I do not want anybody who cannot write their own CV!

A number of years ago I was recruiting a Managing Director for a £30m turnover manufacturing company, a subsidiary of a multinational German parent. The Managing Director at the time, a personal friend of mine, was playing an active (very) part in the process. Don was a larger than life but very likeable character who inspired affection from more than 90% of his workforce, and was highly regarded by the German parent. His background had been in Special Forces followed by rapid progression in well-known PLCs, and holding major international roles, before taking his MD role with our client.

We had got to the stage where we were reviewing CVs submitted following an advert in the Sunday Times. There were probably about 400 of them and many of them, on first glance, appeared to be of good quality. In his usual way Don, the MD, had taken over. As he was, after all, paying the fee I was happy to let him do so. The exercise proved to both interesting and a useful learning curve for me.

cv-1In the time honoured way Don was sorting the CVs into two piles: immediate rejects versus those he was going to look at a little more closely. I was pleased with the way things were going, and was re-assured to see that the pile of CVs that he was going to look at more closely was a substantial one. Without wishing to appear too cynical, I was getting the impression that my fee would be safe. However, on closer inspection, something mysterious was happening: a number of CVs were appearing on the reject pile which, to my mind, looked to be ideal for the job. The pattern continued and eventually I became concerned that we may be missing out on a number of potentially good candidates. When I challenged Don is answer surprised me.

“These CVs have been written by outplacement consultants,” he retorted. ”I don’t want anybody running this business who can’t write their own CV!”

At the time I disagreed, and was pleased when I managed to persuade Don to include a couple who looked particularly strong. His reaction, I believe, was both extreme and incorrect… but thankfully we did ultimately fill the role with a very good candidate. At the time I was relatively new to recruitment, particularly at senior level, and passed the incident without too much further thought. I’d made my fee and that was fine. It’s pleasing to reflect that I feel I have moved on a long way from that sort of thinking.

And then…

The episode came to mind again years later when I overheard a comment from a colleague going through a batch of CVs:

“Urrgh… how I hate going through these CV’s which are so obviously written on a template. It’s so refreshing to come across one thats individually written.”

That remark pulled me up short, and I thought about the incident from the past. I also recalled that, on many occasions, I had been pretty convinced I could say which outplacement consultant a candidate had used. Furthermore I also remembered asking myself, “Are these achievements real, or has it been hyped up out of proportion?”

What’s the lesson?

There are countless consultancies and individuals out there who will charge you any amount of money to prepare a CV, and I’m sure that many do an excellent job. Quite rightly so as well because, for many people, writing your CV can be a daunting task and one that requires help. But note I said “help”.

It seems, to my mind, that in some way it is important to make your CV distinctive and unmistakably yours. After all there is no right or wrong: much will depend on an unknown reader about whose taste you, or any consultant, have no idea at all. Would you not feel more comfortable in an interview situation, talking through a CV which you believe represents you, and your achievements, rather than one which is full of words put into your mouth by someone else?

What about you?

As with all things, you are the only one who can decide. There is no doubt in my mind that input from somebody who has more experience with CV’s is invaluable and I have seen CV’s where ‘CV writers’ have had a significant beneficial impact but the best are where an individual has developed their own story. It is after all a sales brochure of a product you know better than anyone. Yourself.

If you would like to talk further about writing a CV call me on 07802 238697 or email me on ricbandrews@gmail.com


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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