Is your CV letting you down?

Updated: May 21, 2019



Currently, I am coaching some of my clients on their CVs. My clients are competent and wonderful people, but in most instances, their CVs do little to get that across. In other instances, my clients just need a 'foot in the door' to get some experience, but that chance remains a distant dream as their CVs say nothing to differentiate and get them noticed.

Looking at a CV from the audience's perspective (in other words the recruiters' perspective, rather than your own) is possibly the most powerful way to get clear on where your CV is letting you down. This is an approach I take with my clients, and in some instances, the results of their revised CVs, have been almost instantaneous.

So what is the perspective of a recruiter?

Well, recruiters are busy people. Just like anyone else, they have a job to do and they want to do it efficiently and effectively. Their job is to find the right candidates to fill positions that their clients have available. For every position, there are often hundreds, even thousands of candidates, meaning that recruiters need to wade through piles of information to get to the right candidate. The easier you make it for a recruiter to find the right information in your CV, the more likely your CV will land in the "interview" pile.

What are recruiters looking for?

Each position requires the candidate to have specific behaviours, experience, knowledge and skills. If you can demonstrate that you have exactly, or as close as possible to, the position's requirements, then you are making the life of the recruiter that much easier. Put this information on the first page of your CV in a clear and concise way, and your chances greatly improve. Why? Because the information is right there in front of the recruiter. If you imagine yourself as the person reviewing hundreds of CVs, each several pages long, how likely are you to turn to page two or even page three to find information? Not likely at all!

Recruiters also look to see what you have achieved. Where possible, highlight your achievements and leadership positions (whether in the workplace or in your personal life or community), in a way that is tangible and answers "how many?", "where?", "when?" and "how?". For candidates with limited or no work experience, achievements in your personal life are important and can help your CV stand out. So, take the time to reflect on what you have achieved in the various aspects of your life.

Recruiters want you to get to the point (CV's of two pages are preferred) and connect your competence to the requirements of the position. If a recruiter has to take too much time to interpret why your CV may be relevant, it's likely that your CV will be discarded, especially if another candidate has presented their CV more clearly than yours.

Common things I have seen in CVs include:

  • entire pages dedicated to front covers, tables of content and contact details

  • spelling and grammar errors

  • inconsistent use of bullets, formatting, upper case/lower case and so on

  • too much focus on personal information

  • the inclusion of pages and pages of certificates

  • unaccounted for gaps in employment history

  • reasons for leaving previous jobs

  • lists showing the oldest jobs/courses/experiences, first

Things that I am not seeing enough of in CVs include:

  • optimisation of the first page to highlight skills, tangible achievements and a summary profile

  • demonstration of the relevance of skills and achievements and prioritisation of these in order of importance

  • clarification of the productive use of gaps in employment history

  • tailoring to the specific job requirements

So I have compiled a series of #CVtips to help you when you next compile or update your CV.

This blog has largely been written with young South African graduates in mind. Regional and contextual variations to these tips may be relevant so please do your research. There is no shortage of websites providing advice on the internet. But above all, try to imagine yourself as the recruiter reviewing yours and hundreds of others' CVs and consider what would be important for you to see, if you were in that position.

I would love your feedback... and of course, if you would like to share these tips with graduates, young professionals and pretty much anyone that is updating their CV, please feel free to do so.

But now you ask, my CV has got me into the interview, any tips for that? Yes, I do! Sign up as a member on my website and get access to my #InterviewTips there.

I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.

I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.

I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Drop me a message and I will get back to you asap.

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