CV: Content Vital

CV Pic

Copy of an article we were asked to write for CQI magazine about CV’s that get results.
(Original article can be found at

Over the past 30 or so years, I have read a lot of CVs. And by a lot, I mean more than 20,000.

Having looked at almost every shape and size of CV (yes, I have even received a 3D one!) I have picked up some best practice knowledge along the way and know what helps a CV stand out from the crowd.

So, here’s a couple of key tips for writing a CV that grabs the reader’s attention.

Personal summary

In my opinion, you should always start your CV with a strong personal summary that encapsulates what you can offer.

Something like this: “BSc qualified, quality manager with over 20 years’ experience. Worked both on and offshore and in the North Sea, Middle East and Far East. Expert knowledge of quality management processes and procedures, including ISO 9001. Natural leader, adept problem solver with excellent people management and communication skills.” (Please note, this is a condensed version. You should flesh your one out more.)

The purpose of the summary is a bit like the News at Ten headlines: it gives the reader a quick summary of everything you can offer – skills, qualifications, knowledge, personality, sector expertise etc. It can also reduce the risk of a CV being put in the ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ pile, when being looked at by a busy hiring manager.



Every company/vacancy is different and if you want to sell yourself as the perfect candidate, you need to mirror exactly what they are looking for. A very well written generic profile may fit some of their key criteria, but if half a dozen other candidates look like they may be a better fit, chances are they will be called to interview ahead of you – even if you are a better candidate overall.

First impressions count, so make your opening paragraph as strong and role-specific as it can be.

The ultimate aim here is to have someone read your profile and think you are exactly what they need and to get them excited about wanting to read further. As a recruiter, other than a successful placement, nothing beats the feeling of a perfect CV landing on your desk.


I read too many CVs (and again, I mean way too many!) where the main content consists of a dull cut and paste from every job description the candidate has had. The problem with this is it tells the reader what the applicant did, but misses the single most important part – how well they did it. I call this the difference between telling and selling.

To sell yourself as the perfect candidate, you should talk about how well you have performed in your role by selling your key achievements.

So, a dull, generic ‘job description type’ sentence like this:“Responsible for managing projects, team and budgets.” Can progress into something like this: “Lead a multidisciplinary team of technicians on the ABC project. Delivered the project ahead of schedule and below budget, through effective project management.”

Try to tailor your achievements to mirror the requirements of the role. Clearly the very best candidate would have amazing achievements that are directly in line with what the prospective employer is looking for with the actual role. You hopefully get the gist.

But we are not quite there yet on perfecting our achievement statement.

The key to a good achievement statement is the CAR formula:

  • Challenge: Briefly explain the issue/problem faced. What was the challenge?
  • Action: What was your involvement? What did you do?
  • Result: What was the impact/quantifiable result of your actions?

If you then add statements regarding quantity/scale/size/value etc, it ends up sounding much better.

So, your final achievement statement should read something like this: “Due to an unexpected staff resignation, promoted internally to lead a multidisciplinary team of 30 technicians on the £1.4m ABC project. Delivered the project two weeks ahead of schedule and 5 per cent below budget, delivering a £700k cost saving, through effective project management.”

As a quick recap:

  • In your opening statement, reflect exactly what the hiring company are looking for in the role – make sure you sound like the perfect candidate for each and every role by customising your profile to suit.
  • Use your achievements to to sell yourself as the ideal candidate. Talk about the amazing work you delivered and the impact you have made. Don’t just tell them what was in your job description.

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director

Improve your CV – Workshop:

My perfect team? I haven't got a "Scooby Doo"…

Scooby Doo Team

My kids were watching a certain cartoon on TV the other night and, I wondered if the inhabitants of the Mystery Machine might actually be a near perfect team?

What might Belbin Team Role Theory have to say about our ghost chasing, haunted house exploring, villain catching crew?

Let me offer some of my Scooby thoughts;

Size – according to Belbin Team Role Theory , the optimum team size is between 4 and 6 people. Check.

Behavioural Selection – the perfect team mix would have strong examples of all 9 Belbin Team Roles represented amongst the team members. I’d suggest the following team profile for our leading characters;

Scooby Doo Team Wheel

Scooby Doo

Talk about an unorthodox specialist – he’s a talking dog that has done nothing but creatively solve mysteries for c 50 years!

