How many election campaign leaflets have hit your doormat over the last few weeks? How many have you read in detail or simply skim read? Is your CV having the same reaction from potential employers? In a candidate rich market place employers are often inundated with CV’s, where would yours sit on the scale? Interesting? Skim Read? File in the bin?
Where ever you look you will find conflicting advice on what makes a CV good or bad. It needs to appeal to the reader; it has to set you apart. You have to have a clear objective and all of the content tailored towards that goal. If the CV lacks focus you may appear to be a jack of all trades and it will simply be passed over. This is your chance to sell yourself to a potential employer ensure that you are making the most of the opportunity.
What makes a good CV?
A CV should be no more than 2 pages long – on average you only have 15-20 seconds to make the right first impression. Your personal profile needs to capture the interest of the reader and your salient achievements should be easily visible. Ensure that you are not simply listing your duties and responsibilities and are highlighting your achievements. Make sure that the information is relevant and supporting your objective and career goal.
Your Questions Answered
Q. I have a long career history and I find it hard to cut out irrelevant information. How can I prioritise what should be on my CV?
A. As outlined above the relevance of your experience depends upon the objective you are trying to achieve. You do not need to include detailed information on each role nor do you have to go back to every role you have ever held. Don’t allow your early career may take up valuable space if the experience was irrelevant. If the skills you want to highlight are not ones that you have gained in recent roles you can highlight them in a key skills section or use a functional style of CV to spotlight the focus areas. Identify industry buzz words and ensure they are included in your CV.
Q. I am worried that my CV is not getting the results it should and I find it difficult to find a balance between selling myself and underselling my skills.
A. Selling yourself on paper is one of the most difficult tasks. Putting together a good CV takes a lot of work. You need to identify the key achievements you have had in your career. Ensure that you are using powerful action words to best describe the impact your actions had. Each bullet point needs to be quantified so the reader can visualise the size of your achievement. Ask trusted network contacts for feedback on your CV and keep it objective.
Q. Is it ok to exaggerate the truth on my CV?
A. The simple answer is no – the CV must be factual. This does not mean that you can’t use powerful language to emphasise your skills. Your CV needs to be accurate. Organisations can and do check the facts on your CV and may terminate a contract if they discover these lies at any point.
Q. I have paid for a CV and I think it is representative of my skills but I still don’t seem to get interviews, what is going wrong?
A. The purpose of a CV is to help you get an interview. Quite often, even with very good CV’s they miss the mark because they are ‘selling’ the wrong skills. Take some time to think about the needs of the company and whether your CV describes the person the company are looking for.
Q. I have been made redundant from my last job after sixteen years and the recruiters are not interested in my CV. Why, when I have so much experience?
A. Recruiters are not interested in candidates. Companies are the customer not the candidate and recruiters spend nearly all their time attracting new clients (companies). When they discover a vacancy finding a number of candidates to put forward is easy, especially today when there are so many people out of work or looking. If you have been in your last company sixteen years you are probably not as used to job searching as someone who has changed roles more often. It sounds like you are just losing out to the competition.
My final point is to remind you always to have an up to date CV –you never know when you may need one.