First Rule of CV Writing - Think of Mandy...

By Martin Ellis

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Mandy is a recruiter. Mandy, and thousands like her, spend a good deal of their day matching people to jobs, and to do that Mandy reads CV's...... lot's of CV's....... thousands of CV's .....too many bloody CV's! So next time you're sending off your CV in the hope you land the dream job, think of Mandy.

Mandy wants to do a good job. No. I'm wrong. Mandy wants to do a great job. To do this she will have a universe of possibly hundreds of people to choose from. She will take a lot of care to present people to her clients who will make her clients happy. Before she presents these people, Mandy will show a lot of care about her final selection, but before that, Mandy will use some shorthand to use her time efficiently.

Mandy has bad days. Some of them (most of them probably) are driven by a full day reading CV's. It can be a hideous expereince. Here's what makes me go cold when I see a CV for the first time. I suspect Mandy feels much the same:

  • The font is small. VERY small. And the line spacings are tight. I know that this has been done to keep the content to 2 pages. It meets the brief to keep to 2 pages. Sorry. Lazy thinking.
  • On top of a small font, the margins have been extended right to the edge - There is a cast-iron certainty this CV will finish bang on 2 pages.

Already I am feeling disheartened. How can anybody lack so much awareness that they think that volume equates to any level of decent communication ?...

...but I soldier on...

  • Oh NO! They've put their full address .... their date of birth ..... when they got married and the children's names ..... the dog's got distemper...I'm sorry, but I DON'T CARE. Nothing personal. I just want to know if you can do the job.
  • Now where was I? Oh where's their contact details? I can't find them. Oh bugger this for a game of soldiers. NEXT!

The next CV comes up on-screen. It's just packed with lots of words. There's no white space. This is getting no better.

It's a hard life in recruitment.

  • I gather myself and start with the Personal Profile. It reads "I'm punctual..." Sorry. I take that as a given. "I'm hardworking and thorough...." Hmm....  "I work well in a team.....", "I'm loyal...". This really isn't telling me much.
  • Next, I look for key skills, but there's 20 listed for each job. Oh this is just too hard. Surely anybody should be able to just list 6 or 7 key skills, and I mean PROPER skills, and just tell me what they are. I know every candidate has lots of skills, but at this point, I just want to know the big skills, I can find out the rest when I interview them. This candidate is a disorganised shambles who doesn't recognise unnecessary detail when it pokes them in the eye.  NEXT!

And so it goes. Far too much detail and going way too far back in time.

If you're writing your CV, think of Mandy. She's a nice person. It's just the CV's that send her to drink.

She doesn't want much:

  • A name and home town will do with contact details to start with.
  • A short personal profile that describes some of your experience and uses words that are bright and descriptive. You might even use some words of emotion or humour. Mandy is human after all.
  • 6 Key skills next. Just list them. A skill doesn't take a paragraph.
  • 6 notable career achievements next. Just make them recent (ish) anything prior to 2000 is probably not relevant.
  • Then your career. Dated and in order giving your employer, job title, and responsibilities. No real need to list your achievements because you've already listed your big achievements earlier, but if you must, add no more than 2 more.
  • Don't go back further than 15 years on your career, although you can list your earlier jobs by job title, employer name and dates only.
  • Add a bit about your education, qualifications and training, then add some personal interests - but if your interests consists of "reading, meeting friends and golf", it adds no value. Don't bother. It's not a deal breaker. Remember Mandy just needs to think you may have the skills and experience to do the job. She can check the details when she meets you at an interview.

It's only Tuesday, but already it's been a 'bit of a week' and Mandy's knackered. It's not her fault.

If you really want to contribute to Mandy's health and well-being, just give her what she wants in simple form. Lots of detail and tight writing crammed onto a page is NOT going to help you get past Mandy to your dream job.

Keep things simple and clear, and Mandy will be your best friend. Trust me. The cheque's in the post.... and if you'd like a draft CV format, I'd be happy to sent you one if you email me

In case you doubt me, Mandy is a real person. You can meet her here. She will help you if you help her. That's how the world works.


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