Treat your CV like a product to increase your job search conversion rate

Treat your CV like a product to increase your job search conversion rate - the mobile spoon

Lately, I had a chance to help a few developers and product managers with their CVs.

After spending years going over resumes, I got to the conclusion that even the brightest people, who know how to design, develop, and promote their products, face some difficulties when it comes to promoting themselves.

So I came up with the notion that CVs are just like products, and product people of all, can exploit the similarities to make their CVs stand out and convert better.

Let’s dive into the details:

Know your user 

Let’s start with the personas: HR managers, recruiters, ATS bots, and hiring managers.
There are many practical tips on how to get past the ATS bots into the human hands. These guides usually focus on including accurate keywords across the resume and/or in a dedicated summary section. Personally speaking, I hate buzzwords, so as a general guideline I would suggest managing them like SEO: you must include them, but don’t overuse or repeat them too much.

In this post, I will focus on the hiring manager.

The hiring manager

This is your toughest user. It’s the person who will eventually skim through your resume for 6 seconds and either mark it as “not relevant” or decide to read further.
Hiring managers are just like typical B2C users - they are impatient, suspicious, shameless, and emotionless; they don't have time for you, they don't trust you, and they probably don't even like you. They’ve got 100 other things on their minds and a pile of resumes to skim through in a row.
Now deal with it.

So the persona is impatient, suspicious, and doesn’t trust you - which means you need to build your credibility and gain his trust throughout the CV, just like products need to establish trust with their users in order to convert.
Your target user deals with a lot of context switching, and suffers from a short attention span - which means the message must capture the attention (be attractive), concise and easy to digest, just like an ad, a product page in the App Store.

1. Be concise:

Personally speaking, I don’t like CVs that are longer than one page.
A good entrepreneur must be able to pitch a product in 1 sentence (check out this one page, one paragraph, one sentence technique), so a good candidate must be able to squeeze his entire resume into one page.
The hiring managers are busy and have other CVs to review, so if one of those CVs is too long they may postpone it for later and we all know “later” may never happen. Respect their time and hopefully, they will respect you back.

2. Prioritize:

Focus on the important stuff and get rid of all the rest:
  • Remove unrelated jobs or unrelated courses
  • Get rid of vague statements or life objectives. I suspect most hiring managers are just too busy to empathize with them (remember the persona).
Hierarchy counts: make sure to keep only the relevant information and place the most important details on top.

It’s all about conversion rates 

Let’s break down the things that improve conversion rates in products and see how they can be applied to CVs:

3. Design and aesthetics: 

A good design is a prerequisite these days, especially if your career has something to do with software development.
Aesthetic design not only creates a good first impression - it improves the readers' experience and might get them to actually pay attention to the content, and that’s not cosmetic - that's strategic.
  • Constrain yourself to one page 
  • Use professional and consistent fonts (2-3 font types/sizes max)
  • Don’t mix too many colors (2 colors should be enough) 
  • Use a consistent voice (first vs. third person) 
  • Write consistently (past vs present tense, capital letters, title case vs sentence case)
Make your text easy to scan, so the readers can find the things that interest them:
  • Make sure the font is not too small or too big
  • Use decent margins 
  • Pay attention to text alignment 
  • Keep enough spaces between sections 
  • Write short and simple sentences 
  • Use bullets 
  • Eliminate orphans and widows
  • Refrain from using too many bold fonts - if everything is important then nothing is
  • Avoid the clutter and add some more white spaces
For more cosmetic tips - check out my 40 rules for designing and writing text in products - they are all relevant for writing emails, presentations, and CVs as well.

4. Keep your eyes on the funnel: 

Assuming you passed the design test, your next challenge is to convey a strong message and demonstrate the value of your product (that’s you!) before the users lose their patience or get distracted.
You only have a few seconds for that.

5. Start with a strong intro: 

(AKA: about, summary, profile, etc)
The intro is your second chance to make a first impression 🙃.
It’s the gateway to the rest of your CV, the equivalent to an app description in the app store, the sentence companies place below their names on their landing page. It needs to capture the attention of the users and engage them to continue.
Just like with products - the message must be concise and reassure the users that they came to the right place:

“Who are we? What do we do? What are the benefits of using our product?”  

I suggest you start with one sentence about who you are and what you do best, followed by a key phrase that demonstrates the benefits of “using” you such as “Track record includes ___________“ with some details about your track record. The term “track record” seems solid because it’s inarguable and sounds unbiased.
Since we are still in the intro phase, the track record needs to include 1-2 proven achievements that are meaningful, impactful and measurable. something like growing a successful team, turning a small initiative into a flagship product, leading global expansion, selling a company, reaching a certain ARR, etc.

