Selling Yourself On Paper - An Interim Provider's View
Unquestionably, when it comes to determining your career, your CV is the most important piece of paper out there – more than your Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award – and even your degree certificate.
I find myself advising interims daily on how best to catch the attention of clients and, of course, myself. Over the last 3 months I’ve been reviewing dozens of CVs and have identified some common pitfalls. I hope that by answering some critical questions this blog helps you to see your interim CV with a fresh pair of eyes.
Is an interim CV different to a permanent one?
Yes, it is very different. The expectations clients have when they hire an interim aren’t the same as those of people bringing in a full-time employee. You, therefore, need to make yourself as attractive as possible based on the client’s requirements for that assignment. You should focus on results, results, results.
What are those expectations?
To hit the ground running. To do this, you’ll most likely have solved the problem before (or arguably you may have failed to solve the problem before, but you know exactly why and therefore what to watch out for next time). Your CV needs to prove this for the job that you’re putting yourself forward for. Never let your CV be sent to a client “as-is” without tailoring it to the requirements of the client’s brief.
Should I have multiple CVs?
As above, if you are marketing yourself for both interim and permanent roles, then yes. Sometimes an interim has more than one sweet-spot, in which case I recommend having a CV for each ‘problem’ he or she can solve. One of my candidates, for example, is excellent at delivering both interim supply chain and interim merchandising transformations (depending on the challenge). He has two profiles and flexes what he puts forward accordingly.
How should I structure it?
I advise candidates to start with what I describe as a ‘call me when…’ section. Make it blindingly obvious that you’re the person to help solve a client’s specific challenge or problem. By highlighting this, you’ll be the first person I call when the client’s brief hits my desk.
Make it as results-focused as possible
In the body of your CV, I advise that each bullet point under each of your assignments (or permanent roles) contains a result as well as an explanation of how you achieved this result. Under each role you should explain the challenge, the solution and the outcome you delivered. This seems hardest for programme managers, who sometimes reel off the number of workshops they’ve run, the titles of stakeholders they’ve engaged and the number of logs that they tracked risks on. I advise them to elaborate on the nature of the risks and challenges on their CV. For example, what was the potential cost impact? How did you manage to mitigate the risk, and what happened as a result?
Most clients and providers prefer to see assignments displayed in chronological order, irrespective of whether they were interim or permanent roles. It’s better to put (Interim) in brackets rather than split these assignments into a different section. If a role started as interim and then became permanent say so. And, don’t worry if you’ve not had an interim role before: if that’s the case, as I would recommend anyway, make sure your description of each permanent role is as outcome-focused as possible.
What about the content?
Swap the hyperboles for facts
You may be the most ambitious, inspirational, dedicated and experienced logistics transformation director on this God-given-globe however unsubstantiated narrative about your personal qualities is going to have little impact in the eyes of a client. Swap any fluff for as many KPIs, statistics and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound) deliverables as you can. Demonstrate how much money your renegotiations with 3PLs saved the business and how you reinvested this in customer experience. Clients will want to see the measurable impact you contributed to the top line. Include Trust Pilot rating improvements and other metrics of customer satisfaction that count as evidence of your achievements. Perhaps offer some quotes from customer surveys - this will be far more meaningful than saying things like ‘you’ve worked collaboratively with your stakeholders’, ‘engaged the business effectively’ or any other non-SMART claims.
Did I actually do that?
It’s a small world. My colleague and I joke that we have met four people who each individually have claimed responsibility for delivery of the same transformation programme over in the States! It’s better to be honest about your role in delivering a commercial outcome. We frequently collate 360 feedback on potential candidates so you’ll likely get found out if you tell fibs.
Should I include a cover letter?
It’s rather outdated practice and we advise our candidates to tailor their CV for the role instead. If you’re applying for too many roles to make this physically possible then you may need to refocus your search against your skillset.
What about my address?
Please include your home address as well as mobile number and email details. It can help us match you with the best roles for your work/life balance. Clients often ask us for candidates in a specific geographic area.
I hope this blog gives you some ideas for crafting your CV and if anything helps you improve your chances of succeeding in your next job application.