Writing your CV! Part 3 Pondering on CVs; language,confidentiality, competencies and referees!

This post is concerned with the particular issues faced by those moving between public and private sectors when completing their CV.

I’m going to comment on language, confidentiality, competencies and references.


A recent post here set out the reasons why public sector jargon needs to be avoided in CVs and job interviews.  Keep your language clear and simple.  When in doubt ask a non-public sector friend to read it and give you honest advice on clarity.


Some public sector staff work in areas where the issues of confidentiality are real and significant.  But in all honesty most do not!  If you do, there will be clear guidance available.  You should consult your HR department about what you can say and how best to overcome the barriers to you getting a new role.

Most public sector staff do not work under the same restrictions.  The reality is that you can record on your CV the kind of work you have been doing.  Of course you should avoid information; under a security classification, relating to an individual member of the public or a fellow staff member, likely to embarrass the organisation or  Government Minister for which you have worked.

Most people will be able to describe their work in sufficient detail for a CV.  But see the comments made in the next section about how you do it.


In my last post I included a list of skills and personal qualities (competencies) that employers are likely to look for. The list was by no means an exhaustive.

When you complete your employment history, try to show how your approach and your achievements demonstrate the competencies you quote.

For example, putting together a team and then driving through an initiative to improve the service to customers while reducing costs illustrates a number of competencies.  It can be understood quite easily by those outside the public sector.

Experience of project and programme management again can be understood outside the public sector and can be used to illustrate planning, organizing and delivering benefits when applying for roles in small to medium-sized organizations that do not have large projects for you to manage.

Those who have worked very close to Ministers managing legislation have had to use planning and organizing skills.  They are also likely to have demonstrated tact and discretion. If you have worked in difficult and sensitive areas  including policy discussions with Ministers (where influencing skills, relationship management, tact and discretion were needed, as well as the ability to be flexible and adaptable) this should be included but with discretion.

Think in terms of the competencies as you write descriptions of the work you have done.  Think in terms of organisations, tasks, problems solved and people influenced.  Describe the tasks you have completed in terms that others will understand and focus on what you delivered and how you delivered.


Some government departments will only offer bland references as your employer.  You will need their reference.   But it may only be a confirmation that you worked for them in a particular grade over a particular period of time.

Most large private sector employers know this – for others you may have to explain.  But you will need something more.  Try asking your line manager or someone in your management line if they would be prepared to give you a personal reference.   Also consider approaching retired senior colleagues and others who have left organisation.

It helps as well if you can provide a personal referee who holds a senior position in the private sector.  This is where people you have met during work in a voluntary capacity may be useful. Otherwise, consider people who you have met through clubs and associations.

You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about asking for a reference, most people feel flattered to be asked But you should always give people the opportunity to say no and make quite clear that you will understand if they feel they simply don’t know you well enough to help.

I would welcome your thoughts on all this and I am very happy to answer questions.

  • Writing your CV! Part 1 The Basics (leavingthepublicsector.net)
  • Writing your CV! Part 2 Making Choices (leavingthepublicsector.net)
  • Watch your language – it’s a different world out there! (leavingthepublicsector.net)
Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Writing your CV! Part 1 The Basics

Curriculum Vitae

First of all ‘CV’ stands for ‘Curriculum Vitae’ which means ‘story of your life’!  But in this context it means a brief written account of your career so far. The intention is to sum up all the basic information that an employer needs to know in one short and easy-to-read document.

Once you have written a basic CV you can then make as many copies as you like and send them to anyone you wish.  But more importabtly you can then adapt this basic template to meet the needs of any particular job advert. You can send a copy of your CV when you’re applying for a specific job vacancy or when you’re just writing ‘on the off-chance’.

What information should be in a CV?

  • Contact details – name, address, post code, telephone number, e-mail address
  • A short summary with Keywords for recruiters
  • Skills and personal qualities (Competencies)
  • Employment history and experience
  • Qualifications, professional memberships and achievements
  • Education and training
  • Any special skills e.g. driving licence
  • Interests and hobbies if relevant
  • Referees

The order may vary depending on the opportunity you are applying for.

There are different ‘styles’ of CV?

  • A ‘traditional’ CV lists everything in date order starting with your education and qualifications, followed by your employment history, interests etc.
  • A ‘more ‘informal’ CV starts that starts with a pen picture of yourself which highlights your skills and experience relevant to the job.
  • Variations and combinations of the two above

The more informal CV is now fashionable, traditional CVs are more likely to be required for academic institutions etc.

I’ll be writing more about this in my follow up posts.  But I’d welcome your thoughts on writing CVs and your questions.

  • Wendy worries about Dave, replies to his latest letter and promises new posts on CV writing. (leavingthepublicsector.net)
  • Gaps on CVs – what do they mean? (emeraldstarfish.wordpress.com)
  • Some Basics – How to write a good CV (ewaslawinska.com)
Wendy Mason is used to working with people moving out of the Public Sector! She is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger.  Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when you are going through personal change. You can contact Wendy at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439.
You can find her business blog at http://wisewolftalking.com/

>The Hidden Job Market


Today we have the second of a series of three guest posts from Ian Machan of Prepare4private Limited – “Levelling the playing field for Public Sector workers seeking jobs”.  As I explained before, Ian has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. I hope you enjoyed his last post on Transferable Skills .  His third post should be here next week.

We at Prepare4Private have received some warming news.  A victim of the cuts in the NHS is looking for a new job. He is searching the Job sites, looking in the papers, as you would also expect. However he is also attacking the Hidden Job market with success.

The Hidden job markets is the catch all phrase for those jobs that never get advertised. I’ve seen estimates that from 30% to 80% of all jobs never get seen. My experience is that 80% is too high, but that still suggests a sizeable number are out there.

So how is our NHS friend getting on? Well he is approaching firms that he thinks have jobs needing his type of background and experience. He is approaching them by letter, even though he knows they aren’t advertising. The result? He is getting more interviews than through the “visible” market. He’s amazed but I, and now you, know he shouldn’t be.

So, look around your area, or where you want to work, make a list of the companies that are based there and write to them with a CV. Oh, one last thing. He also says he gets more success writing to the Line managers, rather than the HR group.

>Transferable Skills


Today we have the first of a series of three guest posts from Ian Machan of Prepare4private Limited – “Levelling the playing field for Public Sector workers seeking jobs”. Ian has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. He is a Mechanical Engineer who has worked for blue chip organisations across a range of sectors including Heinz and 3M. For the last 12 years Ian has offered consultancy services to a wide range of organisations.

When you look to move to the Private Sector you may find it hard to find a direct equivalent to the job you are leaving.  Job adverts may leave you feeling despondent, but don’t worry. 
What you have to do is consider in particular your transferable skills. These will be the skills that you have acquired over the years of your employment, and outside of employment that are relevant to a new employer. Sit down with a cup of coffee and you CV, and go through the document jotting down the skills that you used in each position, e.g.:
  • Leading a team of people
  • Setting up and delivering a project
  • Negotiating change
  • Setting up a new spreadsheet to analyse an area. 
Now also think about your hobbies, sports, or even how you run your house. I remember talking to someone who was working in fairly basic job, but who chaired the local cricket club. He was responsible for a project to demolish and re-build the clubhouse. He was controlling the contractors, managing the money etc.
This is no time to hide your capabilities, so summarise your skills, and make sure they come through on your CV.
Now go and look at those job adverts, or job descriptions through the lens of your skills, not the shades of your old jobs.

Ian Machan “Levelling the playing field for Public Sector workers seeking jobs: www.Prepare4Private.co.uk