You'd think we'd all be good at writing CV / Resumes wouldn't you? It is after all a potentially life-changing act, one that can open doors to challenging new career directions - or slam those doors shut!
The reality is rather different - many candidates just aren't that good at writing applications.
So here we present a key checklist to stick to if you want to write job applications that recruiters simply can't resist...
The first thing a recruiter should see right under your name and contact details is a compelling career summary. 1-2 paragraphs in length, this should spell out to the recruiter exactly why you're a great fit for the role they are looking to fill. If done well, the recruiter is sold on interviewing you by the time they finish reading the summary - reading the rest of your CV simply reassures them that what you've said in the career summary is true. To be compelling, a career summary obviously needs to be tweaked and tailored for each application that you make, as the requirements of each opening differ.
Facts allow recruiters to form their own opinion about your candidacy and where you might fit into their company. Facts also signal the claims that you really can back up with evidence. So many applications are littered with statements like "a great team leader" or "a high performing salesperson" or "a top performer within the organisation'. To a recruiter these are just noise. Written in isolation, they offer no backbone to your application and give no comfort to the recruiter that you really are what you say you are.
Review your applications and look at every statement or claim you have made. How could you rework each of these statements to incorporate facts that allow the recruiter to reach their own conclusions? Can you see how the following statements are far more compelling and give the recruiter a much better understanding of your credentials:
- A high performing salesperson whose billings are consistently in the top 10% within the organisation
- A great team leader responsible for managing a team of 12 people
- A top performer consistently rated A* in annual reviews and amongst the fastest-promoted of my peer group
Specific claims are much more credible and reassure the reader that you are stating things you are happy could be validated if need be.
Leaving a gap on your CV can be disasterous. If you leave something out, chances are the recruiter will assume the worst. Have you chosen not to share your graduation grades as you didn't score as highly as you'd hoped? Recruiters may conclude you got the lowest possible score if it's omitted, so be sure to include. Similarly are there time gaps in your CV / Resume, periods of your life when the recruiter cannot easily see what you were doing. Again this can set off alarm bells. One line explaining what you were doing in that time period is better than no explanation at all.
The other area to check for inconsistencies is the match between your CV / Resume and your LinkedIn profile. You should assume that most recruiters thinking of inviting you to interview will have a quick browse of your LinkedIn profile to check for recommendations and any additional information they can glean. What you don't want is for the recruiter to find dates and descriptions of your roles that do not marry well with what you've written on your application. This happens more often than you might think - and even with the most professional of candidates - so do check this before making your candidate submissions.
Your core CV / Resume should be condensed down to 1 page. That's to say that your contact details, your career summary, your academics, your professional experience and your other interests should all be found on your 1 page CV. This also needs to be achieved by being concise in what you write rather than by reducing the font size! Make it quick and easy for the recruiter to find the things that will persuade them to invite you to interview. Then dispense with other details that don't further your cause for that particular application. Less is more in terms of CV length.
In some sectors it may be the norm to add a supplementary page or two to provide more details about the projects you've worked on, the productions you've been involved with, the business turnarounds you've been responsible for and so on. But fundamentally the one page CV still stands as a rule - by just reading the one page CV the recruiter should have all the insights they need to know whether you are worth inviting to interview or not.
Here are some common ones to avoid:
- Does your email address come across professionally? You would be amazed how many candidates use personal email addresses that undermine their professional credibility. Get yourself an email address that is nondescript rather than using partygirl@ or lakersfan@!
- Be careful with your filenaming of your CV / Resume. The filename you use should give nothing away about yourself. Many candidates use dates in their filenames, at which point it can become apparent that you're rather desperate and have been trying to get hired for a long time. Others use filenames that suggest they are applying to roles in many different sectors - and so aren't particularly committed to a career in your particular sector. Paul_White_Transportation_CV raises the question "what other sectors is Paul applying to?"
- Check your settings on all your social media profiles before submitting any applications. You must assume in this day and age that recruiters are likely to check your online presence and to be influenced by things they find on your social media profiles. So take control, clean up your profiles and make them look professional - and alter your privacy settings on any personal profiles so that their contents do not become part of the decision process.
Reference the above points next time you are writing a job application and the chances are much greater than you'll find yourself a candidate that recruiters can't resist inviting to interview.
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