THOUGHT PIECE the carling team
Tips For Writing A Technical CV
There are many good web sites for generic CV writing tips and formats…..but there are a few additional tips you may wish to consider if you are writing a technical CV.
WHO IS READING THE CV?
In many cases, HR may make the first screen of CVs and may not have a technical background. This means that your CV needs to be suitable for a non-technical audience and clear about how you meet the selection criteria! A good approach is to exactly match the technical terminology in your CV to the role specification so your relevant experience can be easily identified. You also need to be clear and join the dots for non-technical skills. For example, if the role requires ‘an eye for detail’ do not assume that because you have mentioned auditing experience that it must be obvious that you have this skill – you need to say it!
THE PROFILE – HOW DO I STAND OUT?
The Profile statement at the top of the CV is where you need to capture attention and persuade the recruiter to read on – so it’s worth spending a lot of time on this section and thinking of it as your ‘sales pitch’. Here, it is tempting to focus on technical competence and experience….’ A master brewer with 15 years’ experience in the craft industry’. While important, this may have the result of making your CV sound much like many other applicants! Consider that someone may be screening large numbers of CVs and so you do need to stand out. It can be more powerful to review your experience and analyse – what makes you different from other candidates? What unique combination of skills and experience could you bring to this role? Often this may about non-technical skills. For example, have you worked abroad? This is a highly sought-after experience and so you can highlight it in the profile ‘A Master distiller with a strong combination of international experience and commercial skills’.
If you are making a cross sector move e.g. from brewing to distilling, the profile is also where you need to sell the benefits of your experience e.g. ‘As a technical specialist, with broad experience in the brewing sector, I will be able to bring my cross-sector experience to …..’
DON’T FORGET THE SOFT SKILLS!
It is very tempting for us to put a lot of focus on listing technical skills – and it can make a CV look ‘rich’. However, employers are also prioritizing non-technical skills sets such as leadership, communications, influencing skills, commercial skills, team work… so you need to check that you have given these skills equal prominence and have evidenced these in the CV.
For each role you describe, it is again tempting to just give a list of technical duties – which reads very much like a job description. While this is useful, your CV will stand out more if you also highlight some key projects or achievements in each role and they will be more compelling if they are specific and measurable. But don’t forget that this is also the place where you will need to evidence your non-technical skillset. For example, compare these 3 versions:
VERSION 1: Responsible for auditing the packaging line and recommending improvements
VERSION 2: Audited the packaging line and recommended improvements that resulted in a 10% increase in capacity
VERSION 3: Was responsible for designing a new auditing procedure based on Lean principles to improve capacity in the packaging line. Successfully implemented my recommendations through delivering staff training, working with the leadership team to ensuring ongoing compliance and achieved a 10% increase in capacity.
Although version 2 is stronger than version 1 because it provides evidence (10% improvement), version 3 stands out as it showcases a variety of technical and non-technical skills (e.g. staff training experience and Lean) in addition to the evidenced successful outcome.
Do I need this much detail? Yes! It’s a tough job market, and if it’s not in the CV, you may not get an interview to expand on how brilliantly you handled this project! As a plus, the work that you do on preparing your CV to describe these achievements (and reflect on how you made it happen) is excellent preparation for the interview.
Warning! If you are mid or late career you may find your first draft runs into many pages if you use version 3! How do you then reduce it to 2-3 pages? It’s tempting to trim back to version 2 so that you can include everything, but this risks not showcasing your full skillset. A tip is to think about cutting back on the detail in the areas which are not relevant to the post that you are applying for – for example, you may simply list an employer/dates/role as a one liner if it was 20 years ago and not as relevant to the current application. You could also use a mix of versions 2 and 3, using version 3 where its particularly relevant to the role.
The CV needs to be tailored for each application and this can be a chore, so developing a system to do this tailoring is useful. For example, a simple technique that works well is:
– Compare the role specification and your CV and use the highlighter to identify on your CV where all the strong matches are.
– Use the highlighted material as the basis for crafting your Profile statement
– When listing achievements in each role, switch the order so that the strong matches go first.
HOW DO YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THE (TECHNICAL) COMMUNITY?
Easy to overlook, but it could be useful to list your professional memberships, any service on an industry committee, contributions to magazines, stewarding at a beer competition etc.
It may be the case that you will have some skills gaps when applying for the role – for those in technical roles, this is often business skills and soft skills. But, these gaps may not be as great as you initially think. For example, if perhaps they are asking for finance skills and you have not formally yet run a P&L – describe other projects where you were involved in the finances such as identifying a supplier and negotiating a contract or putting together capital requests….there will likely be some experience that you can refer to in your CV.
CAREER COACHING AND MENTORING – GET AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE
It can be difficult to be objective, recognise your accomplishments, understand what your strengths are, determine your (new) career direction and find a way to describe this in a CV. Too often we underestimate and undersell what we can do! Consider asking friends, a mentor or a career coach (such as me!) to help you get this perspective and use this insight to build the CV and hone your approach to handling interview questions. Research suggests that staying positive and having a plan will help to land the next role!
Some final items of due diligence:
– Proof reading – always get someone else to do this!
– Format – easy to read, clear font, white spaces, bullet points, not too many word blocks
– Matches your Linked In profile
Dr Caroline Walker is an IBD fellow and Board member and is an accredited Executive coach. She offers specialised online career coaching, interview preparation and mentoring for the brewing and distilling industry. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Linked in Dr Caroline Walker | LinkedIn