On average, a recruiter spends on average 7 seconds looking at a CV before discarding it. In this blog I will use CV and resume interchangeably.
The CV is a tool to get you through the door and start conversations – that is why you should consider it your "elevator pitch” in a written format. It has to attract (good) attention and make it clear to the recruiter and hiring manager how and why you would bring value. However, many incorrectly treat their CVs like an archive of their full professional experience, listing in detail all the activities they completed since starting in the workforce to present.
Equally, if you are using the same CV which you keep adding to as you gain more experience...we really need to fix things.
1. Switch the narrative in your CV from where you have been and focus instead to where you want to go
Your CV is a narrative, one that needs to be crafted based on the type of roles you are applying for as opposed to the roles you have had. Ultimately, companies hire because they need a specific list of skillsets and project a certain value an employee would bring. If your CV is not written in a way that makes it abundantly clear what value you bring, they are not going to consider you. You might be the best candidate for the role, but if the document with your experience doesn’t reflect that in a way that any recruiter or hiring manager can easily, you are making it hard for yourself.
One of my clients was looking to switch to marketing. Yet under her work experience she was primarily listing operations and logistics type of skills. She found it was very easy to ger interviews for the operation roles, but she doesn’t seem to be making much progress with marketing roles. Why? Because her CV was absolutely written for ops roles, not marketing.
When I made my own switch from recruitment to accessibility, do you know how many bullet points I had listed for my talent acquisition skills? Zero. A hiring manager in the accessibility field wouldn’t care that I hired X many thousands or that I can define hiring strategies, it’s not value they are looking for. Instead I pivoted to what they cared about: project management, customer focus, creating a culture of accessibility within my team, driving accessibility projects pro bono and so forth.
Skills and experience you list need to be relevant to the role you are applying for, not an archive of what you have done.
2. Customize your CV based on the industry, company and job description
You bite the bullet and write your CV; you can now applying with that one copy to all the roles you are interested in. Right, it’s meant to be done? The answer is “no”. It’s not enough to have an excellently written CV. You need to have a customized CV based on the company and job description.
If you are applying to the same industry and function the core (let’s say 70-80 percent) of your CV can stay the same. However, you must redact it to match the company and the job description. Example, if the job description calls for “customer obsession” and you have listed “costumer focus”, redact and use the exact same words. Don’t get creative. Using the same language helps the recruiter understand fast how you can bring value and also can help by-pass potential automated filtering on their applicant tracking system.
You don’t even have to dig deep to understand what they are looking for – it’s all there in the job description: mandatory skills, preferred and more.
Have as many CVs as jobs you are applying for and use the same terminology.
3. Your CV should focus on value add, not a list of activities
A common mistake is listing a long series of activities in your CV. Activities are just that activities. They don’t necessarily lead to value, nor capability.
Instead, here is my tried and tested formula to list experience:
[Competency + what you have done + what was the outcome or value add]
Here is a made up example of how that would look:
The next few points might seem elementary, but they are important.
4. Keep it simple when it comes to format, colors and more
The golden rule is “less is more”. Unless you are part of a specialized niche segment, such as graphic designers, who need to showcase portfolios, keep it simple. I will say that again: Keep. It. Simple. No fancy swirls and twirls, no random graphics and color insertions.
From a technology perspective, when you apply for a job, it goes through what is called an “applicant tracking system”. Secret of the trade: most of this software isn’t incredibly sophisticated. Which means your CV, with all the custom elements, when processed by the applicant tracking system might appear as a mumbo jumbo of symbols and hieroglyphs on the recruiters’ side. A sure way to have people discard your CV straight away is them not being able to read it
5. Have a standard email address you monitor
Make sure the email address you have applied with and is on your CV is professional and one that you monitor. The number of times I have reviewed CVs with inappropriate email addresses is too high to count. Honey.firstname.lastname@example.org is really cute, but perception is everything in the early stages, and you just labelled yourself as a fluffy rodent.
6. Things you should leave out
Unless absolutely required by the organization your are applying for, I suggest you don’t include in your CV a home address, a photo or you birth date.
These are elements that attract bias. In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to navigate biases, but until we get there, we can do whatever it takes to maximize our chances.
7. Treat your CV like prime real estate
If you have a CV that is the size of a novel, you will be judged for it. No matter how much experience you have or how important it is, you can still capture it in 1 page. The max in my book is 2 pages (especially for researchers where you need to include relevant papers you have published and so forth).
Are you a fresh graduate? 1 page.
You have 20 years of experience? 1 page.
You can use the "Contact" section to reach out to me for questions and to ask for my free CV template.
If you are interested in learning how to make your CV accessible please check out my other blog: How to write an inclusive CV – Ioana Tanase