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Deep Thoughts

5 Easy Ways To Optimise Your CV To Beat 99% Of The Market

1/ Create a killer hook

The first thing you need to do when optimising your CV is to start with a bang.

This means writing a powerful opening statement that will grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read on. Think about what you want to achieve with your CV and what kind of impression you want to make on the reader.

Then, craft an opening statement that will help you achieve those goals.

What we want is less of this…

“I’m a hardworking, determined, trustworthy, resilient professional with 20 years of experience in xyz industry. I’m reliable, able to multitask and blah, blah, blah”

This is what 99% of people write.

Do you really think your reader wants to read the same thing they’ve read thousands of time? It’s not going to get their attention.

And, attention is what we want to grasp.

Here’s a better version…

“Hey, I’m Andres. I’m a high-performing software engineer with a journey of nearly 20 years working with some of the worlds leading technology brands.

I partner with teams to build world-class products in an ever-changing landscape. I’ve collected a bag of skills and experience that enable me to be a leader in my field and I’d love the opportunity to bring these to [insert company name].”

How does that flow?

It’s personable and different to the 99%. This is what we want.

2/ Focus on achievements and skills, not responsibilities

Too many people use the same structure of sharing a massive list of their current job responsibilities as the advertisement for a new role.

It’s basically just a copy-and-paste job from your current job description. Yet, this is a rubbish approach to advertise you and your skills. Employers don’t care if you were responsible for producing budget reports, but they do care about the level of your Excel skills to do this task.

I get this might sound counterintuitive to the ‘normal’ framework you know. But normal is not going to separate you from the 99%.

My recommendation here is to think about how you can move these typical responsibility sections from what to how. Which means not just talking about what you do but how you do it. We want to flip your narrative from tasks to wins.

Let your reader know the wins they can get if they choose you.

As an example…

Typical example = “I’m responsible for creating reports for our senior management team”

And when we put it through our “make it better’ machine…

“I use Tableau and Excel to build simple dashboards for our senior management team to understand our growth trends as an organisation and identify areas for improvement.”

Let’s talk about why this works.

This sentence provides 4 key points to the reader. A showcase of your skills, what you do, who for and the benefits you provide. And all in one sentence!

Here’s a visual example to demonstrate this.

“I use Tableau and Excel to build simple dashboards for our senior management team to understand our growth trends as an organisation and identify areas for improvement.”

3/ Use keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that are associated with the job you are applying for.

They play a crucial part in getting your profile noticed and keeping the reader’s attention. For example, if you are applying for a job in marketing, some relevant keywords might be ‘marketing strategy’, ‘brand awareness’, or ‘customer acquisition’. By including these keywords on your CV, you will increase the chances of your CV being found by recruiters who are searching for candidates with those specific skills and experience.

This works for both when recruiters, or perhaps AI recruiting tools, search databases and the text within your CV directly.

This is exactly the same as when you type a term into Google.

Your search query is used as a set of keywords to help identify the best content for your query. So, if you searched for “quickest ways to cook an egg”, Google recognises that you want to know how to cook an egg in the quickest way possible. This will return content that fits this specific intent.

We can apply the same principles to a CV.

If a role requires marketing expertise with SEO and content marketing, these are the keywords that need to feature across your CV. Now, don’t go crazy with this. You want to weave this in like a human, not a robot.

Keywords can enable optimisation that pushes your profile to the top of the pile.

4/ Tailor your CV

An often underused optimisation technique is to make small but powerful tweaks to your CV based on the role you’re applying for.

This is why having a few versions of your CV on file is beneficial. One you can use as the standard template to share on LinkedIn and open job boards, and others for those specific roles you directly apply to. You can’t use just one method and hope to get a win rate 100% of the time.

You want to optimise your CV so that it highlights the skills and experience that are most relevant to the role you are applying for.

This shows employers that you have taken the time to research their company and understand what they are looking for in a candidate. It also shows that you are serious about getting the job and willing to put in the extra effort required to stand out from other candidates.

This is how you stand out from the 99%. Design for your specific audience to get better results.

5/ Keep it concise, but useful

For today’s CV reviews, less is definitely more.

The attention of others is the biggest currency we are all trying to get more of. Our attention spans are so short these days that even goldfish might read your cv longer than a recruiter or AI tools. So, you need to keep your CV short, sweet and to the point.

No one needs to read an essay on each of your previous roles.

Typically, readers only spend a few seconds scanning each CV they receive, so it is important to make sure that yours is easy to read and digestible in a short amount of time.

