CV writing :Improving your writing | Succeed

Improving your writing

Introduction

Employers value communication skills very highly, and this is very significant because when you apply for jobs your CV is effectively showcasing just how good your communication skills are (or otherwise as the case may be). Moreover, a great many employers specifically mention the need for good written communication skills in the job specification. Somewhat paradoxically, many jobseekers include phrases such as ‘good communication skills’ on their CVs without backing this up in the quality of their writing. Frequently there is a mismatch, and this does not go unnoticed. Just be aware that simply claiming you have good written communication skills, and actually backing it up are two completely separate things. Moreover, employers can see in black-and-white just how true your claim is (or isn’t), simply by reading what you have written and assessing how you have written it.

Be aware that if you claim to have good communication skills yet demonstrate the opposite in the quality of your writing then this does not bode well, and can (and frequently does) negatively impact your job applications.

Common Issues

We have established that the quality of writing is very important when it comes to CVs. Indeed, it is far more important than most people realise.

But what kind of things do people have issues/problems with?

Spelling/Grammar

Probably the most cited issue is that of spelling and grammatical mistakes, and a great many people are guilty of applying for jobs without properly checking spelling and grammar. Notably, it is not uncommon for some employers/HR executives to immediately discount applications with spelling and grammatical mistakes. True, communication skills are more important in certain jobs and sectors than others. Even so, some HR executives apply a zero-tolerance policy to spelling and grammatical errors quite indiscriminately, and regardless of jobs/sector. So just beware.

It is far better to be safe rather than sorry, so it pays to be very careful and check your curriculum vitae thoroughly for spelling/grammatical errors.

Other problems with the English

Similarly, some people apply for jobs with CVs that just don’t read very well in English. Again, this is highly problematic, and can negatively impact your chances of success -and especially for jobs where communication skills are a requirement.
Ensuring quality of English is not just a problem that non-native speakers have, many mother tongue English speakers also have difficulty writing a CV that reads well, flows beautifully and sell your skills to the maximum. This even applies to some people in jobs or sectors you wouldn’t expect. And the likes of journalists, marketing executives and communication chiefs often come to us for extra help with their CV.

Some common issues with the English

For example, some people resort to a kind of shorthand which does nothing to engage the reader. Similarly, some people write in a very monotonous and matter-of-fact way. In fact, some CVs come across more like job specifications then an actual personal sales and marketing document (which is what a CV effectively is).

Writing flowing and eloquent English while simultaneously selling your skills to the optimum is actually far from easy, and very difficult to pull off. There are numerous potential pitfalls, and whilst there are things you can do to improve the quality of your writing (such as reading and following the lessons in Paul’s book), some of it just boils down to experience, creativity and natural writing talent – and only so much of that can be taught. It’s no coincidence that the best CV writers, not only have an in-depth knowledge of CV writing methods and processes, but are also talented creative writers.

Overcomplicating Things

Quite a common problem is for candidates to overcomplicate their writing. This is a problem and does little to entice/engage the reader. In fact ,it is a big deterrent for readers. Sometimes jobseekers simply try to do too much, or try too hard, whereas at other times some people go a bit (or a lot) over the top.

Whatever you write, the meaning needs to be evident and you need to think about establishing and maintaining clarity of thought and direction. Yes, no doubt you will know exactly what you mean when you put it on paper. However, a surprising number of people do not consider the end reader and write things that are muddled and confusing, if not to you then the reader. Again, this is very significant, because most readers, and especially busy employers/HR executives are not known for their patience!

It is best to get it right first time and make sure everything is crystal clear and unambiguous.

Acronyms

Some people, and particularly those in technical sectors flood their CV with acronyms. Sometimes this is because they want to refine it down and see it as a shortcut, whereas others just include lots of acronyms because they assume that (A) the reader will know exactly what the acronym stands for, and (B) the reader will appreciate the use of an acronym, rather than writing out the phrase in full.

The only problem with points A and B are that both assumptions are complete nonsense!

The likelihood is that your CV will be read by a HR officer, and not a technical expert. Notably, acronyms are a pet hate of many HR officers, especially since just because you know what your interpretation of the acronym stands for, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will tally with theirs. Frequently it won’t, and especially since there are usually numerous possibilities. Not only that, but if the reader can’t easily grasp what you are saying then it is effectively a break in communications. When this happens it can only be a bad thing, and it could well negatively impact on your application.

Logic Issues

Another fairly common problem that many jobseekers are unaware of relates to issues with the logic in their CV. The reason most people aren’t aware of this is because everything is perfectly logical in their own mind. However, sometimes this doesn’t always transfer so clearly when it is put down on paper in black-and-white.

Sometimes it takes an extra pair of eyes to see something that you yourself can’t, and we routinely identify and fix logic issues for clients. However, please note that if we can spot issues with logic then so can employers!

The solution is, therefore, to ensure all issues with logic have been successfully addressed before sending out your applications.

Making Improvements

So how can you improve the quality of your writing?

As mentioned, Paul’s book is a good source, and gives examples and practical lessons on how to improve important areas of CV writing such as strengthening your sales message, improving relevancy and refining down your writing to a better length.
Another thing you can do is spell/grammar check your CV before sending it out, and if you haven’t already done so please feel free to ask us for a CV appraisal.

Another common mistake many people make is that they are just not careful enough. Sometimes this is because they underestimate the amount of time quality CVs take to write, and they rush things. Elsewhere, some people simply don’t understand the importance of fine detail, and are not meticulous enough.

Another mistake people make is to consider their CV as little more than an information sheet, and write accordingly. Little wonder then that some CVs come across as quite boring and very matter-of-fact. You should remember that the reader (in this case the employer) is a real person, and if you want the best results you need to engage with the reader. To this end, you need to bring your CV to life and get the balance right between enticing the reader and selling your skills. It’s a tricky balance and even with extensive CV knowledge and experience, it is a very difficult thing to pull off if you are not a naturally talented writer.

If you need assistance in this respect, then we can help you – and like no on