What is a CV/resumé for? Its purpose is not to get you the job as a lot of job-seekers believe. Its true purpose is to attract the attention of an employer and to get you in front of them so that you can impress them in person. Over the years I’ve been working as a coach I’ve probably seen more than a thousand CVs and a good half of them fail the first impression test.
Here are eight things to avoid at all costs
1. Don’t use clichéd words like professional, self-motivated, enthusiastic, team player in your summary paragraph. If you’re not these things you don’t have a hope anyway. Write about the problems you can solve for an employer, the uniqueness of your experience plus any quirky aspect of your working style that would be a recommendation
2. Don’t try to play it safe as the result might be that you just look dull. See yourself as a brand and a brand is successful when it differentiates itself from the competition.
3. Don’t waste your first page with lists of qualifications and education (unless you are in a qualifications-led profession such as the law or medicine). The first page is the one that is read most carefully so put your most attractive information there.
4. Don’t ramble on. Keep to two pages. Yes, I know everyone knows this in theory but I see a lot of people who cheat by fiddling with the margins on Word and using a tiny typeface. The CV is a piece of advertising copy, so learn from advertisers and keep it crisp with clear headline messages. A long rambling CV gives the impression that you are a rambling self-obsessed person – not the kind of hire an employer wants.
5. Don’t spend your two pages describing your responsibilities. Talk about achievements – good things that happened because you went beyond what was being asked of you
6. Don’t send out the same old CV to any potential employer. Always tailor it to what that employer says they want. Use their language, match your experience to their competencies
7. Don’t lie by bigging up your degree or experience. It’s easy for employers to check on qualifications, job titles, salary and the majority now do. Tell the truth. There is a difference between putting the best possible face on your experience and lying. If you lie the chances of being found out are high – and rising all the time
8. Don’t ignore your Internet presence. An employer who is interested in you will google your name. Make sure that what they find is consistent with the professional image you present in your CV, no indiscreet chats or photos of you drunkenly cavorting at your wedding. It is easier to monitor this all the time than to remove compromising material later.
There is more on this and other aspects of job search in my latest book Facing Redundancy: Surviving and Thriving