CV Writing – What recruiters and hiring managers actually want to see:
The CV has been around as long as anyone can remember (maybe not everyone, but nearly everyone). Yet still there seems a mystery about what it should contain, how it should be laid out and what the people who it is written to impress actually want to see.
Quick disclaimer point – Before reading on this is meant to be an honest and sometimes tough learned article (I’ve made some of these mistakes myself). It isn’t meant to offend, but having spoken to many candidates, who are generally deserving and nice people and in the past having been in their shoe’s myself, there are some tough realities out there to consider in a competitive jobs market.
Firstly let’s clarify some myths about CV’s (these aren’t meant to be harsh, but they’re the reality of how most hiring managers and recruiters work in the real world):
1-The layout, the glitz, the imaginative presentation etc – sorry to say it doesn’t really make a difference if the content is irrelevant for what the recruiter or hiring manager is looking for. If you’ve got no skills or background in the job you’ve applied for it will have no effect.
2-On average nobody will read all of your CV the first time around – They’ll spend typically 10 seconds, yes that is 10 seconds, reading it. If your best selling points are on page 5 hidden in the middle of a paragraph you could be filed away in the folder entitled B.I.N
3-Opening presentations stating obvious and generic terms are irrelevant and you are wasting your 10 seconds of CV fame moment. Avoid the “I work effectively within a team, but also on my own” part and the “effective communicator with a good work ethic”. They’re buzz terms that are overused by everyone before you and it’ll be skim read over.
4-Putting a photo at the top of the CV – The odd part is in the UK we are the only one’s in the world that this doesn’t seem normal behaviour to. I’ve got friends from various parts of the globe and they think it is odd not to have a photo in their CV. However, if you’re seeking a job in the UK, it is irrelevant and completely unnecessary. You just don’t need to do it…if you look like me that is. However, if you’re a handsome stud or a pretty lady it may help.
5-Huge CV’s of 10 pages won’t be read. Yes you might have a long career and many contract jobs that need listing, but keep the good stuff on the first page. That’s what’ll be read.
6-Giving reasons for leaving on your CV. Giving your reasons for leaving isn’t always a good thing. Contrary to popular belief if you’re seeking a permanent job and you’ve been “Headhunted” three times that’s not necessarily a badge of honour. What does that say to a hiring manager who’s got to spend thousands on a recruiter to hire you? They’ll probably be concerned that you could jump ship the next time someone offers you more money and therefore are a bit of risk. Things like “made redundant” are fine, but typically if you put in reasons for leaving on only some jobs and not for others that can also concern a hiring manager or recruiter that you’ve left for lesser reasons on other occasions. Best not to put your reasons for leaving at all. It’s not going to “make” whether you’ll be interviewed, but it could “break” your chance of being interviewed in the first place.
7-Putting your salaries on your CV. I guess the logic is that if your salaries are good, hiring managers and recruiters will presume you are good and be more inclined to meet you. And then if they do interview you and offer it’ll give you a better chance of getting more money. On the flip side, it can also say that you could be money motivated and, if your CV is poorly put together and doesn’t highlight your actual skills and value, put them off considering you. Probably best to avoid putting salaries on your CV as it’s likely to do more harm than good.
There are probably more no no’s and CV myths, but these are the main one’s. Feel free to comment if you can think of any.
So what do recruiters and hiring managers want to see on your CV?
The cold reality is that skills come first, followed closely by qualifications. Just to clarify by skills I don’t mean “excellent time keeper” and “Effective Communicator”. Save them for later as they’re more cherry on the cake bits. By skills I mean the actual practical skills relating to the job. For example if you’re going for a software programmer job it could be “C++”, for a maintenance engineer it could be “Siemens S7 500 fault finding” and for a lab technician it could be “LC-MS” etc. By qualifications list them all, but probably leave the 50 metre swimming certificate from junior school out.
As for the layout you don’t need to go glitz and glam, but you do need to think that you have 10 seconds to grab their attention.
First thing is the name, address, telephone number(s) (landline and mobile), email and Linkedin link if you have one. Put in your full name and yes if you are lucky enough to have the MSc CEng and W.o.w.i.m.g.o.o.d letters after your name add them in too. Make sure that part is top, centre and clear. Don’t use stupid fonts, we all love comic sans, but for a CV – Really? Pick Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or something similar.
Then put a little gap and go into your personal statement. This needs to be no more than 3 or maybe 4 lines. Keep it concise and stick to your selling points. Remember you are grabbing their attention.
Key Tip: Try to change and cater the personal statement lines to be directly relevant to the job that you are applying for. Generic lines add nothing. However, if you’re going for a Maintenance Engineering role for a Food manufacturer and it starts with “I am an experienced Engineer seeking a Maintenance Engineering post in the food manufacturing sector” it will grab their attention quickly.
Then a quick section on key skills. As I said a few paragraphs back, stick to the practical skills that are relevant. If you can only list 5 don’t fall into the trap of putting “filler” skills in there like “team player”.
After that go through your job history. Company name and Job title (typically in BOLD capitals). Then the dates to and from. Make sure your dates add up through your CV and aren’t gappy. And then the job role itself. Typically either stick with a brief paragraph of 2 lines outlining the role or bullet points of the duties.
Key Tip: Put your job roles most recent first. Hiring managers and recruiters are interested in what you’ve been doing in the last 5 years and not 25 years ago.
Then we get to the qualifications. Again, Bold capitals title for this part and indeed each section of your CV. Put your best at the top and run down from there.
Next it’s the Hobbies section (keep it light) – nobody reads this part really, but it might be a point of conversation when it comes to the interview so be sure to sound normalish.
Then finally it’s references. You can put References available upon request or list them. Your call. But if you do list them make sure that the references know they might get a call.
Two other things to consider that could accompany your CV.
1-Covering letter – Oh the old classic. However, this works nicely with hiring managers as long as it is specific. If it’s just generic it can do more harm than good. This should simply be an opening statement about you, why you want the job and what you can offer them. Signing it at the bottom is always a nice touch after the “Yours Faithfully” part.
2-Supporting materials. If you’ve got certificates, glowing testimonials, work examples etc they’ll all make you look good.
Finally there is something really important…..PROOF READ YOUR CV…..If you’re not the best at spelling and grammar (there’s no shame in it, I’m not) get someone else to proof read it. Getting your telephone number wrong, making a spelling mistake in the personal statement or putting 20014 instead of 2014 in dates is easily done. But if someone’s considering paying you to do a job properly and you can’t even have your CV proof read it’s not a great sign.
That basically sums it up, but if you have any comments or suggestions feel free. Also, can you share this/like it. Many thanks.
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