Copywriting and CVs – Partners?

As a CV writer who’s been doing it for 106 years, and with a significant amount of copy experience – largely driven initially by working for clients in digital marketing and vlogging – I see significant similarities. By the way, as an aside, what, I hear you say, does vlogging have to do with this – it’s video? Correct, but it needs a script and certain criteria like, if it’s the length of the Deer Hunter (if you’re too young, it’s 1978!), it needs chopped. Have a look at YouTube and search “Copywriting Tips”. There are who knows how many videos and some are a mental length – you could grow a beard – but the vast majority are under 10 minutes, many of those under 5.

So, the partnership? In essence it come downs to brevity. Unless you’re working on a PhD or creating a business plan for your next £300 million start-up, who wants to sit and read swathes of screen text and keep wondering, when are they actually going to tell me why I’m here? Very much like the CV, I think, it’s about catching the eye and being specific.

To be fair, the copywriting is slightly different in that the very essence of it is words but – debatably, and don’t hit me – words for words’ sake. A chat or text or vlog…containing words about…….words. A CV, of course, is words but they are designed as a tool to sell – i.e. they are not words for their own sake. Have a I caused a copywriter-stir yet? We live in hope.

The other difference, briefly, is that generally speaking CVs are not read on a mobile – perhaps a tablet but not a phone – whereas copywriting pieces are. Or at least my forensic (really?!) 4-second research suggests the latter is far more likely. Again, this is driven by copywriting being words about words. CVs are usually the writer trying to check or edit his or her own, or the recruiter studying pre-interview. Different entities.

So at this point you posit, what’s he on about? Partnership? I’m not seeing it. Bear with me. Brevity.

With UK smartphone ownership having gone up dramatically between 2012 and 2018 across every age group (, it’s hardly surprising so many companies are looking to the mobile market and tailoring their online marketing accordingly. In that period even over-65s went from a reported 5% to 18%. The biggest rise was in the 35 – 54 age group where ownership went from 43% to 95%. Therefore, the need for mobile websites is created because of the way mobile users use their smartphones and creating powerful mobile website copy is absolutely – and increasingly – vital for businesses.

As copywriters I’ve asked know all too well, readers can get very easily distracted, which is why the best and most effective copy is succinct, precise and easy to understand. We’re back a few paragraphs – brevity is king! Mobile users are even more easily distracted than PC browsers as they will be interrupted by phone calls, texts, and push notifications, so your information has to be fast and easily absorbed. Not only that, but because the screen they are using is so small, that copy has to be tightly focused, short, easy to understand. As in, mine is 6 inches, how big is yours?

It’s true to say that all copy should have these traits, but you have more leeway on a normal website. Mobile copy has to concentrate on the goal of that page and strip everything else out because what looks like a short paragraph on your computer will cause a mobile user to scroll for eternity to reach the information they need.
In that way, creating copy for the mobile world is more like texting. Your message has to be relayed quickly and in as few words as possible. Of course, you must never forget to include your call to action.

If your content doesn’t persuade your reader to do something, it’s a complete waste of space. Harsh but true. The internet is full of articles that take up space. They don’t offer the reader anything. They are boring and add nothing whatsoever to the world. What have you got to do to make your writing stand out?

Become an expert. Am I an expert CV writer? I hope so. I also hope I’m not arrogant enough to assume I never make a mistake or that I’m the region’s (let alone UK’s) best. But, I’ve worked hard to fine tune and hone what I do. That in itself requires a lot of careful word-smithery (good new word!!). Clearly you can’t just become an expert overnight. However, it’s important to remember what being an expert means. Perhaps that you have a forte, at least of sorts. A CV is a CV but my forte – not because nobody else does it but because it’s my speciality – is oil & gas.

When I transfer that CV copy to full-on, unadulterated copywriting – i.e. not writing as a means to an end but in part at least, as the end, I try to be authoritative rather than fluffy. I get to the point immediately and expand my ideas to enrich the lives of your readers (do you feel enriched?). The CV does the same.

Again, in both instances, I try to get to and talk about the main point. I start with the most important information and then go on to talk about the benefits, followed by the features and finally, suggestion – the, if you will, “what to do next”. In convincing, persuasive writing there’s no room for waffle.

Then there’s telling the reader why – again, a parallel. For the CV, the objective, which needs to be precise, specific, tailored and very short, is the same as the copywriting message. The latter can be a little longer in cutting to the chase but the principle is the same – cut to the chase. The difference, at this stage, between the CV and the copy is that with the latter, if you want your reader to do something, you have to give them a reason why. Using words such as because, imagine and picture all encourage your reader to think about how you are going to help them achieve their desired outcome.

They have to understand what’s in it for them. Otherwise, they won’t act. Again, the partnership. In the online world, the CV and copy need to be written for scanners, not readers. Whether you’re a recruiter who has 100 CVs in a pile, or a person with an interest in a topic but who has immediate mobile access to 1000 articles on that topic, people tend to be scanners more than readers. People want to be able to access information quickly, so to help them, I make sure my content is organised with the following elements: headings and subheadings; bullets to highlight benefits and features; bold and italics; short sentences and paragraphs; images and infographics. With the possible exception of images, all apply to both CV and other copy.

Yet, you cry, you haven’t used bullets, images and so on in this piece. Correct, but that’s because this is educational not for pleasure. Or that’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

Written by

Nigel Benson is a professional career sector specialist with over 12 years' experience writing executive level CVs and expertise in recruitment, job interviews and training.

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