Looking Backwards - Pointing Forwards

The truth is that CV writing is not an exact science, if you ask ten recruiters what they want to see on candidate applications, you are likely to get ten different answers. As a consultant who has recruited at multiple levels over many years, I have some clear opinions on what works and what does not. Below are my thoughts on how you can make the most out of your profile.

Purpose – Getting on the ‘Yes’ pile..

When you send your CV out to a recruiter or hiring manager it is a document with the sole purpose of getting you picked out from the crowd. Getting on the ‘Yes’ pile. Research shows that many recruiters make their minds up within seconds of viewing a CV – they quickly assign you to a virtual ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’ pile. When they have finished going through applications, if there are enough on the positive pile then the ‘Maybe’ and ‘No’ one will all get a polite thanks but no thanks response…

So how do you get picked out from the crowd?

1. Apply for the right jobs

First and foremost, your application should make sense. Do not apply for roles that are not a logical match your skills and experience. You may feel that you could turn your hand to the role as advertised and you may even have masses of transferable skills. If the recruiter cannot see the logic behind your application however, you are not going to go any further. Most roles get more than fifty applications – the average hiring manager wants to see relevant recent experience that will point toward likely success in the role they are looking to fill.

I have written about motivational fit before. It is important that you apply for roles that you ‘want’ to do. Many job seekers are highly motivated and will keep clicking ‘apply now’ on everything they think they ‘could’ do. Take that extra time to carefully select only the roles that are a motivational fit and which make logical sense given your skills and experience.

If your desire is to be a GM People & Capability but you have spent the last ten years working as an ER Consultant, there are likely to be some further career steps to go through before you will be realistically considered for your dream job. A chat with a recruiter or career coach may help clarify what the next logical steps should be for you.

Look at what you have done most over the last few years, what you are good at and where you have added the most value. Pair that with what you enjoy, what you ultimately wish to do and the logical pathway toward that goal. The next logical steps in your career and types of roles appropriate to you should then become more obvious – saving a lot of wasted effort. 


2. Keep it clear and concise

You are promoting yourself – you know you! Do it well.  Be concise, be clear and be accurate.

It is tempting to tell your life story, giving the hiring manager every detail about your life, just in case that one extra fact makes the difference. In my view you should keep your CV to no more than two pages. A recruiter can always ask you to expand on a role or provide more information. How will they believe that you can be efficient, effective, concise and action oriented if you do not show those attributes in your own profile. I personally am happy to be tempted by a few salient facts and stats that make me want to pick up the phone to find out more. 

Your personal statement should also match the key attributes as described in the advert. Whilst you should never exaggerate, lie or deceive; highlighting the things you have done that are a close match to the role is important.

One of the things that I say often, when giving candidates CV advice, is that, whilst your CV is by nature a document that looks backwards, it is essential that it point forwards. Minimise the things you have done that do not relate to your future ambitions. Focus on highlighting roles, achievements and experience that matches the pathway you wish to take in the future.

Looking back but pointing forward

Bullet pointing some of your key skills, competencies and attributes that you know will be a close match to the requirements of the role is a good idea. Also ensure your qualifications and relevant training is listed correctly. You do not need to list irrelevancies or the fact that you can navigate MSOffice.


3. Make it easy on the hiring manager

Believe it or not we still receive CV’s with no, or unclear contact details on them. If it is hard to get hold of you, then you may never receive that call or follow up. 
Your contact details should be clear and easy to access. HTML your email address and the connection to your LinkedIn profile. Many recruiters and businesses use VOIP so make sure that your mobile phone number is evident and, in a format, easy to click on.

Do not be afraid to have your email address and phone number as a repeated footer. I also prefer a personal (but appropriate!) email address over a work one – this is likely to remain searchable and relevant long after your current work email becomes redundant and sets a more professional tone. 


4. Be accurate

Getting things wrong on your profile is a sure-fire way of getting a polite rejection letter. It seems like a ‘no brainer’ but I still see very many CV’s with multiple errors, even where the persons email address is incorrectly spelt! Check every detail, word, fact, email and number before you send away a profile.

Ensure your CV matches your LinkedIn profile. If you want to use a photo, I suggest that it is a corporate style headshot and does not appear on your CV (unless you are applying for modeling work!). Direct people to the LinkedIn profile and keep the image professional.


5. More about you?

I have mixed feelings when it comes to personal information. I would ideally like to know enough about applicants to be able to feel I have a sense of the individual. A little evidence on voluntary work, club affiliations, sporting achievements and family MAY be useful to create a point of difference. However, it is often better if this is fairly subtle background information rather than a primary focus. It does not need to be in your personal statement, perhaps a ‘more about me’ on page two if room allows.