Writing the perfect resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
At a time when vacancies are hard to come by and there is increasing pressure in us to secure that all important role. But how often do we get the ‘dear john’ letter and fail to get an interview?
The ‘perfect CV’ is the one that gets you the interview.
Never underestimate the power of a good resume or CV. Your resume is part of marketing yourself to the recruiter, so it needs to demonstrate who you are and what you stand for. It needs to reflect your personality. There is no point going for or getting a job where the employing organisation’s culture does not have a comfortable fit with your needs.
Accepting a job must be a two way agreement.
Many people think the role of a Curriculum Vitae is to get them a job. That is not what happens in reality.
The role of a ‘Perfect CV’ is simple; it is to get you a first interview. No more.. no less.
Many recruitment agencies use the CV as a screening out tool, a reason not to select you. Using this information, we need to ensure that there is nothing on the CV that will give them a reason to de-select you. We all know about the law and equal opportunities etc but people are human – we need to work with people prejudices’ (yes we all have them – it’s how we manage them that counts).
To select or de-select
We now know that many recruiters use a CV to de-select candidates long before they have had a change to speak to anyone. So this means making sure that there is little that can give a person a reason to de-select us.
These things include:
Age - DOB, – the law may say one thing but people still behave unconsciously and with prejudice – do not include this
University – what if the recruiter had a bad experience at the university you went to or does not value the ‘name’ of the university? Grade – unless you gained honours – stating a 2:2 or 2:1 may again give a reason to not select you
Subject of study – unless directly relevant to the role (or your first job), do not include it. The fact that you took theatre studies while applying for a job in a call centre says to the employer – wants to do one thing but needs short term employment – a risk if they need to invest in your training
Marital status – not relevant – do not include it
Children – not relevant – again a recruiter may decide for you that because you have children that you are not prepared to travel so rule you out
Qualifications – be prepared to show certificates
Disability – if this does not impact your ability to do the role do not declare it at this time
Pregnancy – do not mention this until after appointment
Photographs – another reason for them not to like you – unless explicitly requested – do not include
Hobbies – be careful here as some may generate stereo-typical behaviours, i.e. train spotters, mountain climbers
Words to use/ not to use in your ‘Perfect CV’
- There are two types of person looking at your CV:
- The recruiter – they are looking for a job skills fit
- The manager thy are looking to answer three questions:
- How can you make the company money? and
- How can you save the company money?”
With this in mind we need to look at the language we use. Avoid fluffy language:
- Highly qualified
- Results focused
- Effectual leader
- Has talent for
Don’t just say… show.
Focus instead on what you have DELIVERED and SAVED. The new employer is primarily interested in what you can do for them, and in their mind former success brings success – and former failure (and poor working relationships) brings poor performance.
Recruitment Software and web sites
As organisations become more sophisticated, they start using CV reading software and web sites that filter us out long before a human even reads the CV. We need to learn these techniques to give us an edge over other candidates. This is a little like getting a website Google friendly. This means using key words. For example, using “competency” in your CV as a description is fine but if the software is looking for “competencies” your CV will be rejected. Software is stupid. It can only look for what it has been told to look for. Another good example of this is “training and development” and “learning and development”; a human looking at these will know that in many organisations these mean the same thing – software does not. carefully look through job adverts and look for the current appropriate language to use and include.
The most successful candidates now include a list of keywords on the CV. This can be a small section at the end of the CV. Your keywords section should contain the types of words that recruiters might be looking for in your industry. This way if you do not cover all the bases in the main CV the keyword list will contain them. Also, in the same way search engines look for key words and word density, some software looks for key word frequency – so having this helps your CV to be seen.
This does not mean that the ‘old rules’ of CVs do not apply – white space, good clear font, correct spelling (organization or organisation??) etc. Also, remember agencies like to take your personal data off the top to send to potential clients, so make it easy for them.
Email addresses – please have a professional looking personal email address – addresses like bigboy@hotmail or sweetlips@hotmail do nothing for your professional image! Remember your goal – provide enough information for them to say “invite to interview” but not anything that says “reject this one”.
Truth and lies
Simple – do not lie. You will get caught-out and if this happens after you have been hired you will lose your job and have a bad reference.
You may write something which is factually correct but may be read in the way the recruiter chooses to – for example – “experience of interviewing” – reality was that you sat in on an interview once. It is still experience. It is a little like the advert we see on some products – “as seen on TV” – well, yes, it was on Watchdog, an advert once on a cable channel, or even a passing shot on a news broadcast. The reality is that if you lie and are found out at a later date you can be sacked. Equally, you can put yourself in a position with a lot of stress because you are not competent.
If you lie about a qualification, again that is grounds at a later date for dismissal.
Keep it short.
A Perfect CV should be two pages long, one page if you have less than three years’ work experience. Rarely longer than two (although certain professions have specific content and format requirements).
Summary of Perfect CV ‘rules’
- Remember the role of the Perfect CV is to get the interview not the job – so focus this on getting your foot in the door
- No more than two pages – although you can include an appendix
- Pass it around to friends and colleagues for various comments
- Your cover letter is an extension to your CV make it work for you – specific to each role you apply for, show how you meet their needs
- Have multiple versions of your ‘Perfect CV’ – write a version for EACH application
- Do not have anything which a recruiter can use as a de-selector:
marriage status, number of children, university attended, grades
- Most modern websites and recruitment software processes use keywords to short list CVs so make sure that you use the current jargon for your career history. I also recommend including a section called ‘keywords’ just as a website does!
Remember the bottom line for most orgainzations, they are looking for someone who:
- Will save them money
- Will create income
- Can improve the view of the organization to the outside world
- Who can do more with less
- Can work with others as well as on their own
Show this and you are in
Simple steps to the perfect CV