Plant – Creative, imaginative, unorthodox. Generates ideas and solves difficult problems. Specialist – Single-minded, self-starting, dedicated. Provides knowledge and skills in rare supply.

Shaggy Rodgers

Trusting, loyal team servant…(Hey, Scooby, old pal)… I’d say he not only averts friction, but runs a mile from it at every opportunity. Always making Scooby snacks for his canine companion.

Team Worker – Co-operative, perceptive and diplomatic. Listens and averts friction,

Fred Jones

The leader of the gang…the voice of authority with a very grounded and practical approach. Puts plans into action and fixes the van when it breaks down.

Shaper – Challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure. Has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles. Implementer – Practical, reliable, efficient. Turns ideas into actions and organizes work that needs to be done.

Daphne Blake

Outgoing, charming and communicative, with an eye on the bigger picture objectives.

Resource Investigator – Outgoing, enthusiastic, communicative. Explores opportunities and develops contacts Co-ordinator – Mature, confident, identifies talent. Clarifies goals. Delegates effectively

Velma Dinkley

The analytical and detail expert…full of left brain logic, with an underlying hint of OCD thrown in for good measure. Creates a strategic plan for the team.

Monitor Evaluator – Sober, strategic and discerning. Sees all options and judges accurately. Completer Finisher – Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors. Polishes and perfects.

So, assuming we have their behavioural profiles correct, I think their team role profile looks very well balanced and complete.

But what about team performance?

Playing to strengths – they do this with aplomb as each team member has a critical part to play in the team and they all play to their respective strengths and manage their weaknesses.

Engagement – communication is regular, open and honest, with feedback and support provided between all the team members.

Staff Retention – the team have worked very well together, without any change, for almost 50 years apart from a short-term addition to the team, Scrappy Doo. I’d argue that the team dynamic was possibly adversely affected by the introduction of Scooby’s nephew, the super pup. So, moving him on from the team was perhaps no bad thing…

Delivering against team objectives – my 5 minutes of googling indicated that Scooby and his pals have featured in 478 TV shows, films, DVD’s, plays and video games. To the best of my knowledge, they have a 100% success rate of delivering against their key objective – catching the villain.

(If you know of any episodes where they failed, let me know and I’ll adjust my calculations…)

That’s a high performing, successful team by any measure.

What lessons can we take learn from this?

Effective team selection, achieving the right mix of behavioural strengths, maintaining engagement and open communication, true collaboration, focusing on the key objective at hand at and working hard / playing hard together as a team…can deliver amazing results.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog or any examples of great teamwork in action – in cartoon or real life.

Always happy to chat with anyone on a no obligation basis that may be interested in improving their own team / organisation or learning more about Belbin Team Roles. We can even provide the tea / coffee and Scooby snacks…and I promise there will be no meddling kids to mess up the plan…

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director

For further information on Belbin Team Roles, visit


2 CV's or not 2 CV's.


That is the question…

Over the course of 2016, we have been providing outplacement support for an increasing number of people who have found themselves being made redundant.

Typically we provide support to help them understand their behavioural strengths using a tool such as Belbin Team Roles, DiSC or 16PF5. We also help with areas such as CV development, job search and improving their interview technique.

One of the most common areas where there can be significant room for improvement is through the customisation of the persons CV to suit a particular role.

With increasing volumes of high quality applicants in the local market, candidates need to do everything they can to stand out from the crowd. And if their CV is not directly aligned to the role they are applying for (and some other applicants CV’s are) then there is only one likely outcome…

“Dear Sir / Madam…on this occasion your application has been unsuccessful, as we received a number of applications more suited to the role…”

Or words to that effect.

A single, generic, one-size-fits-all CV isn’t good enough just now. As an applicant, if you want to have a real chance of being called for interview, you must tailor your CV to the role for which you are applying.

And it’s not just about tailoring your CV – you must, and I mean MUST, sell yourself effectively.

Let me give you an example;

I have recently been providing 1 to 1 outplacement support for a Director of a large Oil Operator. His CV was already very good and didn’t need that much work. But in a tough job market, very good isn’t always good enough; as marketing guru Seth Godin says – very good is the enemy of excellent.

So, with some fine tuning and placing more emphasis on communicating tangible outcomes and results, not just responsibilities, we helped him turn this;

  • Overseeing offshore core maintenance and maintenance project workscopes
  • Performance Management of Technical Integrity KPI’s.
  • Responsible for team of Onshore Engineers and Offshore staff / contract teams.
  • Management of annual budget.

