Skill Selection: The Key Ingredient to Cooking Up a Tasty CV

Everybody loves food, right? Right. Now that I have your attention, let’s take a look at what cooking culinary treats can teach us about creating careers.

All workers rely on special tools to help them create masterpieces in their jobs. For chefs, it’s all about their knives.  They almost become part of them throughout their careers, along with the accompanying sharpener. Without them, they’d be lost.

For a chef, selecting a knife not an easy task, and the answers don’t come without a lot of research and effort. They have to sift through loads of alien terminology and an overwhelming number of options, before finally finding which ones work best for them. And then there’s the question of which knife for which dish? It’s a rabbit hole and gets expensive fast. Does this sound familiar? If you’re a job seeker, it probably does!

How to select skills for your CV

For job seekers, the most important tool is their skill set, which is enhanced by experience. It’s then a skill in itself to be able to articulate in writing why you’re the best person for the role (referencing this skill set), and be able to back it up with examples. Tricky stuff. If I asked you to jot down 5 of your key skills, could you do it easily?

When selecting which skills highlight on your CV, job seekers need to think about the end goal and what sort of profile they want to create for each role they apply for. Just like a chef or cook a special dish and trying to find the right knife to help them pull it off, there is so much noise job seekers have to cut through to find the best choice. Ask five people or recruiters for feedback on how best to bring your experience alive, and you will receive 5 different answers. The advice is endless and the choice of which skills to choose is challenging… so I suggest starting with three steps:

1. Brainstorm

Use whatever gadget is handy, or a good old fashioned pen and paper and start writing down what you believe are your core skills. Start with five and keep adding and remember to include both your professional and personal life. Many people I meet do incredible things outside of work, I have met professional musicians, football coaches, volunteers and many more and all of these activities come with new and diverse skills. If you find this tough go back and think about what tasks you did daily in your role. Ask colleagues or check your work appraisals.

2. Rank

Secondly once you have a list of ten or more get a red pen and circle the skills you enjoy the most. As a cook, one of the things I enjoy is making something out of nothing. This means finding random ingredients and bringing them together to create a meal. This ranking process is very important as it helps in your third and final step.

3. Elaborate

Chefs rely on their knives to help them create masterpieces; the chopping, dicing or slicing is important depending on the dish they plan to create. If they have created something nice they know they can do something similar the next time. The same applies to your successes or achievements. Now is the time to look at each of the skills highlighted in red. For each of the skills, can you remember something you did that made you feel fantastic? A great way to make this easier is to break it down and think about a situation you faced, the challenges involved and how you dealt with those challenges to create a positive outcome.

Example: Your children told the school you were happy to make a cake for the bake sale and forgot to tell you until the night before.

Situation: ‘No problem!’ you said, until you went to the fridge to get the milk and realised there was not enough left.

Challenge: There was no time to go to the store for more so what to do?

Action: You checked the fridge saw there was a bit of single cream, so you used the cream and remainder of the milk and combined them together… but you were still short! Given the cream is thicker, you added some water and added it to the batter. The outcome was a cake that looked and tasted amazing, your children were happy and you could relax.

Result: This is a simple example but if you apply the same process to documenting your key achievements and skills, then writing your CV and preparing for an interview will be easier.

The choice is up to you. With chefs, the more they use their knives, the easier preparing the plate is… and this principle applies to all of us in the job-seeking process. Can you identify your core skills and achievements? If you take the time to lay your foundations, the chances of finding the role you want increases!

About the author: Cindy Etsell is an author, career coach and marketer at

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