A winning CV is a lot like a winning proposal. It needs to grab the attention of the reader and effectively sell the benefits of rewarding you with employment (and in both cases, a contract). As with any bid, in order to get to the presentation (or interview) stage, you need to have a solidly written document and this is exactly the same case with a Bid Writer CV.
Hiring managers typically spend 5 seconds looking at your CV before making a snap judgement. While Procurement Managers will (hopefully) spend more time than this reviewing your proposal, there is still a need to make an impact in a short time frame. We’ve seen some candidates that have had exceptional careers that fall at this hurdle as their CV is not compelling and lacks substance.
So what makes a good CV and how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
When writing a proposal, you should ‘Keep It Short and Simple’ (KISS). Rather than rambling on for an eternity in response to each question, you must always ensure that it is concise and contains the information that the customer wants to know. You should follow similar guidelines when writing your CV, ideally keeping it to 2 pages long and definitely not longer than 3. I always shudder when I open a CV and there’s a contents page.
Like a good proposal, your CV needs to be customer-focused – tailor it to the specific job that you are applying for and make it clear what you can bring to the prospective organisation. Consider the ‘left-hand margin rule’ when writing your CV. Within proposals, the left-hand margin should be all about the customer and should not be a sea of ‘we’, ‘our’, or your own company name. Try and do the same thing with your CV. It is very rare that we see a CV that has been totally customised that mentions the company by name. It is a small detail but goes a long way in the application process.
Bid Writer CV or Bid Manager CV?
It is useful to have a couple of versions of your CV so that you can send the one that is most appropriate. Have you had a role that is a cross between a bid writer and a bid manager? If so, and you are applying for a position that is more one than the other, it makes sense to emphasise the skills that you would be using in the new role.
Don’t be creative with the truth on your CV and be sure to provide an explanation for any notable gaps. You will be asked about these, so it’s better to be upfront from the start. This is particularly important if you are applying for a role that requires a security clearance. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be preaching ‘fake news’ in your proposal as well.
Little mistakes can cause big problems in both proposals and CVs. Mitigate this risk by ensuring you proofread your CV as well as getting a colleague / friend to review the document – they may pick up on errors or inconsistencies that you have missed. I have seen so many mistakes during my time, some infuriating, and some hilarious (including the person who said they have been in their current job for a thousand years). Every good bid process relies on numerous review sessions. You need to make sure that the document is water-tight before it goes out to the customer. This is the same with your CV, particularly if you are a Bid Writer – this is your profession!
Reverse chronological is standard practice for your Employment History. Include the most detail at the front and less detail the further back you go. Much like with a proposal, the reader is interested to know that you have a strong track record without needing specific detail of what you did in 1989.
Executive Summary / Opening Profile
When writing an executive summary, it is important to avoid clichés like ‘we are delighted to be given the opportunity to respond to this RFP…’ This is dull and generic. Similarly with a CV, do not write that you are ‘honest, trustworthy and reliable’ – these character traits should be a given and it just reads like filler for the document. Your opening profile should provide a snapshot of why you are the right candidate for the role and invite the decision maker to read the rest of the document. After a short paragraph, we would also recommend including a collection of bullet points that illustrate your key skills or achievements.
- 6 years’ bid writing experience within social care
- Bid management of Circa 20 bids completed in the last 12 months while maintaining a 60% win rate
- £100m+ of new business facilitated through public and private sector bidding
This is all about making sure your relevant skills jump off the page and into the eyes of the reviewer.
Track Record / Employment History
In this section, you should provide relevant information as to why the decision maker should choose you / your company. This is where you display that you are a credible, experienced and reliable provider of what the reader wants.
Your CV needs to be evidence-based. Ensure any claim on your CV passes the ‘What? Why? Where? When? Who? How?’ test and be able to justify each line of your CV at interview. In a proposal document, you can do this with the inclusion of relevant statistics and call-out boxes. Within your CV, sales figures and achievements (improvements of win rates, key deals won, reduced cost of bidding etc.), all make an impact and add weight to your application. These should be located within the role you are describing, as well as in your key skills / achievements section.
For each role in your Employment History, rather than have large blocks of text, use bullet points to provide an overview of your responsibilities and achievements. The temptation, particularly for writers, is to let the words flow like a story. Your skills are likely to be lost in these large blocks of text because you don’t know where to look. Bullet points are much easier on the eye and will make an instant impression.
Carefully consider the use of keywords. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ‘keyword-matchers’ out there – people that will only look out for specific phrases in your CV, rather than get into the detail of each position you have held. Even worse, there is software that some companies will use to do this for them! To counter this, be sure to repeat certain words that are related to the role you are applying for. With over 300 job titles being used within the bid / proposal profession, it is vital to explain your role responsibilities, so that you highlight your suitability for the position and avoid confusion due to a unique job title. Consider also whether you are ‘responsible’ or ‘involved’ when listing your responsibilities. For example, do you lead kick-off meetings and storyboarding sessions or are you a participant? By tweaking the language accordingly, you will make it much clearer as to where you can add value to the prospective employer. This is one way to make a bid writer CV different from a bid manager’s.
A contractor’s CV is typically different from that of someone looking for a permanent position. While there are always exceptions to the rule, a freelance bid writer’s CV will typically focus more on the deliverables (what is the customer buying?) than the personal elements of being a full-time employee. A contractor’s CV is often very factual, with a list of recent projects, deal values and what tasks were performed within each particular bid. A permanent job seeker’s CV is more likely to reference their character and what they can offer the team they are joining, rather than what they can offer the bid they are joining.
A final consideration is to remember that your CV is a personal document. Yes, it should be structured, however, it should also be unique to you. Whether that means using a particular writing style or creating the document using InDesign (if you have the skills), this is a document that should reflect you and your individuality. A generic CV will get you so far, but a truly customised, standout CV will get you much further.
It can be challenging to cram your life’s work into a single, 2-page document. The key to a compelling CV is to not include everything but to keep it relevant and tailored to the client to whom you are applying, just like when writing a proposal. Within bidding, where organisations are looking to you to win business through written documents, a few sloppy mistakes on your CV will not inspire confidence in your ability to write a persuasive proposal.
While there is no magic formula for creating the perfect bid manager or bid writer CV, this guide will hopefully provide you with a solid base from which to build upon. Of course, if you are still struggling and don’t know where to start, Bid Solutions offer CV services that can take some of the pain away: https://bidsolutions.co.uk/candidates/job-seekers-guide/cv-services/