Selling yourself on your CV


Selling yourself powerfully on your CV is possibly the hardest part of CV writing, and if you are struggling to do it yourself, then you are in very good company, because most people (including the likes of career advisors, recruiters and head-hunters also struggle to do it properly – which is why they come to us for help rather than attempt to do it themselves.


The most common problem relates to underselling. Some people deliberately tone down their sales message on their CV out of modesty or from fear of sounding too big headed. This isn’t usually advisable, and especially since your competitors will not be shy in coming forward when it comes to proclaiming their skills and talents. So if you have deliberately toned down your achievements, then while that is entirely up to you, it may be an idea to think again!

That said, deliberate underselling is very rare. The vast majority of people who undersell themselves do not do this deliberately. They do this simply because either they don’t know the best way to sell themselves, they don’t have the writing talent to pull it off, or a combination of both.


Overselling, or being over enthusiastic or over creative when it comes to embellishing your skills and achievements is also quite rare, but some people do it. You need to be careful not to oversell as employers are not stupid and take a dim view of applications that read more like works of fiction than reality. Yes, you do need to sell yourself. But it needs to be realistic and pitched at the right level, and you have to get the balance right. Anything else and it could backfire on you.

Common problems

Underselling issues
Typically most people who undersell themselves on their CV have trouble seeing their curriculum vitae for what it really is (a sales and marketing document), and instead see it as something that is just there to list what they have done work-wise. Such people tend to include basic and passive entries that are quite documentary in nature, rather than do what they really should be doing which is to entice Employers to sit up and take notice of them by telling them what they want to hear in more positive and proactive terms.

For example, many people just say something along the lines of; ‘I did this and I did that,’ rather than doing what top sales and marketing companies do which is to tell the target audience (in this case
the employer) what he/she wants to hear. For example, ’I not only did this, but it is exactly the type of thing that you are looking for, and I did it better than the other people applying for this job’.

When you turn underselling into proactive and properly targeted selling then results can (and usually do) dramatically improve.

Overselling issues

On the other side of the coin there are other issues associated with overselling. One common problem revolves around overcomplicating things. Many people are guilty of this, including most professional CV writers. This is one reason why the tests we give CV writers who apply for work with us involves testing their ability to write clearly and concisely whilst not losing sight of the target job.

It sounds very obvious not to overcomplicate things, but it’s surprising just how many people do it!

If you take a look at your original CV and ask yourself;
- is it cluttered?
- is it long?
- is presentable?
- does it look professional?
- does it have a good words-to-space ratio?
- is it legible enough?
- does it have multiline entries instead of the recommended neat single ones?
- does it read well?
- does it flow well?
- is it engaging to read?
- is it the type of thing that would make my target employers sit up and take notice?

You should assess your own CV honestly and ask yourself these questions. If you answer any of these ‘no’ then that is an indication of overcomplicating things. If you appear to be overcomplicating things then as mentioned, you are in very good company – lots of people (and many CV companies) fall into exactly the same trap. It’s very easily done. Moreover, the solution (namely saying more of the right things but in fewer words) isn’t easy to pull off, which is one reason why most professional CV writer applicants fail our tests. However, if you want to sell yourself to the optimum on your CV you simply can’t afford to overcomplicate things. If you do your all-important central sales message will inevitably be more muddled, more diluted and ultimately weaker than it ought to be.

Fixing the problem

If your current CV is insert not getting results either because your sales message is too basic or too complicated then things can be done to improve your odds in the job market. That’s not just speculation, but fact. If you have a strong and focused sales message on your CV then pretty much by default you should have more success with that than if you apply with a CV with a problematic sales message.

Fixing the problem really depends on the situation. If your current CV is underselling your skills, then you need to ramp up the sales aspect. Conversely, if your current CV is overcomplicated, and your sales message isn’t hitting the right spot or getting through to the employer then you need to fix and address this. You can’t just cross your fingers and hope the employer will read between the lines and pick you from the pile of CVs. And especially as some of your competitors will have a sales message that is as clear as day whereas yours is still as clear as mud.

Part of the trick is getting the balance right between underselling yourself and overselling or overcomplicating things. And this in itself is easier said than done. At the same time, you can’t just ignore this obstacle, because if you do you will never get the right balance, and you won’t get the results you seek.

As mentioned, the best CVs also say more but in fewer words. And it’s not just any old words, but carefully chosen words that will prick the employer’s attention and get him/her to sit up and take notice of you, rather than your competitors.

If this sounds easy to you then you are probably underestimating the task, because it is far easier said than done. If it was easy to write concisely, proactive, legible, well-worded fully optimised CVs by saying more but in fewer words then everyone would be doing it – after all CVs like this work and get better results!

However, writing standout CVs is far easier said than done, and top quality CVs not only take experience and know-how, but also more time, patience, meticulous attention to detail, method and genuine creative writing talent.

If you have all of that then great, you are a true exception to the rule!

If you don’t have all of that, then you are in very good company, and we are here to help.

We have been helping your competitors for years.

We can help you too.