When it comes to human communication, first impressions are often final thoughts. In the business world CVs are the absolute equivalent of first impressions. Although we all place a great amount of time and effort into the way this little piece of paper looks, there are countless small mistakes that we usually neglect. They may not scream out negativity about your career history, but they do create lasting, and often negative, first impressions with the employer.
Fixing such trivial mistakes and adding minor improvements will greatly increase your chance of impressing recruiters, who now take only 8.8 seconds on average to look through a given CV. So let’s give them eight seconds of impressive material to read through.
Here are the 4 (not so) obvious mistakes you need to fix and the hacks for a perfect CV:
1. Using one font and size and style for the entire CV
As I mentioned earlier, according to research from 2015, a typical CV only receives about 9 seconds of attention from a recruiter. I know what you are thinking, that is not enough time for them to understand who the ‘real you’ is. Well, tough luck, because companies do not care about you personally, they are simply looking to fill a gap in their system through your services.
That is why having a CV that appeals to the eye and grabs the reader’s attention is the single most important detail in a CV, that no one every told you about. By using only one font size and style you are limiting the recruiter’s ability to discover what is unique about you. They will see what their eyes choose to see, rather than what you focus their concentration on.
Instead of noticing that you were promoted in your last job, the recruiter might direct their attention to your mediocre summer job from five years ago at a fast food chain. That is why words such as job titles, specific qualities and skills and names of institutions must stand out from the remainder of the text. To do so, use use a different font size (larger) and font style (bold).
2. Having a negative attitude towards a former employer
The process of job seeking needs to be entirely positive. Nothing in your initial contact with a potential employer needs to have a negative connotation. If you include a reason for leaving your former job and chose to blame your old boss for the situation, you will only hurt yourself in the process. The recruiter will see you as an immature, disrespectful individual who lacks vital communication skills.
If you do in fact decide to include a reason for leaving, concentrate on the notion of ‘growing in your career’ and ‘taking the next reasonable step’ in the direction you were aiming for. Such hacks for a perfect CV will help you avoid burdening a person who has never met you with your irrelevant work-drama
3. Embellishing your former job-title
Of course we all want that summer job where we worked as a newspaper delivery to be noted in our CV as ‘marketing expert’, but the reality is, that recruiters have seen it all. If you embellish the truth, it will be more than apparent to the person reading your CV. Today’s technology does not allow for any twist of reality and a simple phone call or email will reveal the truth behind your lies.
Even successful people such as a former president of IBM, have been caught lying about their under-graduate degrees and job titles and punished severely for it. So if you chose to tweak the truth on your CV, tread carefully and find words that sound more attractive when describing the title of the position and the responsibilities. Choose synonyms, rather than completely changing the meaning behind your job and responsibilities.
4. Using the wrong CV format
Starting with those annoying career-building courses in college, we have always been taught to use a chronological format for a CV. However, in many instances this format is completely inappropriate for displaying a given person’s accomplishments and strengths. If you are fresh-out-of college with a minimal amount of work-experience in the field you are seeking a job in, a chronological CV might hurt your chances of getting that interview.
Such CVs are meant to be used by people who have a solid amount of work history in the field and can therefore proudly place that information on display. However, when you lack the experience your chronological CV ends up looking empty and mediocre. In such instances, it is much wiser to use a functional or creative CV format with which you have more freedom to emphasize your abilities and out-of-work accomplishments, rather than your lack of work-experience.
photo credit: Jeroen van Abeelen via flickr
Here are 4 improvements you can easily add to make your CV stand out in a positive way:
1. Support your accomplishments with facts and figures
Concrete numbers are always the easiest ways to prove a point and to make something well remembered. During your last job you must have exceeded the expectations at least once. If you did, you have to describe exactly what you did and back it up with numbers. Once you have stated the figures, you must use describe how this changed the company. It is also wise to sum up with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ sentence, in order to make the recruiter understand the contribution that you made to the company.
For example, working in restaurant which had virtually no social media presence and increasing their following on Facebook by 2,000 people. This is a great concrete example with figures, but it lacks analysis. In order to complete the process, you must describe how this increased following created more interest in the restaurant and eventually a larger income in a short period.
2. Demonstrate your ability to quickly adapt and learn
Job titles in 2016 and onward will be fluid and flexible. What is an important position this year, might become extinct next year due to the introduction of new software that eliminates the need for it. So, it is important to display your ability and desire to constantly learn new skills and multitask. Keep in mind the new trends in the industry and find a way to incorporate your acknowledgement into your CV. By demonstrating that you are not limited by your position and skills, you will attract positive feedback from the recruiter.
Show your future employer that you are innovative and not afraid of what the future might hold for your position. In the past decade, for example, print-journalists have become accustomed to demonstrating in their CVs that they are not afraid of social media and new journalism. This has resulted in an industry shift where thousands of print-journalists have switched over to the ‘future’ of online journalism.
3. Edit your CV to fit every advert you apply for
Yes, it does sound trivial and like a total nuisance, but this undervalued hack is sure to help you impress the person holding your CV in their hands. Scan read the advert and search for keywords and qualities they specifically name. Chances are, those are some of the main qualities they are looking for when sorting through the pile of candidates. If you find a way to incorporate such keywords your CV is more likely to be placed in the interview pile.
Although this procedure will take a certain amount of time, especially if you are planning to apply for several companies simultaneously, it will prove to the HR officer that you have taken the time and care to acknowledge their expectations. This will portrayal character traits that simple words on a piece of paper cannot.
4. Categorize your former jobs
In order to make your CV as short and precise as possible, it is wise to group your job history into categories. If you have irrelevant experience from years ago, combine it all into one category and place it at the bottom of your timeline. The jobs that do prove you have relevant experience to the position you are applying for, should always find their way to the top of your career section.
You must also keep your CV to a maximum of two-pages in order to avoid boring the reader, or placing information too far down the CV. For example, avoid describing the functions of a job that is not relevant to the current situation. By describing the mediocre tasks you did at a former job, you are wasting valuable space that could be used to make yourself shine in another section of your CV. Limit the description of such positions to the actual interview, where you will have a chance to elaborate on the job title, if needed.
CV writing is a form of writing that is taught from a young age, but it is often misinterpreted and over-rated. Certain mistakes, besides the obvious spelling and grammar ones, are so critical to the eyes of a recruiter that they must be eliminated immediately in order to avoid disappointment. Other advantages meanwhile, have the power to alter your chances of being called for an interview. Using such undervalued hacks for a perfect CV is the only sure way to increase your chances of a dream job! In the comments let me know what other mistakes you have made in your past CVs and how you came to the realization that they were the reason for missing out on previous jobs!
photocredit: Feliciano Guimarães via tumblr