A very influential Director whom I worked for (in Sydney during the 90’s) once gave me some advice about training. He said that in every company there were people who never sought feedback, guidance or training. These people, he assured me, were usually the people who needed it most.
I feel the same way about CVs. About once or twice a week someone sends me CV and asks if there is anything they should consider changing. Inevitably these are the people with CVs that look just fine.
Most of the others are fine too, but then there are the ones where you open the attachment, mutter ‘This won’t do at all.’ ,pick up the phone and dial…
In that light, what follows may be unsolicited advice.
How many versions of my CV/resume should I have?
Ideally, you should tailor your CV for each job for which you are applying. Always bear in mind the end purpose of your CV – to get you an interview with an employer so you can then dazzle them with your knowledge and personality.
Take a long, hard look at the job spec. What are the key competencies? Which experience will the employer rate the most highly?
If you are talking to a recruiter, ask them as many questions about the role as you can. What is the hardest thing about this role? What problem is the employer looking to solve in hiring this role? What are the most important experiences and characteristics they are looking for? Of course, if the recruiter can’t answer these questions then consider carefully if you want to trust this person with your next career move!
A one size fits all CV will only by chance address the key issues of the particular job you’re applying for. Tailor the message for your audience.
Should I include a summary?
Yes. You need to give the reader a reason to take your CV seriously and read the details. Think of it as your elevator pitch. One paragraph or a half a dozen bullet points that sum up:
• What you’re doing today
• Two or three key achievements that are relevant to the job that you are applying for and make you stand out from the crowd
• A statement that links your career motivations to the job for which you’re applying.
How long should it be?
More than one page, less than four. I regularly receive one page CV’s from people in senior management roles. They’ve condensed years of experience and a wealth of achievements and knowledge into one page. I’m not sure which is the greater sin; leaving off vital information or cramming it onto a document written in 8-point font with minimised margins. Neither option is going to present you in the best light. So live a little and push out to two, or even three, pages.
If you’ve tailored the CV and the summary properly the reader will be motivated to read more than one page of your story. Beyond three pages, information not strictly relevant to the role is starting to creep in to the document. Chances are that not every role in your career is relevant to the role you are applying for today. So put in less detail on these roles and expand upon the roles and achievements that demonstrate you have the ability to do this job.
If it shouldn’t be too long, what do I emphasise – skills, achievements or job duties?
Nothing is going to sell your story better than to list out your tangible achievements. What have you done that has changed the fortunes of your clients or your employers?
It’s nice to know that you advise clients on debt restructuring projects. Much more interesting is the list of projects you have worked on that include details of the client size, industry and the projects themselves. Tell us what your personal involvement in the project was and how that affected the final outcome of the project. Listing out your skills is nice, but again – make sure to link these skills to your achievements and demands of the role you’re applying for.
Should I include a photo?
If you want to, yes. But if you do, just make sure it makes you look professional. Linked In is full of examples of what not to do.
Finally (and briefly) I have set out a few other common sins to avoid and things to bear in mind:
• It’s best to explain gaps in your career history
• Spelling/grammar mistakes (do I really need to say that? Yes!)
• Avoid lumping experience/achievements accrued across several roles under one heading. Break it down by job listed on your CV. People like to know how recent your experiences are and their context.
No doubt some of this will conflict with the advice of others. Bear in mind that I recruit for Consulting firms; generally in the fields of Corporate Finance, Forensics, Restructuring and Operations. Perhaps you feel this isn’t applicable to your sector. I’d be happy to hear other people’s views.
Published by: Ian James in Blogs