Senior And C-level CVs & Career Hyperbole

Senior And C-level CVs & Career Hyperbole

Senior And C-level CVs & Career Hyperbole

I’m doing some hands-on fee earning at the moment. I like it. It reminds me of what our people go through every day and it is good they hear and see a Director prepared to go through the same highs and lows as them.

As I write this, I’m running three or four retained searches for CxO positions at main board level for a couple of software vendors and an early stage technology company. The jobs are good ones, the money and packages are attractive and the senior members of the clients’ teams are keen to recruit pro-actively, efficiently and listen to the feedback and, dare I say it, advisory that I am able to offer.

One of my first bosses in recruitment gave me some sage advice; leave your personal baggage at the door each morning and pick it up again on the way home. He offered me a lot of good advice and I always try to remember this one. The upshot is to treat each new enquiry with an open-mind and not make snap judgements about people, places or things.

However. I’ve had a lot of CVs come my way for the roles I’m working. The shortest one was just links to LinkedIn and Xing profiles and the longest one was 17 pages. Some were beautiful documents and others were pretty slapdash.  I’m mostly interested in your content, achievements, goals and story, but the time spent on a CV tells me a wee bit about what you’re prepared to invest in getting a new role at CxO.

What has been a depressingly common theme is the use of words and descriptions like ‘visionary’, ‘catalyst’, ‘conduit’, ‘thought leader’, ‘experience architect’, ‘guru’ and ‘elite leader’. ‘Experience architect’ – that’s my favourite. And it’s not being used in a UX/UI/GUI kind of way.

You’re a ‘visionary’? I take it you don’t mean an acid casualty after a  Grateful Dead gig in the Mojave Desert? Whether you’re using ‘visionary’ as an adjective or a noun or both, you mean you have done something genuinely ground-breaking, disruptive or new or; you have a future view that is revolutionary and some idea of how to make it happen? Saving 8% per annum on your cloud hosting costs is admirable, but not ‘visionary’. And so on and so on.

I won’t go through and pick apart all of the hyperbole but please be assured of this: any recruiter worth their salt will challenge you on these big words and big claims. If you pepper your CV with them, expect to be challenged and expect to be asked to give objective, evidence and fact-based answers. You’re a senior person in technology not a Hollywood creative pitching a script. Make the claim, present the answer. Don’t get upset when the conversation grinds to an awkward halt because you didn’t really mean ‘visionary’ after all.

I’d rather read a three or four page CV that is well-written and balanced. We can pick through your career highlights and build a value proposition of what makes you an upper-quartile candidate that the client will want to meet. I don’t need buzzwords, exaggerations or superlatives that can’t be backed up in reality. The CEOs and Managing Directors I recruit for won’t buy them either. Please don’t take offence; I’m trying to help.

If you’re recruiting a role in your current job and you read your own CV but with someone else’s name on it, how would those hyperbolic words and claims strike you at pre-selection stage? Thought so.

I work for North Star, a friendly boutique firm recruiting experienced hires for clients in Enterprise Software, Solutions and Sales. You can reach me on 07743978179 or connect via LinkedIn (please include a message with your invite)