I write about CVs whenever I think applications are going to pick up, when times are going to get tougher. It driven by purely selfish motives – make the recruiter’s life easier, please.
Crucial to any job search is a really well prepared, compelling CV. I see lots of competent ones, plenty of terrible ones, but very few that are compelling.
Despite the science that many recruiters use, the face-to-face interview is still the most crucial part of the process. And you want a document that can get you through the door.
By studying the way that we and our clients process applications, here are some challenging observations (looking at 30 applications in 15 minutes is quite normal and the interesting ones get the most attention):
• You have 10-15 seconds to make an impact
• You might then get 50-80 seconds of detailed study
• We read more if everything is where we expect it
• Bullet points stand out and grab attention.
• Personal profiles rarely get read or believed
• We like to make an initial decision from the first page
• We only have the time to read 2 pages, 650 words
You can write your best selling autobiography later, but not in a job application.
Here’s the deal – everyone wants organised, disciplined, focused and professional people. Your CV has to be all of those things too. Use a style that is focussed on fact and achievement, well laid out and organised and you will assume all of these qualities.
If I have to read and re-read just to understand where you have been and what you have done then you will only irritate. Irritants generally end in the bin.
We just want information from you – the type of information that will let us decide whether we want to meet you. Your Pottery Course in 1974 and the Caribbean cruise last year is not relevant.
A CV needs to sell you because no one else will. So don’t be shy, modest or leave it to the interview – they will interview the braggers and the show offs first and only get to you if all else fails.
Lay out your work history with the most recent job first. Head each employer (not each job, this makes you look as if you have moved around a lot) with the dates and the last job title. Then 30-50 words to explain the size and scope of responsibilities (using hard numbers to quantify).
Finally the most important bit, up to 8 bullet point headlines that say why you succeeded. Short, punchy and relevant, using figures where possible. The further back in time you go, the fewer headlines you need.
A CV is meant to be read quickly and efficiently, phrases like “I was lucky enough to be offered…” or “I finally took the difficult decision to…” waste time and words. Edit it thoroughly and ruthlessly.
Take all your superlatives like “very”, “extremely”, “outstanding”, even “superlative”, or “110%” and so on – professionals state things clearly, they do not exaggerate.
A final, final thought. Don’t lie, ever – it can be a criminal offence, and may seriously prejudice your career later. And candidates who present false CVs to us are rejected – I hate it.