Unlocking the Da Vinci Code to CV writing

Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the great minds of the Renaissance period. His incredible inventions and engineering skills from the tank to the helicopter, insights into human anatomy and long list of amazing pieces of art including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are deemed have some of the greatest influence on the world we see around us today.

He laid the path for many a scientific, arts and engineering career including the way that we sell our skills to potential employers by way of a CV. In 1482 he wrote a letter to the Duke of Milan describing his skills and achievements in the hope of getting work. His letter was written in a way that showed the values and attributes that would solve his potential employer’s problems. He demonstrated how his engineering skills could ensure victory during war time and creating beautiful buildings and art during peacetime.

Even today, his CV, his ‘Course of Life’ as Curriculum Vitae loosely translates from Latin, stands up to show some of the Dos and Don’ts of CV writing.

  • Do keep it succinct – Leonardo’s CV was a sensible length. He could have gone on for pages and pages about the amount of incredible experience he had. He stuck to the key points and kept it relevant. Two pages is often touted as the magic number, but it will very much depend on the amount of experience you have, just don’t go over four.
  • Do get the basics right – sounds obvious but make sure you include contact details and use a sensible email address.
  • Don’t write in the first person – keep your CV factual and add metrics to add weight to your achievements where relevant.
  • Do keep the presentation clear and uncluttered – Make sure your CV is easy to read and don’t use a small font to squeeze more information in! Use bullet points and titles to create sections. Leave some white space to help the reader see the important points. Da Vinci numbered the ten points he wanted to make, and it is said that he used a professional writer to improve the presentation.
  • Do check and double check your CV before sending it to anyone – then check it again. Spelling mistakes and incorrect dates can create a poor first impression.
  • Don’t waste time being overly creative – If your CV is going to be converted to an agency template or uploaded to a standardised portal directly with the employer then creating a tiktok video or infographic showing off your personality is going to be wasted. Don’t use fancy fonts or lots of colour which can make it more challenging to read. Keep it simple.
  • Do update your LinkedIn profile – use your LinkedIn profile for supplementary information. This is where you can be more creative demonstrate your skills through your content. Employers will use this as another way to find out more about you if they like the look of your CV. Leonardo could have used it to regularly post his latest illustrations and articles from his notebooks. Imagine the number of likes the Vitruvian Man would have received.
  • Do add a summary at the top – this is where you can make your CV really stand out. Remember yours will be one CV amongst many, so use this opportunity to really sell what skills, experience, and attributes you will bring to the employer. While the rest of your CV is a list of things you do, this can really reflect your personality. But keep it short. No more than 200 words.
  • Do put your experience in order – list your current position first and continue in reverse chronological order. The same rule applies to academic and professional qualifications.
  • Do focus on your achievements and the main accountabilities from each of your positions. Think about what you did in that role that makes it relevant for the one you are applying for. Even if it is in a different industry, what key words demonstrate the transferable skills you have. Da Vinci thought about what the Duke of Milan needed and wrote about his achievements in that context.
  • Don’t lie or exaggerate about your experience. The digital world has made it very easy to check qualifications and a small fib could ruin a great opportunity. But the digital world has also made it easier for your CV to be filtered so Do tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. Include the important key words that appear in the job description if they are applicable to you.
  • Don’t include personal information such as your date of birth, marital status, size of your family or generic leisure interest, these details have no relevance to your ability to do the job you are applying for. Do add other experience that can demonstrate some of your transferable skills such as volunteer work or outside interests that are relevant to the role you are applying for.
  • Don’t list irrelevant courses you’ve attended through work, stick to qualifications and any training specific to your role – completing ‘being a better time manager’ is not going to make your CV stand out!

Finally, do contact us if you need some help with your CV. We work closely with our clients and have a clear understanding of what they are looking for, so we can help match your achievements to their needs via your CV. Much like Leonardo’s professional ghost CV writer!

To read more about Leonardo’s Letter to the Duke of Milan click here. https://www.openculture.com/2014/01/leonardo-da-vincis-handwritten-resume-1482.html