Applying for a new job has to be a challenge, but why is it so tough to produce a CV / resume? We’ve all heard the sneers
of people dismissing the CVs they receive and the ether is humming with usually crass and often conflicting advice on how to “market yourself”. So, can there not be some foolproof way in which a good candidate can give a clear account of a strong career without embarrassing themselves?
How the CV / resume was born
The original CV style seems to have evolved out of the technical limitations of the typewriter, the stencil duplicator and the typist. With little thought and just basic tools, people created huge documents with palatial margins and no particular attempt to be “relevant” to the position applied for. You still see these today, new layers of “responsible fors.” tacked on over the years, with people actually referring to themselves as “the candidate” as if they were creating a project dossier about someone else.
As the “send in your CV” age began to mature someone labelled the old style of CV as “chronological” and suggested that candidates might want to produce a “functional” CV that was designed to relate to the particular job they were applying for and would quickly come to the point instead of making readers wade through trivia.
Good idea, until it made everyone fear that they needed a completely fresh CV for every single application – anxiety that still haunts many and literally paralyses some into the terror that every single word they write will be subjected to detailed forensic scrutiny. So they scan the job advertisements to be sure to include any phrase or buzzword that is ever employed. Welcome to the world of the Supercandidate, a paragon of “multiple skillsets” with “positive leadership style”, “an ability to bridge the gap between business and technology”, “a proven track record” (in just about anything) and of course “great communication and interpersonal skills”. This fools nobody, let alone experienced recruiters who read it sixty times a day.
Personalizing your CV / resume
When people started loading WP applications onto their PCs they found that there were “Resume, resumé and even Résumé templates instructing them to sing their own praises through hyperactive lists under headings such as “career objectives”, “personal profile”, “major achievements”, “headline skills” and the like. A terrible plague of “proactivity” swept through the working population as they plundered the Thesaurus to pump out those action words: one moment this person is “redefining business objectives” and the next moment they are “scoping implementation plans”. Nothing they ever do is simple, straightforward and free of fanfare and the more naïve variants of this style drop into unprofessional conversationalist “I won the award for Most Improved” or even “he co-ordinated all the outsourced workstreams .”
In direct contrast to that style is the “lean and mean” dude who goes for “large areas of white space” and very spare lists of functions that conjure up no idea whatsoever of what took place: “implemented £250m ERM system” – without any explanation of how, why, what methodology, problems solved, dramas resolved, results achieved, costs saved, business growth empowered. Recruiters want to know about the people they are considering – they want some telling detail that has that vital ring of truth.
The Internet has brought its own crop of foibles. When we all connected on 28K modems it took ages to download an attachment so some bright spark started telling everyone to cramp their CV into the message body or if they must use an attachment give it almost no formatting and use Courier font so as not to confuse the recipient. Some people still do these things today, sending ugly, unfocused documents in an alienating form where they are a strain to read.
Nowadays we even have the website CV, the CD-Rom CV, the video CV, the PowerPoint presentation CV – all grandiose formats that take more than a minute to view and therefore will not get viewed very much (but are fine for creative portfolios and supporting detail for certain specific professions).
Tom, Dick and Henrietta have all had their say in this matter and because we want to get the job we listen, flounder and produce applications that read like some juvenile parody of ourselves. Does anyone have an answer that will give return dignity and focus to the candidate?
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The 9 STEPS of CV Sage lead you carefully and perceptively through
- all the issues that need to be considered
- plenty of thought provoking exercises to work with
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- strategy development for a huge range of career situations
- advice on design and layout based on real life experience
- how it really is out there: feedback and advice