Three burning questions your CV must answer

11 min read | Marc Burrage | Article | | CV & Cover letters

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Keeping your CV up to date is one thing but does it cover everything recruiters’ tend to look for in job applications? Here are the key points you must have in your CV.

Think of your CV as your own living, breathing personal marketing pitch. A pitch that succinctly answers all those burning questions your audience (i.e. recruiters and hiring managers) have about you.

The degree to which your CV can answer their questions well, will have a huge bearing on whether you are invited to interview. So, you must ensure your answers are strong, clear, tailored and relevant.


CV must-haves at a glance

Recruiters read through dozens if not hundreds of CVs. So, in order to stand out, it’s crucial that you answer the key questions they will be thinking when looking at your application.

In your CV you must be able to convey your interest for the position and organisation, the value you will bring to them, and your potential. Incorporate these to your existing CV and tailor it for each role you apply for to get the best results. Keep reading to find out how to add these answers in and some common pitfalls to avoid.

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The three questions your CV must answer:

1. Why are you interested in this job, company, and industry?

Above all, the reader wants to know that you are genuinely interested in this job. When reading your CV, they are essentially seeking assurance of this in the language and words you use. They are looking for signals that indicate genuine interest. If they don’t get them, they will likely assume that you have just submitted a blanket application.

So, before tailoring your CV for a specific application, think back to what it was about this job that made you want to apply in the first place. Why do you think you’re a good fit? Was there a specific part of the role that excited you or does the company’s mission particularly resonate? Researching the company and industry may help you articulate this.

Once you are clear on your reasons for applying, work on updating your personal statement as well as your cover letter. Look back at some of the research you’ve done, and weave that knowledge in. Demonstrating that you’ve made the effort to do your homework at this early stage will only be a positive thing in the recruiter’s mind.

2. What value can you bring to the organisation?

Organisations post job adverts because there is a need for a problem to be solved or help to be provided. Therefore, when reading your CV, the recruiter or hiring manager will be looking for clear evidence of the value you would bring to the specific role in the organisation.

A great way to focus the reader on the value you can bring is to update the employment history section of your CV. When doing so, focus on the value you added in each role, rather than simply listing what your duties were. This section of your CV shouldn’t read like a list of job descriptions. Instead, it should tell the story of your unique strengths and accomplishments.

Think about what your standout achievement was for each role, no matter how big or small and focus on that. Remember, the reader wants to know what you can do and needs to see concrete evidence for this.

When updating each entry in your work history section, focus on communicating the quantifiable value you added during that time. A great way to help bolster your perceived value in the reader’s mind is to use action verbs. – These verbs will force the reader to focus on what you achieved and the results you saw during each role.

3. What is your current and future potential?

As the world of work evolves, potential is becoming a more common gauge or indicator than years of experience when assessing the suitability of a candidate.

So, the first step here is to clearly evidence your current potential. Think about what you’re good at now and would you be able to do the job in question? The recruiter or hiring manager needs to have come to the end of your CV with absolutely no doubt in their mind that you would be able to do the job well.

As we’ve mentioned above, tailoring your employment history to focus on the value you can bring will help towards doing this. There are other things you can do as well:

  • Try mirroring the language and keywords used on your CV with those on the job description – this subtle change will increase your chances that the reader will see you as a good current fit.
  • Don’t neglect the skills section of your CV – include both technical (e.g. digital literacy) and soft skills (e.g. creativity) as this will give the reader a more well-rounded perception of your current potential. Also, try to mirror these to those outlined in the job description (where relevant).
  • Add links to your LinkedIn profile and online portfolios of work – these will help the reader build a better picture of your current competencies. Read more on how to make the most of your LinkedIn profile during your job search.

Recruiters and hiring managers don’t just want to know what you are capable of now. They want to know that you have potential to do great things in the future. A fantastic way to do this is to demonstrate to the reader via your CV that you are ambitious and have an upwardly mobile career plan. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Articulate your ambition and future plans in your personal statement, linking back to the job in question and opportunities you feel you would gain from it.
  • Within each entry in your employment history, demonstrate how you have got better and better over time. For instance, each achievement you add to each entry in your employment history, if you can, make the next better, and remember to quantify them.
  • Evidence your commitment to continuous upskilling by tailoring the skills section of your CV’s, weaving these skills into your employment history. Also, ensure your qualifications are up-to-date and include dates of completion so you can clearly demonstrate your commitment over time.
  • Don’t try to gloss over any career breaks you’ve had. Instead, outline how you used that time to generate value in different areas of your life and build your skillset.

By doing the above, you are essentially indicating to the reader that you would be a good investment both now and in the future.


Your CV must be error-free

By making a concerted effort to ensure your CV is easy to read and 100% error-free, you are signalling to the reader that you could be the right person for the job. Above all, checking for errors will build the perception in the reader’s mind that you have a proactive and committed attitude. When competition is high, a simple typo could mean your CV is rejected, regardless of how well you have answered the above questions.

As you would with any document, when writing your CV, think about who your audience is and what information is most important to them.

Remember, the questions each reader will have in their minds may well be the same, but the answers they’re looking for will be different. So, take the time to tailor your CV to each role you apply for. Ensure you answer each of the above questions in a way that will really resonate.


What you need to remember about the questions your CV should answer

It’s imperative that your CV quickly and succinctly answers the three main questions the reader will have about you. Focus on demonstrating your interest in the role and highlighting the value you will bring to the organisation. Recruiters are also interested in your future potential, so don’t forget to add evidence of your ambition and career plan. Lastly, before you send your application off, do a final check for any errors and typos.

Check out our career advice page to find more expert knowledge designed to help you with all aspects of your professional life.


About this author

Marc Burrage was appointed as Regional Managing Director for Hays Asia in 2022.

Marc joined Hays at the beginning of 2012 as Regional Director for Hong Kong. In 2014 he was asked to head up the Hays Talent Solutions business in Asia, before being appointed Managing Director for Hays Japan in 2015. In this role, Marc was responsible for the day-to-day operations and growth of the Japanese business across all specialisms, supplying permanent, executive search, temporary, contract and onsite solutions. In September 2019, Marc was appointed Managing Director of Hays Poland.

Marc has broad industry and functional expertise, with a proven track record of continued success and has led and grown businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Prior to working in the recruitment industry Marc held various sales and marketing management positions in the automotive industry. He has extensive business transformation and change management experience and is adept at building, developing and leading cross functional teams. Marc was a board member for the Leadership Institute of New Zealand and studied strategy at Ashridge International Business School.

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