Master the humble brag to make the best CV possible.

Your CV is your own personal showcase – it needs to convince a recruiter to progress your application to the next stage. To do that, you need to really show off your skills, knowledge and achievements. It’s a fine line to walk – too humble and your CV doesn’t get noticed, too arrogant and no-one will want to work with you. Here, we share some tips on how to make the best CV by achieving that balance and making sure you give just the right first impression.

Quantify your achievements

Telling a recruiter that you’re great is just giving them your opinion. Showing them that you’re great is giving them an unarguable fact. Consider these two statements:

  • Excellent salesman who always meets targets

  • Delivered a 47% increase in sales and exceeded a challenging annual sales target by 5%

The first statement TELLS the recruiter that, in your opinion and in theory, you can do the job. The second statement SELLS you on the basis of cold, hard fact. Saying you’re excellent sounds arrogant, whereas quantifying your success sounds confident and capable.

Think about the times you’ve reduced costs, increased revenue, improved processes, delivered excellent service or achieved a positive outcome – there are many ways you can add value to a company, and that’s something that will sell you to employers. When you’ve identified exactly what you’ve achieved, put figures against as many of these achievements as you can.

Use this method to pull together a strong achievement section for every job you’ve held over the last 10 years or so. A strong record of achievement throughout your career will make for a hard-hitting CV without the arrogance.

Quantify your responsibilities

You can also use figures to give recruiters an idea of the scope of your role, which enables recruiters to understand what level you’re operating at. Look at these three:

  • In charge of the team and budget

  • I had a very large team answering to me; I was also responsible for the entire team budget and all expenditure requests had to be authorised by me

  • Leading a team of 5 direct and 20 indirect reports and controlling a £750,000 annual budget

The first statement is too humble, the second is too arrogant, but the third one is just right. It gives the recruiter enough information to understand your role, without unnecessary waffle. Roughly six bullet points like this will be enough to convey the key responsibilities of your role and ensure you keep your CV tight and concise.

Share others’ opinions

If you’ve received any awards, medals, commendations, or even just letters of thanks during your career, make sure a recruiter knows this. Give the name of the award, what is was awarded for, who awarded it and the year you received it. Recognition from someone else regarding how well you do your job can only be looked upon positively. Why brag about yourself when someone else has already done it for you?

In a similar vein, include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV. This will give a recruiter the opportunity to check out your endorsements and recommendations. Positive feedback from colleagues, clients and managers will strengthen your application.

Avoid using pronouns

When you begin writing your CV, you will need to decide whether you want to write in the first person (‘I do this’) or the third person (‘Alex does this’). Although it’s a more personal way of writing, once you’ve used the word ‘I’ once, you’re going to have to start repeating yourself. ‘I built this’, ‘I am responsible for that’, ‘I, I, I’.  You don’t want to come across as repetitive or egocentric. On the other hand, writing about yourself as if you’re someone else is rather strange. No recruiter will be impressed to get a CV beginning ‘Charlotte is an accomplished project manager…’

The best solution is to avoid using pronouns altogether. Adopting this CV format means you don’t need to repeat ‘I’ or ‘me’ on every other line, so even when you’re shamelessly blowing your own trumpet it doesn’t sound self-centred.

This approach has the added benefit of enabling a recruiter to focus on the value you can add to their business, rather than your personality.

Show what you know

Most people will include a Qualifications section on their CV, but don’t forget that courses, training and development programmes are an arrogance-free way of showcasing your knowledge – relevant internal training is worth including too. Membership of an industry body shows you’re serious about your career, so don’t forget to drop in a mention of these.

In conclusion…

To write yourself a high-impact, arrogance-free CV, remember the golden rules:

  • Show, don’t tell

  • Quantify your claims

  • Let others speak for you

  • Avoid using pronouns

  • Showcase your knowledge

It may take time to craft your perfect CV, but it’s time well spent if you impress the recruiter and secure that vital interview.

Are you bragging on your CV the proper way? Submit your CV for a free critique to find out.

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