small change: your curriculum vitae


small change 


Ciarán Fenton

How small changes in your behaviour will have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow

That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 1 small change: seven principles

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae


Seven principles

Principle 1

Your career is

  • a unique business,
  • one over seven billion in its uniqueness


Blog 9  small change: your curriculum vitae

your career equity

Your curriculum vitae is a key component of your career equity.

The purpose of your cv is to demonstrate, rather than assert, your competence to its readers – prospective employers, headhunters and their key-word search databases.

Assertions include:

  • dynamic
  • inspirational
  • strategic (whatever that means)

If you are any of these, your cv should demonstrate it, or your referees should say it but it’s not in your interests to write it down in your cv.

For that reason, in respect of the scores of curriculum vitae that I have marked-up over many years helping senior leaders find new roles or launch portfolio careers, I always deleted the opening “summary” paragraph beloved by so many, especially those who have not “applied for a job in years”.

If you write down that you were a CEO from x to y date you don’t need to tell us what an average CEO does. We know.

They are terrified of underselling. Yet these unnecessary paragraphs often written by excellent leaders but without Tolstoyesque writing skills are unnecessary at best and damaging at worst.

Let your cv speak for itself and trust that the reader is capable of making reasonable deductions from a simple list of dates – including months with absolutely no gaps since leaving school or university – organisations, roles and a list of achievements, each on one line starting with a strong verb, for example:

  • launched
  • led
  • closed
  • integral to achieving (if part of a team)
  • developed
  • increased
  • reduced

Two pages tops. Arial 11 or 12 is my preferred font.

The cv should include a summary of your education but not your interests because you can’t risk the readers’ possible negative reaction to any of these.

Above all, don’t confuse a curriculum vitae with a covering letter. The former is a verifiable list, the latter a selling document.

Finally, many a role is lost before a selection process is barely underway, sadly, because people forget that the purpose of a cv and a covering letter is to secure a meeting, not a job.


Ciarán Fenton

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