I suppose everyone these days knows they have to have a CV if they are after a job? 

Experience vs. CV: Do you stack up for Commercial Construction? 

It was back in about 1985 that I was out of work and had to trot along weekly to the Job Centre to sign on if I wanted to see any money. After six weeks they told me I would have to do a course about my “curriculum vitae”, whatever that was. We had a very nice lady spend two days explaining it all to us and a walked away with my very first C.V.! took me ages using a typewriter to do that! Since then I’ve ended up with over a hundred different versions! These run from the original two pages to one where I was told I’d need to put down my full career history; 18 pages of it! Annoying part was I didn’t get that job!!! 🙂


Now, when we originally started with CV’s they were pretty much just a list of jobs titles, employers and dates. That has changed so that, today, our CV’s have to tell far more about us. That brings us to the Experience vs. CV bit.


There are two basic approaches that people use when writing their CV. :-

  • Is “Emphasising the negative”. That runs down the lines of “well, we had this situation and I decided we’d do that, but I got it wrong. What I learnt from that was …” Modesty gets them written like this. I used to do it until a Recruitment Consultant battered me round the ears!
  • Is “Emphasising the positive”. That means putting down every single thing we did on the job that showed what clever souls we really are!


Now a problem we have is that when we send our CV out it gets speed-read by someone in an average of 6 seconds! We do that by only actually reading the bottom 2/3rds. of the first page and the top 1/3rd. of the second page – and for both, just the central 2/3rds. of the page! Everything to catch the eye and get our CV to the next level has to be in those bits! Most have already gone in the bin!


In the light of that, forget method 1) Nobody is sufficiently interested in your learning experience and what you did wrong! Go for 2), Emphasising the Positive! What did we do that was really clever in that job role? This is where we really come to that “vs” bit!


We all want a better, more interesting and higher paid job so there is a temptation to exaggerate somewhat with our CV writing to try and advance our ambitions. Some we can’t exaggerate about because we will be asked to produce certificates. But we could try to do it for more subtle twists. For example, you might have built houses and suddenly put up a medium rise brick-built apartment block on a development. That could read on your CV “high-rise commercial block”. If you got an interview for a commercial construction site manager’s job you’d really be out of your depth! M&E services, data cabling, HVAC all followed by concurrent IT project and client fit-out! That is all after the cast in situ concrete frame and panel walling! That’s an example of how things might get a bit twisted by exaggeration of the technical. On to man-management:-


Again we’ll assume you were as Site Agent in housing. You were completing a house a week. At any given time there would be about 25 men on site at any given time. They would all be doing the same thing over and over again, just in different houses. Now, to “emphasise the positive” in a CV that number could perhaps be exaggerated to 100 men! Trouble is someone would probably spot the exaggeration, but we’ll imagine they didn’t. How do you think you’d cope if you got a job with 200 men on site all doing very different things all over a large site? Some would be doing things never done in housing, too!


Now as a house builder you’d have had to deal with Building Control, NHBC Inspectors and, occasionally, the Architects. That gives an excuse to claim you led the client-side management team. Get a commercial construction Site Manager job and that would look like a tea party!

There are Site Meetings with them all there at least once a month, sometimes once a week, and they all try to bully us into seeing it their way! We suffer Clients, their design team, the LA people and our own sub-contractors. We have to beat the lot of ‘em into working together as a team with a horrible consequence for failure! Liquidated and Ascertained Damages! This is a “punishment” for not finishing on time as stipulated in the Contract. It is often as much as £600,000 a month and the worst I’ve ever faced was £80,000 per HOUR! All this means you would be having to make a tool for yourself and use it to control progress; a Detailed Programme to Completion. Can you use MS Project? Do you even own a copy? One will set you back about £800. Do a course to learn to use it and you are another £2,000 down the drain! Only on the biggest projects are Planners usually involved. Too expensive; highest paid guys in the building game. (hint, try GenieBelt!)


Now the reason I’ve picked on the house-building vs. commercial here is simply because the differences are quick and easy to point out. If you “bungalow bash” don’t be put off! That is where I started and then I did move to commercial. That set me off on a very long, very interesting learning curve! But if you are already in commercial construction take what I’ve said as an analogy! By all means emphasise the positive in your CV; illustrate the clever things you did in each job. But never exaggerate and try to sound more experienced than you are because either you’ll never get a job or, if you do, you’ll soon be found out and be out of work again!


Don’t make your CV one of “Experience vs. Commercial Construction”. Make it “Experience = Commercial Construction at the level of each job you had! Emphasise the positive but never exaggerate!

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