How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

There are two key pieces of work-winning collateral which are sure to be requested for each construction submission, whether it is a PQQ or ITT. These are project information sheets or case studies and CVs.

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Here is my how-to guide to write winning CVs for construction submissions. 

#1 – The basics   

This is the basic information you need to include:

  • Name
  • Role/proposed role on the project
  • Qualifications

#2 – Profile of the individual  

Use this section to clearly align the person with the requirements of the project. Use the client’s language to reflect back their team requirements. 

Write an overview of the individual. This needs to succinctly describe the individual, their background, key skills and any particular specialism they may have. Specialisms may include particular sector, contract-type experience or building typologies.

The information included in this section needs to be relevant and appropriate to the project being bid for.

#3 – Proposed role on the project   

Why has this person been selected and what will their daily project responsibilities be? 

Clearly demonstrate to the client and their advisory team why this individual has been carefully chosen for their project.


  • how they will interface with the client and project team;
  • who they report to;
  • how much time they will spend on the project, i.e. full-time or visiting; and
  • what their specific daily responsibilities will be.

#4 – Projects   

Demonstrate how the individual has added value and made a big difference on their previous schemes. Quantify the impact. 

Although it is important to put into context a person’s experience, merely describing the project really misses a great opportunity to demonstrate the calibre of the person. Include dates, project value and a brief project description, but use this section to focus on a person’s  specific contribution to a project. Also ensure the added value examples clearly relate to the project you are pursuing.

Examples of added value:

  • Developing efficient design to exceed minimum statutory standards.
  • Designing an energy-efficient heating/lighting/ventilation system which has had a demonstrable positive benefit for the client, saving them money (quantify the amount of money saved by the client through this solution).
  • Developing a construction solution which saved time, money or both.
  • Working on a site which was occupied throughout the build period.
  • Clear, quantifiable examples of innovation or sustainability.

#5 – Nice to includes 

Include the nice extras, including completion photographs and client testimonials. 

Please contact me to work with you on developing bespoke CVs or other bid collateral for submissions.

Work-winning: The results of the bid cost survey are in

Work-winning: The results of the bid cost survey are in

Further to the post I wrote in November 2014 about the bid cost survey MarketingWorks and the University of Reading were undertaking, the results have recently been published in Construction News.

The results were very instructive and clearly demonstrate the need for everyone working in the construction industry to be:

  • more selective about the work they pitch for; and
  • spend much more time pre-bid getting to know the client and understanding their drivers, needs, concerns and aspirations for the project.

When I was working in-house, I spent much of my time being instructed to ‘take a punt’ on opportunities we were clearly not going to win, because we didn’t have the right relationships or experience. Basically we hadn’t done the right groundwork in advance. The impact of this was sub-standard submissions, no marketing and a very cheesed-off bid coordinator (or bid gimp, as I started calling myself).

There were some interesting statistics published in the article, including the rather startling assertion that some contractors are spending an average of 22% of their operating turnover pitching for work. If companies were more strategic about their bidding activities and the opportunities they were pursuing, they could convert this potential loss into a potential profit.

How much does it cost to bid a construction project?

The bid cost data was collected throughout 2014 and provides a snapshot of the industry during an improving market. It provided a sample of £11.3bn of total project value, of which £8bn has full cost data. This reflects a significant chunk of the total industry for the year.

Using this data, it was calculated the average cost of a winning tender was:

  • Contractors: £60,208 
  • Consultants: £23,821

These costs were calculated as an average across all respondents and project sizes.

This is where the 22% of operational turnover comes in. It is based on a conversion rate of 1:5. This figure will be challenged by many, however look at it from the opposite perspective. Basing your bidding strategy on a conversion rate of 1:5 still means you are planning to lose four out of every five pitches you submit. If your hit rate is lower than this, you are actually planning to be even less successful and therefore waste more overhead on pursuits you won’t win. Surely it’s time for a new approach?

Work-winning behaviours

The article points out that a number of behaviours play a critical role in work-winning, bid selectivity only being one of them.

Spend more time developing your proposal

This includes business development activities, like getting to know the client and understand the project, as well as bidding activities such as Go/No Go, proposal development and review. Clearly, this will cost the business more in terms of overhead spend, but if you are being more strategic and selective about the work you are pursuing, the costs will balance out and the rewards will be greater.

Client feedback, or lack of it

I know only too well the difficulty in obtaining quality client feedback following a submission, whether it has been successful or not. As Philip Collard rightly points out, the bidder not understanding the reasons for bids being unsuccessful “…leads to the conclusion that the industry as a whole (both sides of the work-winning process) are not valuing the role that feedback plays in improving the efficiency of work-winning approaches and behaviours.”

From a bidder’s perspective, if you don’t request feedback on bids, whether they are successful or unsuccessful, how will you know where you have gone wrong and how you can improve your submissions in the future. Similarly, clients must be prepared to provide detailed and valuable feedback to bidders, clearly highlighting perceived weaknesses and strengths. Closing this loop is essential if the industry is to make any attempt at continuous improvement where bidding is concerned.

Both Philip Collard and Jan Hayter (marketing director, MarketingWorks) can be contacted directly if you wish to discuss this research in more depth. You can also join in the discussion on Twitter via #bidcostsurvey.

Leonie's top 5 tips for successful bid writing

When I was preparing for my podcast with Pritesh Patel this week, I thought about the top 5 things which are essential for successful bid writing, or to be a successful bid writer.

Here is the list as it currently stands…

Have an excellent approach to writing winning bid responses.
Critical to the success of any submission is an excellent approach to writing bid responses. Interrogate the question to define what the key words are and understand what the question is asking.

Don’t be tempted to shoe-horn a previous response into the gap. Certainly use this information as a basis, but refine it and create bespoke information for this project and client.

I will talk more about my approach in a later blog post.

Develop a broad range of skills, including writing, DTP and project management.
The three are generally expected and will enable you to be super-flexible, as well as a good prospective employee when applying for roles.

Bids tend to be put together in either MS Office, using Word or in Adobe CreativeSuite, using InDesign. If possible, be proficient at both approaches.

It is likely you will have one skill which you are less strong at. Be mindful of this and work to develop it.

Have an excellent library of standard information at your finger-tips.
Standard information can be a challenge and a bind to collate and curate, however it will create a firm foundation from which to produce excellent bid documents. There is a lot of standard information which is requested time after time, including financial, sustainability and environmental, quality management, health and safety and approach to design/construction.

Ensure the contents are regularly reviewed and when a bid is submitted, go through the document and save key content for use at a later date. This practice will save you so much time in the future. In particular, save bespoke technical responses which focus on added value or lessons learnt. Different iterations of these questions come up time and again.

Information management is something I am particularly interested in and I would love to hear how other people approach this.

Client knowledge and market intelligence.
Bidder, know your client and understand what is required for each project being bid for. What are the drivers of the project? What are the client’s concerns? Which key experience will support your claims? Who are the key people you should put forward as part of your team?

From a market intelligence perspective, understand the space you are operating in, key themes, risks, concerns and mitigations. It also doesn’t hurt to wonder who the competition is likely to be and how you can best neutralise their strengths.

Be passionate about the industry you work in.
I work in construction and the built environment and I have spent most of my working life in it. I love buildings and structures and am fascinated by the process undertaken to design and construct them. It’s an industry I find inspiring and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I really enjoy working with my technical colleagues to communicate their expertise and ingenuity to a wider audience.

For those of you wondering why I’m not an engineer or builder myself, it’s because my skills are entirely language and arts-based. I can’t count for toffee, so my buildings would never be straight.