Stick to two pages or less when possible, and use clear headings and bullet points with your keywords so they can quickly find the information they are looking for. You can list previous roles in a short list at the end of your CV with dates if you’d like. But drop the detailed content.

Time for you to optimise and beat the market

Ok, now it’s game time.

You’ve got this far so you must be serious. Now it’s time to put into practice what you’ve learnt here. Schedule time in the next week to review your CV with this insight and ask yourself “Can I optimise this for better results?”.

I hope these tips can help you land your next role and take control of your career.

All the best, folks.

If you want more insights like this, you might like these:

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Deep Thoughts

The 5 Essential Skills, Habits and Behaviours for Career Success and How To Develop Them

We’re all looking for that silver bullet, right?

The thing or things that’ll let us accelerate past everyone else to reach our aspirations in record time.

Sadly, life doesn’t work that way, but we can recognise the key habits, behaviours and skills that’ll enable career success in the long term.

Especially with lifelong employability.

That’s not a phrase which is used often in the careers game. But, it’s what we’re all aiming for when you think about it.

We’re all just trying to build the talent stack (my term for all your skills, experience, habits and behaviours rolled into one) that’ll give us that code which enables us to keep being employed.

This is not about staying in one career or being with one employer.

This is about building the talent stack which allows each of us to adapt to the ever-changing world, thus enabling us to be employable. You don’t want to be stuck and stale when it comes to career success.

As a learning and performance consultant, I spend (probably) too much time reading research on high-performing people, places and how this translates into the modern workplace.

Something that I’ve been obsessing over the last year is the 3-5 skills, habits and behaviours that modern organisations need from their people.

And, how each of us can build these to navigate the careers landscape today and tomorrow.

5 essential skills, habits and behaviours

Ok, let’s talk about the components you should focus on to build your talent stack for lifelong employability.

1/ Resilience

The team at EveryDay Health define resilience as:

The ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean a person doesn’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Resilience involves the ability to work through emotional pain and suffering.

Obviously, none of us wants to suffer.

Yet, we can learn valuable lessons during these times to take forward into the future. Dealing with sudden change is something that happens often in the working world.

This could be through a reorganisation or perhaps taking on a new role. No matter what it is, deploying your own resilience will greatly help you.

One does not just ‘build resilience’ though.

It is learnt through experiences over time. So, no, I can’t give you a course or perfect resource to help you. However, the folks at EveryDay Health have curated some great insight to help us all with this.

2/ Adaptability

I describe this as the ability to navigate new landscapes and deal with ambiguity. Which, in my opinion, is basically the ride of life.

The capability to adapt to new environments, new times or when presented with new data is key.

Classic examples of this include when Spotify disrupted the music industry with streaming, and when Apple released the iPhone, introducing the first smartphone and apps into our lives.

Recognising and understanding the need to adapt to a changing world is essential.

CEO of Vayner X, Gary Vee is a classic example of this.

Gary inherited a bricks-and-mortar wine business from his father. It was a small-scale operation with a few local stores.

This was in 1998 and Gary soon realised that the times were changing. He stumbled across an emerging, and little know at the time, video sharing platform called YouTube.

Gary felt this new piece of technology could help scale his business.

“I was completely convinced that online video was going to be a big thing. I knew it was a medium that was going to matter”

Gary Vaynerchuk

The old guard at the time didn’t see the changes in the world through the power of the internet and more new digital technologies. Or, perhaps, they didn’t want to face them.

Gary was told countless times that he was ‘crazy’ and going to ‘destroy his father’s business’. Instead, that little old Wine Library TV show Gary shared on YouTube blew up.

It blew up so much that Gary pivoted his career into the world of social marketing and broader entrepreneurship.

YouTube is now a daily must-use app and Gary sits atop multiple successful companies. And why so? Simple, he built the capability to adapt to the world around him, not try to make the world adapt to him.

You’ll never win with the latter.

3/ Digital Intelligence

This really has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with awareness.

If one thing is apparent across many generations of people I’ve worked with, it’s the lack of knowledge when it comes to using and understanding how basic digital technologies work.

A classic example of this can be found in workplace technology.

The average company provides employees with over 88 different apps to use in their workflow. That’s a lot of choices, right?

This often leads to trying to use too many tools and only utilising them to less than 10% of their capabilities. Bad for your skills and your work.

It’s important in an ever-growing digital world, where the lines between physical and digital are blurring almost daily, that we get better with understanding how tech can support us.

