If you watch the X Factor, you’ll be familiar with the following phrases: “It means everything to me” and “I want this more than anything” usually followed by a short sob story and some tragic music. We love a good ‘rags-to-riches’ tale after all.
If, like me, you’re also an avid reader of thousands of CVs as part of your job – you may also be familiar with reading the following phrases within personal profiles: “Excellent communication skills, effective with all levels of management” and “I work well using my own initiative and as part of a team”.
I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen these classic cliché’s and, after loudly criticising them in the office one day, I started to wonder where they came from – shortly before realising I too had fallen victim to the familiar phenomenon myself.
I think it was one of those bad pieces of career advice we were given at school in the nineties. Ensuring employers could see that you could work well on your own as well as part of a team seemed paramount to landing a great job. The thing is – it just doesn’t mean anything to anyone, which I believe is why most recruiters scan straight down to your experience without even reading your carefully-worded profile.
Anyway, in order to get noticed by a recruiter, if you’re going to have a personal profile at the top of your CV (and why not? It’s a great chance to inject some personality into an otherwise formulaic document), how about writing something a bit more catchy? For example, I changed my standard mantra:
dedicated and hardworking individual
to this one:
I’m interested in adding value to the businesses I work for by finding the right candidates quickly and efficiently
I find that reading candidates profiles, or even cover letters (remember them?) so much more entertaining and likely to receive a call from me if there’s a real reason to pick up the ‘phone and enter into some dialogue by having some initial engaging information. Suddenly as a recruiter, I’ve got a conversation opener already and you as a candidate have a key opportunity to show off.
Think about the aspects of the role that you enjoy and get the most from doing, and make a point of highlighting them right from the outset. This is also a good time to mention any specific achievements – the idea here is to sell yourself, and so many people forget that.
Another favourite habit of mine – nosy parker that I am – is checking out their interests. Sport, hobbies and the like are usual suspects; I’ve seen some more entertaining ones, including an accidental joke version of a CV that detailed a female’s sexual prowess within her organisation as well. If you’re going to make a joke version of your CV, try not to apply to jobs with it! I also never quite understand why candidates might include “family” as an interest. Personally, I would say my family are more than a passing interest to me, but each to their own!
Overall, my tips for revamping your CV are based upon being engaging, succinct, and relevant. Personally I prefer bullet pointed nuggets of information (no one likes wading through massive blocks of text) – you’ll only do yourself a disservice if you have a CV that goes unnoticed because of the layout and style. I would also never use Times New Roman as a CV font having seen it so much. Whilst on the subject of fonts, be sure to use the same font throughout, and use the bolding function sparingly. It is very hard to read through different fonts and styles of text. If you want to stand out, add a bit of colour to your headings, or even the page. If I open a document and its coloured, it’s silly, but I notice it straight away. Writing about yourself in the third person is hated by most recruiters I know, as is a career history in the wrong order, which is your very first job at the top of your CV. I’m sure I’ve accidentally discounted CV’s thinking that they are totally irrelevant on that basis. Make sure your contact details are clearly at the top of the CV. Simple to do, but many bury away this key information at the bottom, or some don’t include it at all, relying on the job board or CV database to provide that information.
There’s no one way to write the perfect CV so above all else, make sure it’s an accurate reflection of your skills and experience. There’s nothing – I repeat, nothing more embarrassing then a candidate that’s oversold themselves on paper and hits every flat note possible on the auditions. Good luck people!
Author: Gemma Duncan is a recruiter and resourcer.