Writing an Agenda Setting CV

Far too many CVs received by organisations list the tasks the applicant completes every week in their current or previous role. Firstly, those things are what you are paid to do, so why list them off? And secondly, it gives far too many jump off points to an interviewer, reducing your control over the subsequent exchange.

An applicant we worked with had a long and successful career at top management level. A previous role was when, a number of years ago, she ran her own consultancy firm. In the first  draft of her CV she had presented the headline as “The global economic crisis in 2009 necessitated a change of career, so I established the consultancy firm, ABC Inc.”

And in the following detailed section she had “The services included Management, Finance, Accounting, Project Management, Procurement….” (and a lot more on a long list).

This reads as a negative. Basically she is saying, I had to set up a consultancy firm as I had nothing else on, and I offered a whole range of services, in the hope that something would land.

The first question the interviewer will ask is, What happened? Were you fired from the previous role? And the long list gives the interviewer far too many options to choose from. What do you know about finance? What do you know about Project Management?

The interviewee will inevitably feel on the back foot and less in control than she would like to be.

In the revised CV, we changed the headline to “Founded a strongly performing consultancy which achieved a powerful reputation and clients in the public and private sectors, including companies A, B, C and D”.

We then listed achievements rather than services. “Became a key advisor to…; Designed and built a system for…..; Authored a report on….; Project managed a major acquisition for…..”

Now imagine the questions the interviewer will ask. “So you set up your own firm, how was that for you?” And the interviewee gets the opportunity to talk about understanding business from that perspective, as a practitioner in the field, not just from the viewpoint of someone who has been in a large concern or corporation all their working lives.

And the next question could be, “Tell me about that acquisition you project managed, sounds very interesting”.

The way the information has been presented on the CV has changed the whole tone of the encounter, and set a better agenda.

From Speak Now, Communicate Well in the Workplace

Order your copy here