Interim CVs: the interim recruiter has a problem, and you, the interim executive, must demonstrate that you are able to deliver the solution…
I’ve been working with quite a few established interim executives recently, plus a couple who are new to the market, which made me think that some blog tips on preparing an effective interim CV might be useful. Many of these points apply equally to CVs for other markets. It seems to be the trend these days to have a slightly obscure number of tips in any published list (23 ways to…), but I like things to be neat, and luckily ended up with 10 as a nice round number.
1. Before you sit down to write the document, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. A generic jack of all trades is rarely successful and this is particularly true in the interim market. The interim recruiter has a problem, and you, the interim executive, must demonstrate that you are able to deliver the solution to this particular problem. It could be that there is simply a gap to be filled in the organisation for a finite amount of time; however it could also be that the there is a need for expertise in implementing a project, or at a time of change or crisis (or a combination of these factors).
2. Keep it brief and make everything you include count. There is no consensus on how many pages your CV should be – I’ve seen advice ranging from one side to up to four – but as a general rule, give most detail for experience from the last five to seven years, and consider carefully which information from prior to that is still relevant today. I generally recommend two sides as a good discipline, working on the assumption that decisions are often made on page one.
3. Provide a concise overview of your proposition at the top of the CV. Where do you have experience (sectors, types/ownership of businesses, geographies etc), what have you done, and what has been the value or outcome?
4. Demonstrate what you can actually do to add value and solve problems. Use evidence from your career history that highlights what you have done in the past, how you have done it, and what the outcome has been. Be sure to cover some of the basic requirements of an interim executive such as listening carefully, adding value, being credible and building consensus quickly.
5. Describe actions (what you actually did) rather than responsibilities (what you were supposed to do). For example, “Delivered turnaround. Reversed 2014/2015 losses of £500k, to achieve break-even within six months through effective inventory and general cash management”. Additionally, “Secured a three-year manufacturing contract with a new client as part of a competitive tender process” is far more compelling than “Responsible for management of the Essex-based manufacturing plant”.
6. Focus on examples of project or other work that is interim in nature from your permanent career, if this is your first foray into the interim world. Include budgetary and personnel responsibility and outcomes for this work if possible.
7. Use a simple, professional-looking format for the CV that prioritises the order of information sensibly – include on page one anything that is likely to influence recruiters the most. Avoid fancy fonts and anything else that might be eye-hurting or difficult to read. Bullet points break up text and help to guide the reader. Some recruitment companies ask for CVs in Word format so that they can edit or customise documents in order to highlight areas of particular interest to client companies.
8. Check and double-check spelling and grammar – untidy presentation and carelessness in your CV can imply a similar lack of care in other areas of your work.
9. There is no single ‘right’ CV but there are conventions that will serve you well. Third person – “He/John achieved turnaround…” – can sound odd or, even worse, a bit like a US presidential candidate. First person, while suitable for certain audiences, isn’t right for most CVs. Sentences beginning with words such as delivered, acquired, improved will also force you to think in terms of what you actually did. Be prepared to tweak the document to reflect requirements – and key words – of specific roles. The title of the document should be your name – using ‘Curriculum Vitae’ isn’t modern or helpful.
10. A CV isn’t enough! Maintain and build your professional network, using the golden rule that helping and being interested in others is the best possible ‘in’. Use LinkedIn, be up to date and be visible.