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How to write a CV

Posted by Francis O' Toole on May 28, 2015

In our experience, the CV is still the most common and simplest way to assess a potential candidate, but it’s far from perfect. In the last month, we may have had a glimpse at the future of the CV. You may have already heard the story of Nina Mufleh, who created a web page CV to pitch herself as a potential hire to Airbnb.

The site not only secured Nina a meeting with Airbnb’s CMO Jonathan Mildenhall, it also gathered widespread acclaim and media coverage. More than that, nina4airbnbmay have provided the template for the CV of the future. Let’s break down why it was so effective.

Be specific

The true magic of Nina’s pitch to Airbnb is that it’s exactly that – a specific pitch, filled with detail and value propositions for a specific reader. That’s what your CV should be. No matter what format or medium you use, whether it’s two pages or 200, it should tell the hiring manager exactly why you are the best person for their company and their job.

Find the right medium

Nina4airbnb.com has been created to match the look and feel of Airbnb’s own site so it was always going to grab attention. It also means Nina is delivering information in a way Airbnb’s decision makers are bound to both understand and like – after all they are responsible for the design. When you create your own ‘future CV’ you should choose the right medium before you consider what to actually say on your CV. Think about the company or role you’re applying to and ask yourself ‘what medium is the best fit?’ – is it a video, a website or a simple Word document?

Talk about what you can do

The real genius of this application (can you tell I like it?) is the fact that it focuses the key messages on potential value for Airbnb. This isn’t a list of previous roles or duties, or a set of career goals; it’s a business case for growth opportunities for Airbnb. Nina isn’t saying, ‘here’s what I have done’ and leaving it up to the hiring manager to decide what that means for the employer – she has outlined potential opportunities for Airbnb and demonstrated her own ability to think critically and commercially about the business.

Show, don’t tell

More than that, the method of delivery means that Nina isn’t just saying ‘If you hire me I can help to develop business in the Middle East’ – she’s showing them why they should consider that move. Airbnb don’t need her to tell them she can help with it, they can see that on the page. If you choose a visual medium like a website, video or flashy PDF it’s vital that you show what you can do rather than just talking about it. What’s the point in investing time and effort into shooting and editing a video if it’s just you telling the story?

Tell them what you want

When an employer receives a spec CV the last thing they want to hear is ‘I’ll do anything!’ They want to hire people who have the right skills for the right job, but that doesn’t mean you have to totally pigeonhole yourself. One of the things Nina does really well is to get that ‘can-do’ attitude in there while still offering a range of specific ways she could benefit Airbnb. The difference may be subtle but despite offering to make the coffee, Nina clearly has a plan. The candidate who will do ‘anything’ clearly doesn’t.

Include information on a need to know basis

The most common mistake candidates make with CVs is to add too much information. Your CV is a sales pitch, not a record of your career. It should focus on what makes you a valuable hire – hiring managers don’t need to know about that summer job you had in 2002. Nina4airbnb.com does a great job of managing the information presented, while still including links to LinkedIn and Twitter. That’s the perfect option for the hiring manager; they get the important information presented in a meaningful way and have the option of digging deeper at their discretion.

It’s not really the fact that Nina Mufleh created a website or that it got media attention that makes this a template for the CV of the future. Your own future CV may not look anything like Nina’s. If you choose the right medium, offer a clear value proposition and focus on why you want a specific job – the CV of the future can be anything you want it to be.

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