Those achievements are an engaging hint to the value you (the product) provide and the benefits a company would gain form hiring you. 

Now that you grabbed the attention of your users, they are willing to give you a real chance.
Not bad!

Value, not features 

Customers pay for value, they look for benefits, not features.
They search for solutions to their pains; products that will make them better versions of themselves.
If you want to treat your CV to convert well, it needs to follow the same principles.

List your professional experience in descending order.
For every company you’ve worked with, make sure to include the name, the relevant years, the role you performed, and a short sentence about what the company does (don’t assume the readers know it). BTW, If a company you worked for was acquired - make sure to include an “acquired by…” note next to the company name - it’s a good way to stand out and demonstrate success.

Then, describe the role you performed and your achievements. Here’s a possible structure:

Treat your CV like a product to increase your job search conversion rate - the mobile spoon
Section (1) should describe your role, and section (2) should list your achievements.

6. What’s your value proposition

Emphasize your unique strengths - that’s the special capabilities you bring to the table.
  • Don’t turn your experience into a responsibilities checklist
  • Don’t make them look like a task list. 
  • Don’t write general statements such as “worked closely with R&D, designers, and sales to define product features”). Of course, you did (you and all the other 100 candidates). 
Writing the obvious will commoditize you and make you look like everyone else, so make sure to present your unique capabilities.

7. Think about user benefits

Remember the slogans:
  • Value, not features
  • Outcomes, not outputs
  • Achievements, not responsibilities

Value, not features. Outcomes, not outputs. Achievements, not responsibilities. 

8. Describe your main achievements: 

Once you finished describing your role and the value you created, write down your main accomplishments in short bullets. Make sure to include your top 2-4 achievements, and make sure to emphasize their impact on the company, not on yourself in person. Don’t exaggerate though: It’s not about the sum of your accomplishments, it’s about the average.

The outcomes from your past achievements help evaluate the benefits you’ll bring to your next employer.

9. Make it quantifiable

Build your credibility through KPIs. Numbers represent the bottom line and can help you convey your message better.
For every achievement, make sure to include something measurable. Remember, users don’t buy products to help them “lose weight”, they buy products that will let them “lose 10 pounds in 1 week”.
Make sure the KPIs you use are clear to everyone; Writing “improved OMBUBU in 10% in less than 2 years” might not sound impressive for someone who never heard of this niche metric.

10. Use enough keywords

Keywords are important to get past the ATS bots (just like they are for SEO) and are very important for technical roles, but make sure to use them wisely (they must be accurate) and don’t repeat them - they are boring!
Take advantage of your headers to add some relevant flair: instead of writing “Work Experience” write “Product Management Experience” and so on.

Check out the best of the mobile spoon

Build, measure, learn

Shipping is key, but the first version of your CV might not be fully optimized. Launch it, send it to friends and colleagues (beta style), collect some feedback, and make the required adjustments.

11. Measure the performance of your product

Use all the techniques startups use to improve their products: measure the performance of version 1.0 of your product, learn from it, and improve. You can even try some A/B tests to see which version converts better.

12. Customize your message

Know your users and don’t hesitate to customize your message based on the target audience. 
There’s a big difference between sending a CV to a large corporate (focus on procedures and working with peers) vs. applying for a job in a small startup. Make sure to send the right version to each segment.

That’s it for this one, now go improve your conversion rates and optimize your monthly OMBUBU (you know that’s a fake KPI, right?).

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Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
me said…
Wonderful concept and very helpful. 👍
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Imported said…
Really like the idea of approaching writing your CV like managing any other product. The value proposition bit is massively important. What is it that makes your offer unique compared to everyone else who's applying for the same role?
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Anonymous said…
So useful
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Anonymous said…
Great one!
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Satukatapos said…
thanks for sharing mr!
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Harvey Tan said…
Knowing how to write a resume that’s specific to you is important, but sometimes getting started is the hardest part. It helps to think of your resume as an opportunity rather than a chore. It’s the best chance you’ll have to stand out from the job-hunting crowd and prove why you, not anybody else, are the best person for the role. That’s why it needs to be personal, professional and relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Katleen Garcia said…
You’ve heard it time and again, but each resume you submit really does need to be tailored towards the role you’re applying for. While a hiring manager can easily pick up on and discount cut-and-paste resumes, AI might do likewise if your resume simply doesn’t align itself well enough with the job description. Nowadays - when it isn’t so easy to see a ‘help wanted’ sign, walk into a workplace and ask for a job - most job openings are posted online. Read:

Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Anonymous said…