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Writing a killer agency CV ā€“ top tips

Posted: 13 Jan 2016

Writing an agency CVAgency account handling roles require candidates with both creativity and strong business acumen. You may have solid account handling skills, but unless this is reflected in your CV, you may be overlooked for some great agency roles!

So, how can you ensure clarity and standout in this competitive market? Here are some top tips from our brilliant Agency team here at Stopgap:  

How creative should I be? 

Although you may have a creative agency background, this creativity does not have to be portrayed visually on your CV. Unless you are an art director or a graphic designer, try not to introduce individual logos, overly creative fonts, complex colourways, layouts or quirky copy. The old rule of keeping it simple and sticking to a clean and consistent format will work best.

The CV needs to look and sound professional otherwise it may not be taken seriously. It’s also likely that recruitment agencies will be using automatic CV scanning technology, so the simpler, the better for search optimisation purposes.

Why do I need a Personal Profile? 

Your opening paragraph should aim to summarise your key selling points. Think, ‘if I were a brand, how would I sell myself?’ This needs to be hard hitting and rather than being a personal objective, should aim to give the reader an overview of your key strengths.

What works very well for agency side candidates is detailing their softer skills relating to their work ethic and overall attitude – words such as enthusiastic, proactive, etc come to mind. This then needs to be coupled with a brief overview of your key disciplines and some of your specialities. For example an impactful personal profile could look something like this: ‘An ambitious and strategically minded marketer with strong relationship building skills and an integrated skill set ranging from ATL and BTL including digital, DM and TV, gained while working on top FMCG accounts’… This paragraph is the first thing we read so make it works hard for you!

Your Work Experience 

Your CV should ideally be no longer than 2.5 pages in total so anything that was 5 years ago or earlier should only be a brief mention. Most often, your last two permanent agency roles will be of greatest interest to your potential employer so get the weighting and balance of the detail right.

What we are looking for here are your key responsibilities and key achievements. As a rule our clients look for very specific skills in your CV at all seniority levels. Flowing paragraphs of copy are hard to read so make your skills easier to find by bullet pointing them. The following is what agencies look out for and should be reflected on your CV:

1. Your key disciplines – for each role/account worked on, make sure you specify the exact nature of your role in terms of all the touchpoints you have dealt with, e.g. B2B, B2C, DM, digital, sales promotion, etc. If you say ATL – let us know what this involved too – was it TV, radio, press, outdoor, regional or national? If digital, did you do, microsites, content updates, information architecture, eCRM, etc? It is very important to really address all the communication channels you are familiar with.

2. Strategic skills – if you are not an agency planner, your CV needs to communicate how experienced you are in this area. Make sure you make reference to pitches, new business wins, organic business growth, proposal and presentation writing skills, annual brand planning or working with a planner/data planner. Let us know how strategically experienced you are.

3. Business acumen – For junior candidates, things like cost estimates, budgeting and invoices are important to address on the CV. For the more senior at probably SAM level and above, forecasting skills are key as is the ability to calculate ROI. Make sure you specify if you have dealt with tracking and evaluation and looked at ROI analysis for your campaigns. This shows that you are conscious of what your budget spend is generating - something which will make you a more attractive candidate to a potential employer.

This can be achieved just by adding a key achievements section under each role where you can quote your successes in terms of ROI figures, sales uplifts, footfall and conversion rates, redemptions, etc. Alternatively, if you have no access to sales figures this section can talk about award wins, new business and pitch wins, etc. Your key achievements will no doubt be noticed by your interviewer so make sure you prepare a case study you are comfortable discussing.

4. People Management – from about AM level you would have been exposed to some form of people management in terms of your team, creative resource or suppliers. It is important for your CV to reflect this ability. If you have trained or mentored someone, put that in. If you have done appraisals or set objectives for a direct report, this will only work in your favour.

Your Education 

Detailing your GCSEs really isn’t necessary – a quick summary of number and grades will often suffice. You don’t need to mention your individual university modules either unless they are of real importance to a role. Make sure you don’t forget your professional qualifications such as the ISP, IDM, CIM, etc and any other courses you may have attended such as presentation or negotiation skills, and IT knowledge.

Your Hobbies

Be careful that this part of your CV isn’t longer than some of your previous roles! This is usually used as an ice breaker in an interview so do put something you are passionate about here and which brings your personality to life. Don’t worry, most people don’t sky dive or decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics! Just be honest and list a few favourite pastimes and be prepared to talk about them in an interview. Sticking to these simple rules will help your CV to be both noticed and remembered in this very competitive market. It will also serve as a solid framework for an interview.

Good luck!

And if you're looking for a new agency role, check out our jobs page to see what roles we currently have available. 


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