Those who are tech-savvy will have more career opportunities available in the long term.

This is not about learning how to code or architect a system. It’s far simpler than that. This is about knowing about popular and useful tech, and how you can use it to support your skills and career.

Consider how people use YouTube as a learning resource and the features of LinkedIn to build a professional brand and learn new skills.

Digital intelligence is about knowing how to use technology to support you.

4/ Emotional Intelligence

If there was one thing I wish they would teach us all at school, it’s emotional intelligence.

It’s weird that as emotional beings that we don’t recognise we have them and often try to suppress them. Especially in the workplace.

Emotions drive our behaviours, mood and actions. They are the data we use to interpret the world around us. The sooner we learn this, the easier life can be to navigate.

And, guess what? Emotions matter in the workplace too.

Healthy emotional cultures where people recognise and understand the impact of their and others’ emotions are instrumental in enabling us to do our best work.

The team at Verywell Mind define emotional intelligence as:

The ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively.

Verywell Mind

Here’s a few tips on improving your own emotional intelligence:

  1. Be aware of your emotions.
    The first step to improving your emotional intelligence is to be aware of your own emotions. Pay attention to how you feel in different situations and what triggers those emotions. Once you are aware of your emotions, you can start to manage them more effectively.
  2. Be aware of other people’s emotions.
    In order to be emotionally intelligent, you also need to be aware of other people’s emotions. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues that people use to communicate their feelings. This can help you better understand how they are feeling and respond in a way that is helpful to them.
  3. Practice empathy.
    Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. When you are able to empathise with someone, you are better able to understand their perspective and provide support when they need it. To practice empathy, try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagining how they might feel in a given situation

5/ Future-Fit

This is not a skill nor a behaviour, it’s more of a habit or, perhaps, a state of mind.

I define being Future-Fit as understanding the skills you need to be world-class and navigate the current world, and have the curiosity to develop what’s needed for tomorrow’s world.

We’re blessed and cursed as a species with the ability to remember what has been but have the foresight to look ahead to what may come.

Now doing either can be problematic but with the right intent and context, they can be useful. We can’t predict the future, but we can do our best to plan for it with the data we have today.

When I think about being Future-Fit, I think about having the right skills in place to keep navigating the world and to do all of the above points.

It’s quite fitting that this last point rolls everything we’ve discussed so far into a kinda neat completion.

One of the ways I find useful to keep myself ready for what tomorrow might bring is conducting quarterly health checks for my skills.

It might sound like a cringey tagline. But skills pay the bills, so it makes sense to assess them often, right?

If we can keep building the right skills to navigate life and the career game, we can take some control of building opportunities and charting our own course.

Invest in yourself

That’s a wrap on this folks.

Of course, this list will evolve over time. Yet, I sense some of these will always be what enables each of us to design a rewarding career on our own terms.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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Free Ultimate Onboarding Toolkit For Modern Organisations

Yes, as promised in the words above, my ultimate onboarding toolkit is here to hopefully help the world of my fellow industry peers.

Ultimate onboarding toolkit front page

This toolkit is focused on sharing ideas, thoughts, tools and experiments that I’ve picked up over the last 16 years (I’m getting old 😢).

Plus, I’ve loaded it with research from much smarter folks and curated ideas that have worked for some of the biggest organisations our world knows too.

The aim of this toolkit is twofold for me.

  1. Pay it forward and share what I know to help others.
  2. Get our global learning communities to iterate on today’s best practices and build together.

Focusing on number 2 briefly, you’ll find a comments section on the page that hosts this toolkit on stealthesethoughts.com. Here you can share your ideas, improvements and more so others can benefit.

Think of this as an open-source type of project where we share and build together. I get it sounds very utopian, yet this is my intention with the work.

I’ll continue to update and build new editions of this product so it is the most up-to-date onboarding toolkit on the market, and always free. No one likes picking up free resources that are outdated!

Onboarding process

What else is there to say? Not much really, as many of you will know, I like to let the work speak for itself. 

So, the only thing left to do is hit that download button and grab your free onboarding toolkit.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below.

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Deep Thoughts

Why its better to be useful than original

It’s said that we process over 6,000 thoughts a day!

Now, to each of us, they all feel original. As we are the stars of our own movies, we look at everything from our own unique points of view. 

Yet, you might not feel it, but most of what comes into our minds is rarely original. And someone, somewhere across any point in time has most certainly thought and felt the same thing.

This is not a bad thing.