January is a peak time for workers to consider seeking out a new job, with back-to-work blues driving many of us to start polishing up our CVs.
But is your resumé letting you down? According to research carried out by recruitment firm Michael Page, there’s often a pronounced divide between what jobseekers think is important in a CV, and what employers are looking for.
A survey of 2,000 members of the public and 480 recruiters, conducted by Mortar London for Michael Page, has compared what each group thinks is vital.
According to the research findings, jobseekers tend to underestimate how important it is to list on your CV every role you’ve had within a company. “It gives a clearer indication of how your career progressed within that organisation,” Michael Page says.
[READ: The best employers to work for in the UK]
Many people fail to give enough emphasis on detailing their achievements: “To stand out from other candidates, it’s important to be clear on how you contributed and where you added value while in previous roles.”
Another common mistake is failing to adopt a professional tone: “You’re being hired as a professional, you should show you can present yourself as one.”
For a comprehensive view of the survey’s findings, Michael Page has put together the following infographic:
Eight bad habits to avoid in your CV
Rebecca Burn-Callander recently collected some insider tips from recruiters on question-and-answer site Quora to stop your resume failing the “first glance” test.
1. The wild goose chase
Employers want to see your current role at the top of your CV to work out what skills you’ve been using most recently.
Many candidates attempt to order their CVs so that the role that is most relevant to the job they are applying for appears on top but this is confusing and annoying, according to Quora posters .
“I’m generally trying to figure out what this person’s current status is and why they might even be interested in a new role,” says one. “Is there a career progression? Do they have increasing levels of responsibility?”
If you are currently working in a field that is unrelated to the profession you want to pursue, don’t try to hide it. Explain why you made the move and what skills you are leaning in your current job that could be useful in your new position.
Lee McQueen, a former Apprentice winner, famously lied on his CV, claiming he studied for two years at a university, when in fact, he was only there for four months.
If there are gaps in your CV, don’t try to cover them up either.
“I don’t mind gaps so long as there’s a sufficient explanation,” says a recruiter. “Oh, you took three years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add, I bow down. You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained.
“Whatever it is, just say it. It’s the absence of an explanation that makes me wonder.”
2. “I like books, films and spending time with friends and family”
So does almost every other human being in the western world. If you’re going to talk about your personal life, at least make it interesting, beg Quora recruiters.
“List key personal projects,” says one. “I ask this in almost every phone interview I do: “What kind of stuff are you working on in your free time?”
“It shows me that you have passion for your field beyond your 9-5.”
Other advice includes: “We recruiters are staring at these missives all day long. Talk about how much you love Nutella. If you’re a rock star, throw some cheeky self-deprecation in there if you can do so elegantly. I think it’s important to keep the work experience details as professional as possible, but trust me; there are ways to have fun with it. I love an ‘Easter egg’ buried in a resume.”
However, avoid too many personal details. You could leave a recruiter feeling like they could be leaving themselves open to a discrimination case.
“I learn to tune out certain things like marital status, whether or not a person has children, or references to health or medical issues,” says one. “But it seriously makes me uncomfortable when people include photos with their resumes. If I want to see what you look like, I’ll stalk you on LinkedIn.”
3. No link to your Twitter?
Do you have your own website, blog, Twitter account, or meaty list of glowing testimonials on LinkedIn? Include a link on your CV so that recruiters can do a little digging.
“I almost always click through to a candidate’s website or Twitter account. It’s one of my favourite parts of recruiting,” says a Quora poster.
And when was the last time you Googled yourself? One recruiter says, “Typically the first impression an employer is going to get of you is from a Google search. Make sure you have an excellent online presence.”
4. Failure to namedrop
If you have only worked for obscure-sounding companies, brand snobs may dismiss you out of hand.
Try to give recruiters a frame of reference. Instead of just putting down the name of the company, give a little detail that adds credibility. “X, which built the iPhone app for [insert well-known brand here]”, for example. Or “y, the biggest supplier of z to [insert brand]”.
5. A lack of keywords
Human beings are all scanners now: instead of painstakingly reading text, they scan the page looking to relevant or familiar words.
Make sure that your CV is loaded with keywords that show your skills.
Keywords aren’t just useful for lazy readers, they are essential for many of the automatic CV parsing software tools that leading recruiters and big companies tend to use.
“Make sure your job titles match their job titles,” recommends a recruiter. “Even if they don’t have your exact job title for a previous job, try to get as close linguistically as you can to help those resume parsers.”
6. Using MS Word templates? Stop it
This familiar CV format is a huge turn off for recruiters, who end up seeing the same layouts again and again.
While most warn against using too much fancy formatting, or loading a resume with colour, being creative about how your experience and skills are presented can win you a lot of points.
Some good typography can go a long way, they advise. But nothing can make up for poor spelling and grammar, or a poorly ordered CV. So focus on those key aspects first before adding bells and whistles.
Whatever you do, make sure that your CV reads clearly when all the formatting is stripped out, warn Quora recruiters.
“It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re applying to a position online, whether it’s a PDF or not, most companies’ applicant tracking systems parse your resume for information and convert it to pure text as the most immediate viewing format,” says one.
“The original file is usually there for us, but most recruiters aren’t clicking through to that. If you’re going to do something fun with your resume, I recommend having a clean text resume as well whenever possible so it doesn’t come through our system looking wonky.”
Philippe Dubost built his online CV as an Amazon page complete with product dimensions, five star ratings and the byline: “Only one left in stock order soon”. His “CV”, created in January last year, had 1.3m unique visitors and more than 100 job offers within two months
7. No cover letter or a bad one
Recruiters on Quora unanimously agree: if you’re not going to make your cover letter interesting, packed with extra detail, and tailored entirely to the company you’re applying to, then it’s not worth having one at all.
“Reading a paragraph about why you want to work here versus why you just want to work anywhere could very well be the difference between being passed over and being called for an interview,” says a recruiter.
“But anything generic that appears re-used across many job applications or focuses only on your background (which I could just glean from your resume) is useless and detracts from any genuine or specific interest you might actually have in the specific company.”
8. Mixing your personal pronouns
Never talk in the first person on a CV, Quora recruiters advise. But if you must, at least make sure you’re not mixing your first and third person pronouns.
“Pick a voice, pick a tense, and then stick with it,” says one poster. “I suggest third person and past tense.”
Using the first person is, generally, reserved for talking about personal experience, so should be avoided in a professional resume although this is fine for the cover letter, of course.
By Adam Boult | Telegraph – Mon, Jan 18, 2016 13:08 GMT