How to write a great CV
Finding a great job is hard work (some people spend their entire professional lives searching for the Holy Grail). And it all starts with sending in your resume. Not just any resume, of course, because there can be dozens or hundreds of them for a good position. And hoping that my resume gets noticed and I just get invited is not the best approach to get the dream job. As they say, luck walks on mountains, but here we can help it come to us. I have to put in the work and create a structured resume that really works.
Structured CV is our personal advertisement. It immediately says that someone should buy us and therefore, accept us into their service for a fee, which is a salary. Ugh, no more scholarly writing. Plain and simple, a well-worded resume makes the difference in whether a company opens the doors of their human resources department and we get the invitation to make a personal impression. So, sometimes this is preceded by a job interview over the phone as a specific discipline that deserves a separate story.
Writing a resume is not rocket science, but writing one that leaves an impression takes some thought and effort. Above all, we need to get a good handle on who we are writing it for and why. Then we can create one that leaves a good impression.
Why do we have CVs in the first place?
I need to understand how:
- Who the target audience is (who I am writing it for);
- what they are doing with it and what they are looking for in it (how to work with it in HR);
- how to write a CV (and what the rules are).
Who am I writing it for?
The right resume has a total of three readers for whom it is important. The first reader must be the author. His actions and words must fit with what is written in the resume. Unfortunately, from time to time in an interview, all the HR person thinks about all the time is who wrote this person such a great resume. Conversely, it doesn’t happen much that we find out how it is possible that such an excellent candidate has such a horribly cobbled together document. I mean, the interview doesn’t even happen.
The second reader is someone in Human Resources when they are deciding what the next step should be. It’s the most important reader because it’s making the decision between the invitation and the basket. For the recruiter (aka recruiter), the CV in particular is like a calling card by which he or she decides how to proceed. Invite for an interview or throw it in the trash?
He or she will also stick to the CV at the first interview, when he or she will check how the writing fits with what is heard. As they say, proof instead of promises, this works best in recruiting. That’s why it’s important that the entire document fits with reality. Those who get tangled up in it can’t be helped.
And the third reader is the manager who is choosing the new person. He too must be impressed by the CV sent in, because in the end it is he who decides who to take on to his team. The HR Manager can strongly influence him, but the final decision is always up to the manager. And it’s good to keep that in mind.
How does HR work with it?
There are thousands of companies out there that promise to give every resume due diligence. Fortunately, they don’t specify what that due diligence means. But just imagine a model situation where a company has ten open positions. And often it’s considerably more than that.
If there are 15 applicants for each position alone, that’s 150 documents that must be given due care and attention. It’s just that the positions are in different states, someone has to make sure the selection process is running, someone has to let the candidates know, and someone also has to eventually prepare the offer letters. Most importantly, someone also has to do the interviews, and everyone takes an hour out of their working hours.
Those 150 people alone don’t stand a chance of anyone studying all the CVs in detail. With ten open positions, we’re already reaching the edge of being fully compliant with the Labor Code. The logistics in recruitment are just plain and simple awful (and have so far failed to get it under control, at a reasonable cost of course).
So every resume gets a few seconds to impress. That means the HR person looks to see if the basic information fits and the position frames what they are looking for. He certainly won’t study the details, he’ll look at the basics. And if it’s OK, he continues reading on. Not impressed, bin it.
Rules of a great resume
The basic rules are:
- the truth, the truth and nothing but the truth;
- a conservative template works better;
- Important right off the bat;
- logical order.
If you lie, you definitely don’t go any further. Lying is simply not and must not be done. And if I decide to embellish something, I have to expect that it will be found out anyway. It’ll come out in the interview anyway, and that’s the end of it. There’s nothing we can do to fix it, because we have one shot at the job. It’s about trust, and that’s what we just lost. And if it doesn’t come up in the interview, it’s gonna come up over time. And it’s always a bummer.
A conservative resume template usually works better than a highly creative original. Unless I want a job at an advertising agency where that boring grey resume gets thrown in the trash. With a Microsoft Word template, not even a mouse would get through to the accounting office. Elsewhere, however, the template works well because everyone knows it. And they quickly find the right keywords.
Important information needs to be right at the top. Nowadays, CVs don’t print and they don’t show up on the screen in their entirety. What’s not in the top quarter of the page doesn’t exist. So is the last project more important or my last name in big letters?
What about the photo on the resume?
Mostly helps because we’re social creatures. And a photo helps build some emotion. Even without a photo, but with a photo there’s a slight advantage. Of course, one that fits in the office, right?
In the end, our lives tend to follow a pretty logical course. Why is it that we often can’t transfer it to a single A4 page, in roughly the same order? We don’t jump around and go against the flow of time because the important stuff has certainly happened recently.
And one more little thing. In all my years in HR I’ve never seen a proper objective on a CV. So it’s better to avoid that because it turns into general chatter with no substance. And that really doesn’t help in finding a good job. Screw it, we deserve a proper personality.