Curriculum Vitae or ‘CV’ is a marketing tool, just like a TV commercial. Just as you watch innumerable number of commercials on the telly, employers receive thousands of CVs everyday. You do not remember all the commercials. If you were asked to name the most you remember, you would come up with hardly a handful. This is because your subconscious mind screens and rejects many of them.
The principle behind commercial advertising is known as AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. The objective of writing your CV is more or less the same. Your CV should arrest the employer’s attention; arouse his/her interest in you; make him/her desire to employ you and - most importantly - induce action: employ you, or at least short-list you for an interview. How then should you go about writing a CV?
RESEARCH EMPLOYER / JOB: You will have most information about the job in the advertisement but it would do no harm to find out more about the job and the company through the internet, networking etc.
INDIVIDUALISE: The first principle one should learn is that one CV does not suit all jobs. Your CV is a vital document that summarises your qualifications, skills, and experience and matches them with the requirements of specific jobs. Therefore take time to re-write it every time you apply for a job - it is your career and deserves the extra effort. Even if there are no changes to be made, a review is worth the effort.
EMPLOYERS DO NOT READ CVs - THEY SCAN THEM: Therefore make it brief and to the point.
· Your CV should not normally exceed two A4 size pages.
· Please ensure that your CV is neatly ‘word-processed’ with proper margins.
· Please spell-check your CV to avoid grammatical/typographical errors.
OBJECTIVE: Mentioning a career objective is optional. Quite often people seek career changes for better remuneration, better job status or for any of a variety of other reasons. It may not be always possible to justifiably align these reasons with a career objective. Therefore use this option only if you have a specific objective and without vague generalisations. For example,
· “To lead as marketing head a Rs 5000 million company by 2010” is more specific than “To utilise my skills and experience to achieve top positions in the pharma marketing arena. ”
SUMMARY: A brief summary of your career may be given at the beginning of your CV. In summarising your career, please avoid generalisations: For example,
· If you are aiming for a high position in sales and marketing, “As GM-Marketing, achieved Rs 100 million in the first year of launching ………(product/company)” or “the company’s market share improved from 0.7% to 2% in three years” is more specific than “Excellent track record in launching new products/companies. ”
· If you are aiming for a high position in sales, “As National Sales Manager, achieved a quantum leap in sales to Rs 150 million from Rs 100 million in three years ” is more specific than “achieved exponential growth in sales.”
· If you are aiming for a top position in marketing, “ As Marketing Manager, launched (1), (2) and (3) block-buster brands which achieved ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’ market shares respectively in their categories” is more specific than “expert in launching block-buster brands.”
· If you are aiming for a sales management/training and development management position, “Developed (2/3/4…) of my team members to become top performers and get promoted as frontline/second line/third line managers; one of them became National Sales Manager” is more specific than “adept at developing people to assume higher responsibilities.”
KEY FUNCTIONAL AREAS (KFA): You don’t have to give a detailed description of all your responsibilities. Just give a brief description of your job to enable the prospective employer to understand your current job level.
This is because the same designation connotes different job functions and levels in different organisations. For example ‘Regional Manager’ is a frontline function in some companies but a second line function in others. Similarly, ‘Area Manager’ is a frontline function in the pharmaceutical industry but a higher (second line/third line) function in the FMCG industry.
The following example illustrates a typical description of KFA in sales management:
· Achieving sales and collection targets and budgets for the state/zone with a team of six frontline managers and forty medical representatives. (Sales management function)
· Training and development for better performance, overseeing strategy implementation and identifying leadership potential for future. (Human resource development function)
· Identifying new markets and new business avenues for possible future expansion. (Business development function)
· For those at fairly senior level, meeting key (trend setter) customers would be one of the objectives of fieldwork in addition to gathering marketing intelligence and overseeing implementation of strategies. (Marketing management function - senior sales managers have a role in marketing management)
The following example illustrates a typical description of KFA in product/marketing management:
· Achieving targeted market share, unit and volume sales for the allotted portfolio of products.
· Budgeting promotional strategies, designing promotional strategies and ‘selling’ product targets and strategies to field personnel.
· Training and development of field personnel on the technical and promotional aspects of products and strategies.
· Identifying new products/segments and tracking market trends in technological and other developments to maintain the company’s ‘lead’ in the industry in specific product markets/segments.
· Working in the field with the specific objectives of gathering information about implementation of strategies and gathering firsthand market intelligence.
· For those at fairly senior level, meeting key (trend setter) customers would be one of the objectives of fieldwork in addition to gathering marketing intelligence and overseeing implementation of strategies.
ACHIEVEMENTS: Make a bulleted/numbered list of the major achievements of your career with those pertaining to the last assignment first and listing them chronologically backwards. Again, mention only specific, quantifiable achievements, not vague generalisations.
You may use examples mentioned in the explanation for career summary above, but you can be more exhaustive. This does not mean that you may mention the detailing prizes you won as a medical representative when applying for the position of a National Sales Manger. Use discretion and list achievements apt for the position you are applying for.
Remember you have to sell yourself within the two-page limit just as you were used to three-minute detailing in the doctor’s chamber early in your career.
LISTING SKILLS: This is a tricky area. Every one in the marketing/sales function has good communication skills! But good verbal communication skills are an advantage as one moves up the ladder; good written communication skills are an added advantage.
Man management/HR skills are desirable. The ability to train and develop people to grow in their careers is a plus.
At times it may be necessary to get rid of people who are incapable of being developed but this should not be assumed to be a positive skill. This is an admission of failure to develop people.
However, there is always a gap between the theory and practice of HR. So if you have such achievements, instead of writing ‘expert in getting rid of dead-wood’ in your CV, save it for a mention at an appropriate time in the personal interview.
On the other hand you may mention, ‘rigorous discipline and team work in faithful implementation of strategies, paid rich dividends in my career.’
CAREER AT A GLANCE: Use a table for the employer to have a glimpse of your career beginning with your current job chronologically backwards till entry level.
GAPS IN CAREER: If there are any gaps in your career (right from your last educational qualification), be sure to have a reasonable explanation for them - you are sure to be quizzed about the gaps at the time of your personal interview.
At the same time do not try to fuzz them in your CV. Your interviewer is sure to spot any such attempt.
PERSONAL DETAILS: In this section just list your name, educational and professional qualifications, any training programmes attended, only if they pertain to your career, address and telephone numbers where you can be reached.
You may list your language proficiency and IT literacy, which is increasingly becoming essential both in sales and especially in marketing functions.
Do not list all your achievements in college, debating societies et al. A black belt in Karate may not be an essential qualification for a sales manager unless the company decides to physically discipline errant customers!
Similarly, your prospective employer may not be interested in details of your family members unless you are the daughter or son-in-law of the minister for petroleum and chemicals. So save your CV of such details.
REFERENCES: It is not necessary to provide references for all jobs. You may provide them if specifically asked for. In any case most employers nowadays check your antecedents with your present / former employers. (Please be prepared for this!)
WILLINGNESS TO RELOCATE / EXPECTED SALARY: You may mention these in the cover letter if the employer specifically calls for such information. Otherwise, best leave the ‘expected salary’ bit for an appropriate time in the personal interview.
COVER LETTER: Please always enclose your CV along with a brief, polite cover letter to the prospective employer. In this you will be able to briefly summarise your career, indicate ‘how keen you are to join the organisation’ and look forward to ‘a meeting for a personal discussion’ which ‘would benefit both the prospective employer and you’.
DO NOT BE TOO CLEVER BY HALF: If you are employed, do not try to assess your ‘market value’, by applying blindly to box number advertisements. Your CV might land on your own employer’s desk.