “rail”, then a number fail to mention the disciplines that they can actually project manager.

As always, do feel free to call any of our infrastructure recruitment consultants on 01732 455300 to discuss your CV.

Writing a CV in the Internet Age

This article is just one opinion I've formed from reading CVs, advising on changes to be made and making introductions for nearly 15 years.

It is important and hopefully empowering to remember that there is not one single correct way to write a CV. There are however many possible mistakes and omissions. At Critical Project Resourcing we do not alter CVs; we feel they need to be the product of your work.

This article is aimed at the professional rail sector. The objective of your CV is to make sure you are selected for an interview. It should allow the reader to think you can do the job, instead of you might be able to do the job.

Focus on roles you can do now.

If you see a role that you would like to do or feel that you could do, given a chance, please remember that the client usually only wants to pay recruiters for someone who is doing the role or who can do the role. It is terribly frustrating, and you are probably right, you could do the role, given a chance.  Yet, as a generalisation there are relatively few applications from candidates who can or are doing the role. So focus on roles that you can do and then make sure that you can be found. Lastly make sure you communicate that you can do it.

Preparing your CV to be found.

There are a number of people involved in the reviewing of CVs; the recruiters, the client's HR contact and finally the interviewer. It is human nature for each party to cull CVs to a manageable number.

Over the last 13 years, since launching Critical Project Resourcing, the proliferation of the internet has meant that recruiters cannot read all the human data available to us from various job boards, instant applications, social networking sites and our own dedicated recruitment systems. So we use technology to manage all this human data. Yet in the same amount of time, you may have only revised your CV once or twice, and your CV is likely not to be fit for the internet age. You need to undertake Search Engine Optimisation for your own CV.

After selecting candidates we personally know for roles, we search for additional candidates. Imagine the children's board game Guess Who. We use search terms to find candidates who will match a client's requirement. You will not be found if you do not use key words to describe your career.  Say I'm looking for a Rail Project Manager to build a bridge. On one popular railway job board, there are 18,000 people mentioning ‘Project Manager' on their CV, far too many for me to read, but if I add the word ‘rail' 8,500 people are dropped. If I add ‘bridge', I'm down to 2,300 CV's, and so I go on adding key words until I have a manageable list of applicants. Statistically, I've just missed you, yet the client still hires someone. In fact, as I write this article, I am amazed at the number of people who do not include the ‘Rail' key word. You would think it's obvious to the human reader but the first searches undertaken have to be based on pure computer logic.

Multi-disciplinary Project Managers, often do not mention their disciplines individually, so if I were looking for a ‘P-Way Project Manager' I couldn't find them, so don't make assumptions!  On your keyboard, Control-F is your friend. Turn your career into a bunch of keywords and then see if you have actually used them. Make sure you use both short and long versions of all jargon, such as Job Titles, Software i.e. ‘CRE' and ‘Contractors Responsible Engineer'.   If you are applying for membership of a professional body or for Chartership, add the statement as it means you can be found. Just never lie, as the CV is read by the client and you will be interviewed on those statements.
Communicate that you can do it.

A personal statement and old school exam results commonly comes first on a CV, yet I normally skip straight to your current role as it tells me what you can do, which is far more interesting and relevant.  Your CV should look like an inverted pyramid, with more detail on the current role, demonstrating your competencies. It is from here that you will be subliminally selected for interview, so include as much detail as possible.  Equally, don't assume the reader knows what the current role entails, educate your reader, detail all the pertinent duties and functions, even if you think it is obvious, but don't copy from your job description! If you are going for a lateral career move - explain why you can do the role in your CV.
At Critical Project Resourcing, our consultants specialise in core niches markets, but make available up to 25% of their time to assist colleagues on major recruitment campaigns, as demand ebbs and flows throughout a year. So help us understand whether you can do the assignment by including factual details. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to include a quantitative statement, describing factually one of the pieces of work you are most proud of doing. What do you boast about achieving? What was your most complex piece of work and why? If you describe your hardest task in quantitative terms, then as a reader I know you will be able to handle my ‘standard' role.

The previous roles can then be statements of facts, as the reader now trusts your CV. Your past should detail the journey of how you got to where you are today, but it can be more of a summary.

This process should make the reader understand you are someone who can clearly do the role. If by doing this you better educate and inform all the people involved in the selection of your CV about you, then you have done the best you possibly could to get that interview.
Time spent on layout, style and format instead of content, just means it might look pretty. Though please do not use text boxes; they can muck up our systems.

One of the truths of a recruiter's role is that we are paid only on results, and only by the clients. The service provided to you is free. Quite naturally, a candidate would like us to help find them a job, and we would like to do this too, but remember you are not paying for that service, the client does. We do of course need you, and we do want to help. Where we can align your requirements with our client's needs, then it works beautifully, and with pride I know I have helped individuals and families make positive changes that have dramatically enriched their lives.

If we cannot help you at Critical Project Resourcing today, then hopefully this article will be helpful in the future.