CV writing. It is a topic that strikes fear into many a job seeker – the ultimate tool of procrastination that may not just hold back progress, but prevent a job search from even starting. It is something for which our support is frequently required. But whilst seen by many ‘outsiders’ as a staple skill in our toolkit, it is not always something that we, as advisers, feel particularly up-to-date on. Contrary to popular belief ‘writing the perfect CV’ does not constitute a major part (or perhaps any part) of our formal training. Our own views and opinions are largely formed through ongoing experience in the job and tips picked up along the way.
Personal preferences compounded with the ever changing nature of ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s out’ means that it can be hard to know what’s the right CV advice to give. However, nothing is more off-putting to a recruiter than a CV that looks like it is stuck in the last century – Times New Roman, a personal details section including date of birth and marital status – we’ve all seen them. So it is something that we need to get right if we are to add our full value to those we are working with.
Of course, everyone will have their own views on what are the most important factors to bear in mind when crafting a ‘current’ CV. In my experience, it is the same mistakes that are cropping up time and time again with clients of all ages and levels of experience, and the following points of advice should always be applied:
Use the 10 second rule
Encourage clients to put themselves in the recruiter’s shoes. We know the industry is fast-paced and that CVs barely warrant a skim-read at best, and our clients may be aware of this but have they actually accounted for it? Ask them to be that recruiter. How much information can they gauge from their own CV at a 10 second glance? What can be done to improve this so that the CV reader is identifying the most important information as quickly as possible? Make sure important information isn’t hidden away on the back page and be aware that short sharp pieces of information are much easy to digest than lengthy paragraphs.
Be focused, not generic
Tailoring a CV is essential if you are to tick enough boxes to gain an interview. And failure to tailor a CV results so often in a finished document that sounds the same as 90% of other applications. The first step is for clients to understand what the recruiter is asking for. Make sure they are familiar with the job description and the person specification. Only then can they produce a CV which brings out their own unique suitability to the role. For more experienced applicants, use of a succinct and factual personal profile at the beginning can be a great opportunity to target skills and experiences in the right direction.
Think in terms of skills and achievements
A CV shouldn’t be overloaded with detail which is relevant only to what a client has done in the past. Longs lists of every duty they have ever performed at work are never the best way to sell experience. The trick is to try and think more broadly in terms of skills used, as this will help the reviewer envisage how abilities can be applied to their employment situation. For younger clients who may not have any or much work experience, the same process can be used to describe extra-curricular interests or skills gained through volunteering or school projects. And remember also, achievements should be highlighted in order to present the image of someone who will add value and exceed expectations.
The simple stuff still matters
…and this will never change! Initial impact is as important as it ever was (perhaps more so, in today’s competitive times) so error-free, perfect grammar, and a visually pleasing appearance which includes an appropriate font size and plenty of white space, are all essential criteria. You don’t want to turn a recruiter off before they have even started.
Of course, it will be interesting to see for how long these trends remain ‘in vogue’ and how the digital age will change the way that CVs look, and perhaps even sound, in the future.