Verbal CV

Before approaching potential employers direct, take time to brush up your ‘verbal CV’.Consider the time and effort that you’ve put into your written CV, detailing your skills and experience. Yet this could all go to waste if you’re asked to say something about yourself when you call a recruiter or meet them socially or at a networking event.

Research suggests that people form 90% of their opinions of another person in the first 90 seconds of an encounter – recruiters often describe having a ‘gut feeling’ about the candidate in front of them right from the start.

The importance of making an impact with what you say about yourself cannot be overestimated.

Most recruiters make their decision on the impression they get from a candidate and what they say – not what is written on the CV or application form sent to them.

Every job-hunter should have a well-practised verbal CV they know verbatim and which they say any time anyone asks them about themselves.

So often people have a very impressive written CV, but when they’re asked what they do at an interview they run themselves down with a limp statement that barely does them justice.

Unlike our American counterparts, we Brits shy away from “swelling ourselves’. Talking about our strengths and successes is considered immodest, even arrogant. But unless you are lucky enough to find a third party willing to sing your praises at interview, you will need to overcome your fear of promoting yourself.

Being able to give a good verbal account of yourself will stand you in good stead in other situations too. It’s something that you should use all the time when you are networking and socialising in business.

It’s about selling yourself. You never know if the casual inquiry at a business lunch about what you do could be from a potential employer.

But just like a written CV, the best verbal CV is a brief one – no more than few sentences that sums up the type of experience you have and how you want to be perceived and positioned.

Practise your verbal CV out loud on your friends and mould it into a slick declaration that can be brought into play when required. In their book Impact and Influence (Kogan Page) Richard Hale and Peter Whitlam warn against sounding too egocentric and opinionated: if you sound confidently surprised and pleased with your achievements, your enthusiasm is more likely to spread.

Choose your words carefully. Some words are more likely than others to make the interviewer sit up and listen (see below). Avoid negative words like ‘but’ – alternatives like ‘however’ or ‘and’ have similar meanings but can seem more positive.

Steer clear too of self-deprecating statements such as “I don’t really know much about this..” or “I’m not sure if I’m qualified enough for this…” This doesn’t mean that your verbal CV should cover up weaknesses or attempt to portray you as some kind of superhero, but an interview is hardly the time or place to start sharing your self-doubts.

So when do you present your verbal CV? Don’t dive in straight away, but inexperienced job-hunters can also miss the opportunity to present their verbal CV by failing to recognise the cues.

And it isn’t a case of one size fits all. The key to being offered a job often lies in reshaping the verbal CV to make it relevant for the employer. Sometimes it is better to concentrate on one area of your expertise than another. A job-hunter who learns something about the business they want to work for will always put themselves at an advantage.

Employers are looking for people who are genuinely interested in working for them and who will bring an advantage to the business. Too many job-hunters fail to do their homework and present themselves so badly that they don’t give themselves a fair chance.

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career, CV