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The Perfect CV


In the second of a series looking at job hunting for professionals, consultant Mike Morrison reveals his secrets of the perfect CV.

Never underestimate the power of a good CV. Your CV 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 CV is to get them a job. That is not what happens in reality. The role of a CV is simple; it is to get you a first interview. Many recruitment agencies use the CV as a screening out tool, a reason not to select you. With 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.
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 – unless directly relevant to the role, 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 deicide 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.

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.

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.

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 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 CV should be one page if you have less than three years' work experience, and rarely longer than two (although certain professions have specific requirements).

Summary of CV 'rules'

  • Remember the role of the 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 for various comments

  • Your cover letter is an extension to your CV make it work for you

  • Have multiple versions of your 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,
    Remember most modern websites and recruitment software 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!

About the author: Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI Ltd. A consultancy specialising in helping individuals and organisations improve their business performance through people and organisation effectiveness.

Related article: Job Hunting for Professionals


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