Each year, Forbes magazine compiles a list of the most outlandish resume mistakes that job applicants make. It’s a fun read, unless you’re one of the bumblers being highlighted. Here are a few of the 2013 highlights:
• Citing video gaming as ‘leadership experience’ • Submitting a CV in music video format • Listing time spent incarcerated (for assaulting a former boss, no less) • Use internet chat shortcuts (lol) • Omitting the applicant’s name
Granted, those people were never going to get the job in the first place. But what can you—a serious applicant—do to increase your chances of getting some face time with the hiring manager? Here are some tips for CVs that land interviews:
1. Know the formats
Assuming the position is a desirable one (and why would you be after if it weren’t), the hiring manager is going to be flooded with CVs. Most candidates will be cut through a brief and initial screening (‘brief’, as in 30 seconds, according to many surveys). With that in mind, you need your prospective employer to be able to digest the information on your CV as quickly as possible. Stick to one of the following three formats:
• Chronological – job history (and education) in chronological order, beginning with your most recent position • Functional – begins with a list of skills, abilities and achievements, with a list of work history at the end • Combination – lists skills and abilities in chronological order according when they were acquired; work experience factors in intermittently
This professional document is not an experimental art form. Creativity has its place, but never at the expense of a clear and concise format.
2. Compensate for a lack of personal experience.
If you don’t have any professional experience to fall back on, there’s still hope. Everyone lands their first professional gig at some point in their life. Granted, you’re not going to go from university graduate to upper-level executive without paying your dues, but there are plenty of avenues outside of a professional internship that you can harness to highlight your professional skills. If you need help on this one, seek professional career help online by Career Savvy or a similar agency. They’re likely to tell you to mine the following activities and experiences:
• Professional references (especially from people of influence) • Student projects • Volunteer experience • Extracurricular activities • Club membership • Community involvement
Any of the above can be used to demonstrate skills, work ethic and a team-player mentality. Those are what really count, after all.
3. Use facts and figures.
Nothing illustrates achievements like hard, cold facts and figures. Did you increase a previous employer’s sales revenue? Tell us how and by what percentage. Is ABC company now more successful because of you? Don’t just tell us that—show us what you mean. This gives you an excellent opportunity to incorporate bullet points, which hiring managers appreciate for their ease of reading.
4. Ditch the objective line.
It’s a waste of space. They know you want to ‘exercise your skills in a competitive, professional environment’. So does everyone else. That’s why everyone applied in the first place. You may view this as a dangerous omission, but it’s more or less widely accepted that the objective statement is a relic of a bygone professional age. Lose it and list your qualifications instead.
5. Know how to frame your skills.
Marketable skills may arise from unexpected places. Were you a chess champion at university? That’s probably not relevant to your position, unless it means that you’re an analytical thinker with a proven capacity for long-term strategy. Do you play the bongos in an amateur Latin variety band? It’s probably best to save that one for after you’re hired…
6. Be succinct.
We already mentioned the fact that hiring managers and HR departments are going to be merciless when it comes to eliminate as many CVs from the list as possible. Don’t waste time getting to the good stuff. If you have an enormous amount of head-turning experience and mantle full of awards that all speak directly to the position you’re applying for, then by all means mention them. Just resist the urge to ramble and make sure that the must-see attractions are near the top of the document. If your CV goes to two or three pages, then it had better be unbelievably good.