A personal profile helps you draw attention to the gems in your CV. John Lees explains how to write and structure your introduction for maximum impact.
Do you need a CV profile?
The main reason for writing a profile is that it provides the kind of explanation you would give if you were presenting your CV in person. You’d probably say something like, “before you read this, let me tell you…” What you’re really saying is, “please notice this,” “don’t look at that” and “let me tell you the things I didn’t mention.”
Usually you won’t be in the room when someone reads your CV, so it should tell its own story. The profile sets out your stall, and draws immediate attention to the things you want an employer to see – it’s your way of telling the reader what to notice.
The profile is the hardest part of your CV to write, and, since it draws on your very best evidence, you probably can’t compose it until the rest of your CV has taken shape. A CV will contain about 50 or 60 examples taken from a lifetime which spans thousands of events. Your job eventually is to filter these down so your best information is what hits the reader first. You’ll find that you work out what gems to lead with by building up bullet points gradually, starting with jobs you did some time back.
A profile needs to be concise to be effective. Too much text provides a large block which readers tend to skip; they need short bursts of information. If you can’t get your messages across in a maximum of five lines, the profile is probably too complicated.
When writing your profile statement, try using the “smart” third person. For example:
“Introduced a call centre function on shift working basis, re-engineered existing claims processes and commissioned new IT systems in support.”
Why does this work? It’s punchy, and the very first word is a verb. It quietly misses out the pronoun, for example, “managed” rather than “I managed”. It also underlines the idea that this a past event – something complete and therefore successful. This “smart” third person is a neat way of getting information across without your CV sounding too personal or too distant. It also means you cut at least one word per sentence and start each bullet point with a word that makes a mark.
Structuring a CV profile
You: Who you are in terms of occupational background and experience.
Where: Your sector knowledge and experience of different kinds of organisations.
What: What do you have to offer in terms of know-how and skills? What have you done and achieved? What in your mix of skills and experience makes you unusual or attractive?
Next: What kind of role, organisation, culture and challenges would provide the right next step for you?
Too many profiles are badly written and full of empty adjectives and clichés. Phrases like “self motivated” and “team player” simply suggest you have nothing special or different to offer. Don’t try to impress by claiming things that employers take for granted in good recruits such as “hard worker” or “punctual”. Focus on particular skills rather than making sweeping statements that suggest perfection, and don’t make bigger claims than your evidence allows. For example, “excellent communication skills” – excellent by whose standards?
Your profile must be focused, free of flowery adjectives and in a language targeted at the right decision-maker in the right organisation. All listed achievements should link to hard evidence and, where possible, should indicate where you were working when you used the skill.
Source: John Lees, the Guardian Professionals.