Into this;

  • Proactive leadership and management of all offshore core maintenance and maintenance project workscopes including Safety Critical Equipment availability.
  • Completed an overhaul of key rotating equipment, delivering an ongoing maintenance cost saving of over £500k per annum through improved maintenance efficiency.
  • Performance Management of Technical Integrity KPI’s. Highlights included elimination of Safety Critical PM Backlog, reducing more than 1000 outstanding jobs to zero.
  • Responsible for managing 15 Onshore Engineers and Offshore staff / contract teams with over 230 personnel
  • Successfully owned and managed an annual budget in excess of £90m, consistently delivering on or below budget

Which candidate would you want to interview?

I’ve talked to a number of organisations who have had to make people redundant, and sadly they sometimes don’t see that much value in providing outplacement support, even at a basic level.

However, in a tough market, if  a candidate can enhance their CV to give themselves a better chance of securing an interview and improve their interview technique, which subsequently helps secure them a new role, then surely that is an invaluable life skill. One which is worth investing time and a small amount of money in. It also helps to maintain the organisation’s reputation as an employer of choice…

Campbell Urquhart
Managing Director

You don't need to be Sigmund Freud…

sigmund-freud-400399_1280You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud….

I recently ran a training course on Conflict Management for a great group of Customer Service Professionals.  We talked about many different topics; personal reactions to conflict, assertiveness techniques, conflict management tools, real-life conflict situations and different strategies for handling these. We also discussed why some people regress to child-like behaviour or behave like sulky adolescents and how we can have “grown-up”, adult conversations; particularly when things become heated or stressful.

A simplified version of a Psychological model called Transactional Analysis (TA), developed by Eric Berne in the 1960’s, is an insightful way to consider communication patterns and social interactions. The TA model considers that people are a collection of behavioural patterns developed over time. It also suggests that the way we behave will elicit different responses in others. For example, if we “order” someone to do something like a strict parent, people may react like a rebellious child, whereas, if we ask politely and in a mature manner, they are generally more likely to behave like a reasonable adult in response.

The three behavioural patterns:


The child has 3 sides…

The natural child – the natural child wants us to do things just because it wants to. However natural child behaviour is not willfully disruptive to others nor destructive to the environment. It is about pure child-like emotion; laughter, tears, creativity, curiosity, mischief and fun.

The rebellious child – when people are in this ego state they are not likely to listen to anyone who tells them what to do. If they are communicated to in this manner, they are likely to become disruptive and rebellious. This rebellion may be open, for example, by being very negative or, more subtly, by being sarcastic, obstructive or by procrastinating when someone asks them to do something. When some individuals are being driven by the rebellious child, they may not be prepared to do anything an authority figure asks them to do, even if it makes logical sense!

The adapted child – another type of child behaviour is excessive goodness. Individuals in this ego state are so eager to please others that they may be willing to do almost anything. This type of behaviour can be difficult for the person experiencing it as, although they will do all they can to please, they may still feel like disagreeing or disobeying from time to time but will be likely to suppress their own needs and keep the hurt. This may lead to feelings of anger and resentment.


The Nurturing Parent – this is all about caring and understanding about other people. The nurturing parent does not put people down or make them feel bad.

The Critical Parent – this is a judgmental pattern of behaviour. Individuals in this ego state may tell people what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing. The critical parent may attack people’s personalities as well as their behaviour This may make people feel that they are being criticised as a person. Individuals with a strong critical parent are often as hard on themselves as they are on other people. If the critical parent behavioural style is used, this may, for example, elicit a rebellious child response from the other person unless they have a very strong adult-style.


The Adult – the adult is based on what we have learned. Its job is to take the emotional content of the child and the value laden content of the parent and check it out with the reality of the outside world. The adult has a role to play in mediating between the “you should” bullying of the parent and the “I want” pestering of the child. Adult to adult interactions are calm, logical, polite, consistent, assertive rather than aggressive and involve asking rather than telling. Using an adult style is more likely to elicit these behaviours in return.

So, you don’t need to be Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung or Eric Berne to use Psychological models to improve social interactions and interpersonal skills.

It can be illuminating to reflect on our own behavioural patterns;

How well developed is your adult?
How do you behave as an employee or as a manager?
Is that rebellious child or critical parent making too many appearances?

Julie McDonald
Director of People Solutions

White Cube Consulting