The CV might be a (or two) meaningless sheet of A4 paper. However the potency of this ‘sheet of paper’ can make or mar your future. Sadly, some schools and colleges are so focused on your academic performance, or teaching you your particular skills, that they forget to prepare you for the big wide world of work and many students are unaware of where a great CV can take them.
Where to start?
Okay, so let’s start from the beginning. The C.V stands for Curriculum Vitae (which is Latin and just means your story) In America they call a CV a Resume – but it’s just the same thing. The CV is a list of your qualifications, work experience, achievements and progress during your ‘working career’. It does allow you to talk a little bit about your personal hobbies and interests, but this is only a very small part of a CV. It shows your name and contact details at the top and then lists all your work experiences in date order starting with your most recent at the top. But we’ll talk about structure in a different post.
Your CV is the first chance you get to make a good impression on a potential employer. A top-quality CV will considerably boost your chance of getting a face-to-face interview, so it is worth spending time and effort on the content and presentation. It will make all the difference in obtaining the position you want.
Ultimately, the fact is that no-matter what you want to do or what you’ve trained as or even how good you are – your CV will be, without doubt, the single most important part of getting a job. Your best option will be to realise that and not ruin your CV with irrelevant details. Even a single word could make a difference in how favourably the recruiter will regard you and how strong you market yourself.
So how do you ensure your CV is an effective reference piece? Take the matter of your CV as seriously as possible and consider these 5 elements that should never happen to your resume.
1. Ignoring the specific requirements of the application
When putting together your CV, cover letter and other documents required for a job application, make sure to read the specific requirements for that application. If you look at sample CVs on the internet that are used for recommendation, you can see how the best ones are tailored to specific roles. For example, if the employer wants your CV as single page document then a double sided CV means you are blowing your chances before the employer has even started reading. Regardless of how much you have to cut, and how hard it might be to fit everything in, never go beyond the required or recommended guidelines.
For example, if you previously worked in a technical capacity but you’re now applying for a project manager position, highlight any experience and accomplishments that show your expertise in project management, even if you have to switch to a functional resume format to do it. While the bulk of your work experience may be in tech support, it’s really not applicable to the job at hand, so don’t concentrate on the day-to-day minutiae. Concentrate instead on those instances where you demonstrated leadership, ingenuity, and organizational skills.
Make sure that you complete all tests and supply all references well within the time frame provided. Do not expect to hear back from the job – or even be considered – if you don’t fit the job spec in terms of qualifications. There will be reams of overqualified people applying, so if you don’t fit the basic requirements the application is highly unlikely to be successful.
2. Making your CV too long with unnecessary information
Even if there are no guidelines, a CV exceeding two A4 pages is too long-winded and likely to be full of waffle. Demonstrate that you can be concise and precise by selecting the appropriate material. You want to give the impression that you have a huge amount of experience and are an interesting person with depth beyond the application; this CV is just a selection of the material best suited to this role. Note “best suited to this role”. Therefore, avoid by checking you don’t have:
- Excessive descriptions of your hobbies. No-one wants to know about every team you played for at school.
- If you’ve stated your involvement in an international competition, you don’t also need to list this under hobbies. Nor does an employer want to know that you communicated effectively in each of your last 6 jobs.
- Salary information. There’s no reason to include details about your past salary or hourly rates for jobs you had during college years. By doing so, not only is it unnecessary but it also sends the wrong message. Salary negotiations should come later in the interview process.
- Stock Phrases and cliches. Employers and HR teams will be crying with boredom by the time they read (for the millionth time), that you are creative, motivated and passionate about achieving success and are an enthusiastic team player. Regurgitation of the most overused stock words and phrases should be avoided and all costs.
- A fun E-mail address. Don’t include the e-mail address you have created five years ago when you graduated from high school, as this will raise flags. A professional email address certainly does not include hints about your age or birth date or even funny names or nicknames (e.g. [email protected] or [email protected]).
3. Not paying enough attention to grammar, spelling and layout
It may sound obvious, and is repeated in almost every website that you visit, but proofread your application. Grammar and spelling mistakes are proof of your incompetency, and a good way for employers to place CV’s straight into the rejection pile. Get a friend or a relative to proof read for you as well, and make sure that you use punctuation such as apostrophes and semi-colons correctly. Also pay attention to whether you are using standardised English or American spelling, and ensure that you don’t chop and change between the two in the application.
Set out your CV clearly, with titles in bold where appropriate and adequate spacing. Squashing everything up and compromising the readability of the piece to fit in one extra line of text will only compromise your chances of impressing the person reading the application.
4. Empty boasting and pretentious talk without substantiation: talk yourself up, but not too much
Whilst you should always present yourself and your achievements in such a way as to achieve maximum impact, over-egging the importance or significance of your experience and skills is only going to cause you problems. If you work too hard to make a transferable skill applicable to a particular role, employers will notice.
Make sure that you don’t mistake responsibilities for achievements. Don’t simply list the duties that were required of you, but expound upon how you brought value to each particular company or role on top of basic job requirements.
Also, avoid words that are such a bore; instead of raising your profile, they sound empty. Words like “cutting-edge”, “synergy”, “detail-oriented”, “proactive”, “fun-loving teamplayer” minimise your impact and take up valuable space on your CV. Instead use action verbs (Such as increased, established, transformed, introduced etc) to describe an achievement or roles you have assumed.
5. Letting your professionalism slip
It is crucial to always work hard to maintain a professional appearance. The following factors are likely to hinder your chances of appearing professional:
- Unexplained gaps (of several months or more) in your employment history.
- Too much personal information. Don’t include a physical description or photograph unless requested by the company you’re applying to.
- An unprofessional email address. You know that Hotmail email with your nickname in it from when you were 12? That’s not appropriate for job applications.
- Don’t try to be overly original with fonts or layout. Unless you’re applying for a design job which you think will appreciate such originality then this will just prove distracting.
- The most obvious factor at all, and the rule which is perhaps most commonly broken; do not lie in a job application. Lying in your CV will always come back to bite you at a later stage in your career. The most common lies tend to revolve around education, employment dates and technical skills, and if discovered will certainly lose you the job.
In today’s competitive job market it only takes six seconds for the hiring manager to make the “fit/no fit” decision. Follow these tips to ensure your resume steers clear of the trash pile!