How to Sell Yourself on Your CV Without Going Overboard

3 minute read

CVs can be a tricky balance. If you’ve been brought up to downplay your successes, then selling yourself on your CV may not come naturally to you. Then, in a concentrated effort to blow your own trumpet, it can be easy to go too far the other way and come across as fake. The key is to aim for the sweet spot in the middle, which means listing your skills, experience and achievements honestly, but presenting them in their very best light. Here are the dos and don’ts of how to sell yourself on your CV, without going overboard.

Do: Show rather than tell

Without evidence, anything you write on your CV is just your opinion, so it’s important to back up statements with facts. Think about your key achievements—these could be related to income, processes, delivered services or completed projects—and then quantify these with numbers wherever you can. For example ‘increased reach of campaign by 127% from previous year’ sounds concrete and competent. ‘Increased reach of campaign more than any previous year’ sounds like boasting.

Don’t: Brag

Ever worked with someone who thinks they know everything? Don’t be that person. Anyone can say they’re an excellent fundraiser/communicator/project manager (and most people do!) so it means very little. Bragging statements won’t win you any favour with the hiring panel, so if you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying something in an interview, don’t include it on your CV.

Two women having a coffee and chatting

Do: Be specific

Rather than just saying ‘experienced team leader’, explain exactly what that means. For example: ‘successfully managed a team of six people to exceed annual fundraising target by 8%.’ Or ‘responsible for £500,000 marketing budget which was never overspent.’ This gives the recruiter a much better idea of your previous responsibilities and the level you’re currently working at.

Don’t: Be vague or subjective

Being vague can cause recruiters to question if you’re being truthful, or raise suspicion about what you’ve actually achieved. So if you have an obvious gap in your knowledge, skills or employment history, explain it. If you were part of a team that achieved something, state exactly what your role or involvement was.

Equally, don’t stuff your CV with subjective words like ‘passionate’, ‘creative’ or ‘conscientious’. We’re not saying don’t use them at all, but do it sparingly. Instead, present facts so recruiters can make up their own minds.

Do: Present evidence

Gather evidence for your CV by keeping notes on your performance and achievements at work throughout the year. List any awards, nominations or special recognition you’ve received and save any positive feedback or endorsements from colleagues or customers. Got relevant qualifications, training or membership of any professional bodies? Reference these to help showcase your knowledge and commitment.

Using real data and facts and letting others speak for you is much more objective and believable than your opinion alone.

Don’t: Exaggerate or lie

Everyone is tempted to exaggerate, or even lie, on their CV at one time or another for a job they really want—and know they could do if they were only given the chance. But if it doesn’t get you immediately removed from the shortlist when recruiters spot it, it will likely get you into trouble at some point during the role. It won’t help your career in the long run and it just isn’t worth it.

If you’re lacking something for a particular role, then rather than stretch the truth, show how you’d transfer your previous experience to this environment and fill the gap.

A CV on a clipboard on a table with a pen

Do: Be authentic

Not being true to yourself is unlikely to lead to happiness and success in a job, so if you’re offered a role based on a different version of yourself, how can you be the real you while doing it? Trust in yourself and be honest about difficulties you’ve faced at work and how you’ve overcome them. This will show you to be humble and authentic. If you really want the job and are a good match for it then your CV will naturally shine, without you creating a false image of yourself.

Don’t: Try to be perfect

You want to present yourself as a strong candidate, but don’t try to come across as perfect. You don’t want a potential employer to think you’re arrogant, that you’d have nothing to learn in the role or that your huge enthusiasm to progress means you’d be looking for the next promotion after a few months. Show awareness of your strengths and weaknesses and that you’d have room to grow in the role they’re recruiting for.

It can be easy to slip into overselling yourself on your CV, but remember to be specific, authentic, and use facts as evidence of your skills and experience. Then you can sell yourself to recruiters without going overboard.

Got your CV in top shape? Search for a new role today!

You might also like...

Don't miss another post, sign up to our weekly newsletter

Thank you for subscribing, you're on the list for the next edition!