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Job Hunting in a Recession #2 - Tips for a Winning CV

Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

Cheap CV writer software might be an easy option but it makes a pile of  job applications look like the HR equivalent of processed cheese – hard to tell one block from another and a bit bland.

For such an important document it is scary how little (or how much) is included by many applicants in their CV. Our CV is supposed to be a masterly presentation of all we have achieved and experienced. It’s the proof to back up the dynamic covering letter that has already grabbed a recruiter's attention.  If we get it right (assuming our experience and skills are good) then the 'yes' pile is ours for the making. 

Tip #1 Tailor your CV. Gone are the days of one CV fitting all. I am not talking about embellishment, just editing. A recruiter will want to see immediately what skills and experience you have for the specific role you are applying for. This means the good stuff needs to be obvious and up front. They don't want to have to look too far. If they do, you are not just toast - you are burnt toast with the smoke alarm going off. The science fair certificates, how much you like reading and walking in the park will have to take a back seat for now.

Tip #2 Pitch your CV at the level of the job you are applying for. In a recession often  we are applying for roles that we are overqualified for. Many employers are wary of overqualified applicants. They may think things like; 'what's wrong with them if they are applying for this'? They will want more money than we can afford, and they won't stay for long'. Don't be afraid to dumb down your CV to make it a better fit to what you are applying for.

On the other hand don't be afraid to talk it up if you are applying for something at the edge of your range. Just look at some job adverts from employment agencies if you want excellent examples of something sounding a lot flasher than it really is. The editing you do needs to all be grounded in fact but marketed to the specific role you are applying for. It's more like a 'based on a true story' kind of approach, than a documentary. 

Tip #3 – Add a bit of colour. It will immediately make your CV stand out. The rule was always to make CV's black and white to make it easy for potential employers to receive your CV and print it off. Now with faster internet speeds (on a good day) file size and slow downloading is not an issue. Also the cost of colour printing has dropped dramatically. Many large employers have colour photocopiers now that double up as printers so the cost of printing a CV in colour is small compared to when inkjet printers were the norm.

Don't go crazy though. Use conservative colours and resist the temptation to add tacky clip art and frilly borders. It's like selling a home. More neutral tones will appeal to a wider range of buyers.   

Tip #4 - Photos on CV's are good but like all good things – conditions apply. If you are contemplating using a photo on your CV cover, then I am already assuming that you feel your photo would enhance your application. A good photo will set you apart and give you an edge in making your application more personal in a way that several pages of text can't. It gives a visual reference to match the skills and experience with.  Just like in books about sex – the 'illustrated version' will always sell better than the 'words only' one.

If you are a female applicant thinking that a wider angle shot including a broader canvas of your figure is a good move, then you will have correctly guessed that the majority of recruiting managers will be men. Distasteful as it is some managers like surrounding themselves with 'trophy' staff. If he looks at your CV and there you are - smiling back at him like a Russian mail order bride ad, then its going to get you noticed. Remember though, that the majority of HR advisors deciding the fate of your application in its early stages are females in their 20's and 30's. Many of these females will look at your centrefold attempt and phrases like 'skanky cow' may be uttered as they consign you to the scrap heap. So moderation and neck-up only shots please.

The same goes for men. Exposed chest hair, gold chains and smouldering looks are out. If you look like an 'up himself dickhead' then you probably are. Its best they find that out after you are safely employed. 

If you are making an electronic application, make sure the photo is in jpeg or similar low resolution format that will not hinder your files progress through cyberspace. IT guardians in most large organisations are like Third World border guards – they like to stop things getting in and out, just because they can.

Tip #5 Make your CV Concise. For those of us who have been strolling the earth for a while our CV follows the long and winding road of life almost back to the dawn of time. CV writer software gives equal space to work experience regardless of how long ago it was. Don't be afraid to be different and summarise a whole lot of past jobs, putting more detail into the most recent ones. Remember it is young people who decide your applications fate in its initial stages and to them 40+ is seriously old. Detail about stuff you did in the 1970's will only remind them of their parents. This is not good. 

So now that your CV is recruiter friendly and compliments that dynamic covering letter, and lovingly filled out application form, hopefully you have now safely arrived in the 'yes' pile.

Next we will look at that the great 'casting couch' of employment – the Interview.




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