Trying to build an impressive CV, but lost in a sea of contradictory advice? Based on decades of research and experience in résumes, I have compiled the ultimate guideline for you. Read on:
Imagine Poor Joe Recruiter, sniffling away a miserable cold, sitting there in front of a pile of anywhere between 60 and 200 résumes he has to get through before noon, a hiring manager barking at his heels because they actually need that position filled by 11. The last thing Poor Joe needs is a dense, vague, poorly formatted, obnoxiously lengthy document he has to sift through to find anything that says you're relevant for the job. Cut Poor Joe some slack. Make your CV concise, easy to read, and for crying out loud: directed towards the job specifications.2. Thou Shalt Not Extend Thy CV Beyond 2 Pages
Seriously, there was this candidate who sent in an 11 sheet CV, two-sided. That's right: 22 pages total. He droned on and on about why he had chosen a certain course, the content that had been covered, how aligned he felt towards each of the companies he had worked for, opinions people had expressed about him, and so forth. Bonus: his contact details were buried somewhere in page 3; up to that point he had gone on about his mission in the Universe. I kid you not. This is an extreme example, of course, but no: don't be that guy. Not even a little bit. Remember a résume is not a movie about your life. It is a trailer for that movie, enticing the recruiter to call you in for an interview to watch the whole thing. Make it sizzle. Use numbers to show results and hint at what you did to get there. Suggest there's oh-so-much-more (although you should probably not actually, literally write that exact phrase in there).3. Thou Shalt Not Try "Clever" Practices As An Attempt To Dodge Commandment no. 2
Hey, you, sneaky candidate who's pinching document margins and diminishing font sizes to cram as much information in as possible and still try and stay within the 2-page maximum: Poor Joe Recruiter can see what you're doing. Stop that right now. It just makes the document harder to read (see Commandment no. 1) and makes you look like the kind of employee who would rather bend the rules in their favour than doing a proper job (in this case, a bit of editing; see Commandments no. 4 and 8).4. Thou Shalt Feverishly Observe Language Usage, Language Style, Layout, Content Prioritisation, and Adaptation
Every CV has to be adapted to the job at hand. You have to make it easy for Poor Joe Recruiter to find the information that tells him you're the ideal candidate for this position. Otherwise, you're just making his job harder. Look at all the information you're putting forth. Which is more important for this opportunity: the fact that you were, say, an innovative product manager? Or the fact that you held that position at a sizzling startup or a revered Fortune 500 company? Organize and prioritize accordingly! Remember, also, that his attention will wane as he reads along, so the first third of page 1 has to make him say, "Oh wow! What else is this candidate about?" And finally, edit, edit, edit. Shed the extras. Make the layout a little exciting. And hav a frend reed it over cos no recruter shoul haveto pummel thru sentences like this onne.5. Thou Shalt Steer Clear Of Awful Fonts
This is really a corollary of Commandment no. 4, but it's so important I'm highlighting it on its own. Sleep-inducing fonts like Times New Roman, Tahoma, Arial, and default fonts like Cambria and Calibri just say you couldn't be bothered to try a little harder to stand out. Having said that, don't go crazy with zany fonts or insane colours! I'm all for Edwardian Script, but can you imagine being confronted by two pages of it? Choose a font that is interesting, that portrays your style as well as the company's (see Commandment no. 6) and that is easy for the eye to breeze through (serif fonts were made for this) in a size that doesn't make Poor Joe squint.6. Thou Shalt Brand Thyself With Valour
Before all else, have a chat with a qualified professional to uncover the particular values that drive you, as well as your key strengths and the stories that demonstrate them. Know and champion what you're really about. This will help you determine which work environment is best for you, as well as how good a fit you are for a certain position. Remember: an employment relationship, as an interview, is a two-way street. Otherwise, one or both of the parties will soon be unsatisfied.7. Thou Shalt Not Lie
And by "lie," I mean "fib," "exaggerate," "tell a half-truth," and so on. You see, in spite of his immense workload, Poor Joe Recruiter thrives in a vast network of professional contacts, cunning research tactics, and hundreds of business cards from fact-checking companies whose purpose is to catch "misrepresentations of reality." Plus, it makes you look unreliable, hence not employment material. Oh, and Poor Joe's recruiter friends will one day call him to ask about you. What do you think he'll say?8. Thou Shalt Shed Useless Information
CVs are not only about readability, they're also about how much room its information takes. Remember the 2-page max? Why waste valuable page real estate with entire lined dedicated to "Curriculum Vitae" or "References Available Upon Request"? Those are givens. Likewise, refrain from stating date of birth, whether you're single or married, photographs, number of children and your astrological sign (I've seen it all). Not only are all these items probably irrelevant to the position, they are very likely to get you pigeonholed. I will go as far as telling you to leave the address out, unless it is relevant to the job (i.e. the position is in a remote location, and that just happens to be where you live).9. Thou Shalt Provide Links To Thy Social Media Profiles
Social Media is here to stay. It is used for sharing information, connecting to old friends and to potential job opportunities, to celebrate your new puppy, to shop. Poor Joe Recruiter will look you up (you can do the same to him and to the hiring manager, by the way) to uncover your style, read the articles you post, check out how you interact with other people, etc. He does this to fact-check, to measure your culture fit, and even to see if you're one of those dinosaurs who prefers to stay out of social media altogether. Make it easy for Poor Joe: at least have a link to your LinkedIn profile. And it goes without saying that you must keep your profiles clean!10. Thou Shalt Only Use CV Templates With a Hefty Grain of Salt
There are literally hundreds of thousands of free CV templates out there. Heck, if you open up Microsoft Word, you'll find a couple of them there. If you really don't want to spend the time to craft a proper CV, go ahead and use them. Be careful, though. They were slapped together by people who were not looking at the opportunity you're interested in, and the information is not prioritised nor organised to showcase YOU specifically, so the CV will be generic and boring unless you heavily tweak it. At which point, why bother with a template at all? Nothing is more interesting than you, and it might take more work to adapt a template to convey this than to get a fresh one done from scratch. You're worth more than just an average CV.
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