Articulating Your Expertise

Meander
6 min readApr 18, 2023

Lena Kul is a Recruitment Lead at Miro. She reflects on the thousands of applications she’s read to give her top tips for articulating your expertise, from the CV to the cultural fit interview.

I am rooting for you. That’s the truth of most recruiters — when we sit down to read your CV in the eight or so seconds we realistically get to do that, we want you to be Neo. The chosen one.

We want our job to be made easy. We want your experience and suitability for the role to shine out like a neon light amongst the hundreds of CVs we’ve read so far.

In this article, I’m reflecting on years of experience recruiting across a range of industries to give you some tips and cautions about how to articulate yourself for the purpose of getting your next job.

What follows are some handy dos and oh-please-don’ts for job applicants.

Welcome to the world of articulating your expertise.

What Do I Look For in a CV?

Title, company, employment type, contract length.

If you take one thing from this section, let it be this.

It is so difficult as an appraiser of your professional experience to measure your impact if I don’t know these things.

I have such a short window to read a CV — how can I understand your impact if I don’t know how long you were at the company?

Beyond this quick point, here are two major areas I want to see addressed:

  • Relevance

We all have projects we’re super proud of. But if it doesn’t serve the application, you’ve got to take it out.

Ever heard of the phrase “kill your darlings”?

Your ten star amazing projects are your darlings. If they don’t relate to the JD, please remove them.

In all seriousness, it’s about how self-reflective a candidate is. If the CV is chock-full of irrelevant albeit impressive experience, I’m going to think they haven’t looked at the JD or they’ve scatter-sent this to a thousand other employers.

  • Skills vs. Impact

I don’t expect you to have driven KPIs if you’ve got a year of experience in your field. The earlier you are in your career, the more I’m going to look at your skills, particularly hard ones.

As you progress, maybe you manage, or you take on larger responsibilities. Then I’ll be looking out for how you drive impact in your team.

Example: if I’m hiring for a senior product designer in enterprise, I’ll be looking more for things like B2B experience, exposure to and input in the design process, experience with user personas etc.

It would be unfair to have these same requirements of a junior PD.

If you’ve had some of those experiences as a junior PD, by all means throw them in. I’m just saying it’s not a dealbreaker if you don’t.

CV Formatting

Because the structure you give to your experience is itself a form of articulation.

I love when candidates express themselves on the CV. It can be a great injection of originality.

But you have to remember: this is just a CV. Nothing can get in the way of the aforementioned holy grail: title, company, employment type, contract length.

Sending me your professional experiences as a crossword where the hints are an elaboration of your experience will not come off as cute. I get eight seconds.

Same goes for humour. Are you certain this joke will land? If there’s a shred of doubt, take it out.

Spelling

There are so many programs to check for spelling — the very word processor you used to compose the CV probably has one. But there are also tools like Grammarly that can even give you feedback on your tone. What I’m saying is, there really isn’t an excuse for errors.

On top of the freely available software online, you can use the oldest freely available software at your disposal: your family and friends. If your parents are anything like mine, they’ll have no problem pointing out all your spelling mistakes.

Some specific but still important matters:

  • Hyperlinks

Oh God is it frustrating when a hyperlink doesn’t work. Make sure they’re up and running and sending me to the intended webpage.

  • Pictures

It is a disgraceful but ever-present truth that people will make judgements on the way you look. Don’t compromise your chances of wowing a recruiter before you’ve had a chance to shine.

Most recruiters are going to check your LinkedIn anyway.

Besides, pictures take up so much space. You could fit a whole relevant experience in lieu of your beautiful visage.

  • Password Protection

We’re getting to the nit-picks now, but it’s pretty annoying when I’m locked out of the thing that’s needed to get you hired. We have to email back and forth and this delays the whole process.

If you choose to password protect, please give me the password upfront.

Okay, enough of the don’ts. How can you make very quick tweaks to the way you articulate your expertise?

Best Practices

I’m going to mention two solutions here.

  1. Search Engine Inspiration

Google “CV Templates” and you’ll come across thousands that have already actioned the advice I’ve laid out so far. Why repeat the work that so many others have done before?

I’m quite lucky as a recruiter because I come across dozens of cool CV ideas every day. I’ve definitely incorporated some into my own CV.

You could take one template that you like or sprinkle a few inspirations into the mix. Go crazy*.

*By which I mean express yourself while very clearly communicating your title, company, employment type, and contract length.

2. The Big Hack — The Job Description!

Leverage the JD in your favour. All those beautiful buzzwords — take them!

Also take a tone cue. If the JD is upbeat and energised like a start-up rocket emoji, there’s some wiggle room for you to be zingy and fun in your CV. If hiring is a dance, let the JD lead. Then you come in and steal the show.

Interviews

A lot of people see the interview as a panic-inducing free-for-all where questions are designed to trick you and, as soon as you “slip up”, your interviewer will say aha! and end the Zoom call.

If people are asking you random curveball questions that have nothing to do with your skills or the way you work, think twice about why you want to work there.

The interview is as prep-able as any other part of the application process. I think the reason it’s more foreboding is because it’s live.

No do-overs unless you have poor wifi.

You can use something simple like the STAR system when doing interview prep. Anticipate those corporate cultural fit questions by digging up examples with the following framework:

  • Situation — why is this experience relevant? Paint a real quick picture to contextualise the example
  • Task — what were you confronted with? You can even talk about the possible steps you could have taken
  • Action — which step did you take? And, crucially, why this over others?
  • Result — did it end well? If so, how? Did it end badly? No worries! What did you take away from it all?

You can tether any number of generic interview questions to a core set of experiences where the STAR method allows you to illustrate how you work.

Tell me about a time where…

  1. You worked in a team
  2. You had to make a tough decision
  3. You failed
  4. You actioned feedback from your line manager

You could link one of your experiences to several of these questions. If you failed in a team and got advice on how to improve your performance, you might be able to tackle all of these in one.

The point I’m making is that you don’t have to isolate dozens of examples to answer these questions. With a little thinking on your feet, you can make your experiences work for any number of cultural fit interview questions.

And you can still practise, right? Sure, the interview feels a little off-the-cuff because you don’t truly know which questions will come at you, but you can rehearse your lines with people who want to help you.

Talk to your colleague.

Talk to your mom.

Talk to your dog.

You will get different levels of feedback or face licking from each of these options, but this is more about you hearing yourself talk.

Wrapping Up

If I could leave you with three key takeaways:

  • Master the fundamentals! Include the title, company, employment type, and contract length in everything you do. This is 100% essential.
  • Take your cue from the job description. Everything can be leveraged — buzzwords, specific experience required, tone of voice. Don’t go stealing whole sections, but definitely allow the job description to inform how you yourself communicate.
  • Always think about how your experience can answer those cultural fit questions. The more you reflect on your experience, the easier it will be to tailor prompts to your cluster of examples.

Best of luck with your job search.

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