Rachel Bishop-Firth is a Personnel Manager with long experience of recruiting managers and professionals to a wide variety of senior roles.
MAINTAINING YOUR PROFESSIONAL IMAGE
Your whole CV should have a highly professional image. When you go for an interview, you know that the most important thing is having the right skills and experience. But you also know how important appearances are, and that interviewers tend to make up their minds about candidates within the first few minutes of seeing them. So you take trouble over your appearance, picking a smart suit to wear, getting your hair cut, and generally making sure that you project the right image.
It’s the same with your CV. Even if you have the right skills and experience, you need to make sure that these are presented in the right way. A recruiter will typically spend only a couple of minutes scanning each CV. If they cannot see the information that they need right away, your CV will go into the reject pile. If your CV is full of spelling mistakes and poorly laid out, they may conclude that you are:
- sloppy and disorganised
- not really interested in the job on offer.
Once again, your CV may be rejected. Your CV should:
- be clear and easy to read
- draw attention to your key selling points
- be attractive and professionally presented.
It should maintain your professional credibility.
CREATING AN EYE-CATCHING CV
Keeping it uncluttered
As was mentioned earlier in the book, your CV should be no longer than three pages as an absolute maximum. Don’t try to get around this space constraint by cramming a mass of information on to each page in tiny print. This will make your application harder to read and prevent really important information from standing out.
If your CV looks cluttered or confusing, cut down on the amount of information that you include. Go back to your key selling points. Work out what the recruiter really needs to know about you and what can be left out. Then work out how the important information can be presented most clearly and attractively.
Choosing an attractive layout
Your CV should be visually attractive, with the text presented in neat blocks and plenty of blank space on each page. Leaving plenty of blank space improves the appearance of your CV and makes it easier to read.
Choose a consistent style in which to present your information throughout the CV. For example, you might centralise all the headings and show all dates on the left-hand side of the page. A consistent style makes it easier for the reader to find the information that they need in your CV.
Word processing packages often include templates for CVs. These often force you to put information in a set order and so it is usually better to create your own layout.
Two suggested layouts are shown in Figures 8 and 9.
Choose one businesslike style of font and stick to it – and make sure the font size is big enough so that all the information will be clearly legible even if it is photocopied and sent through the fax by the recruiter. Avoid artistic font styles and don’t undermine the professional style of your CV by using graphics.
The headings for each section should be in bold or underlined to make them stand out. Keep emboldening, underlining and the use of italics elsewhere to a minimum so as not to spoil the effect. Leave wide margins and clear gaps between each block of text to make the information that you present stand out better.
Minding your language
Errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar seriously undermine the professional image that you are striving to create. Use the spellchecker on your PC (and the grammar checker, if you have one) and then get a human being to check for the errors that your computer will miss. If your application is not in your mother tongue, get it checked by a native speaker, even if you have to pay a professional translator to do this for you (you will find them listed in the Yellow pages). If the recruiter finds errors they may conclude that your language skills are insufficient for the job.
Check to make sure that you have not used any abbreviations that will not be generally understood. If you are applying to a company or industry which is different from the one that you currently work in, make sure that you have not used any jargon that will be unfamiliar to anyone outside your firm or sector. This is especially important for people leaving the armed forces.
Going for a professional finish
Everything about your CV should show care and professionalism. You may be applying for dozens of jobs, but you don’t want the recruiter to know this. Your CV should look as if it has been created especially for that one post. If you are producing paper CVs, use a laser printer and high-quality, heavy A4 paper in white or cream. Don’t use coloured paper if you are applying for a senior business or professional post, and avoid photocopying your CV.
Most application forms can now be completed online. If you have to fill in an application form on paper, use a good quality pen and be prepared to make a rough draft before you complete the final version.
Send out paper CVs out in good-quality envelopes. Don’t fold them and don’t use your company’s mail franking system.
If you are emailing your CV, avoid sending out scanned copies as these can be unreadable once they have been electronically processed by the recruiter and don’t email out CVs from your work email account.
Question and answer session
‘Should I email my CV or send a paper copy?’
Most job hunters will email their CVs, especially if they are applying to large organisations. An electronic CV is more easily stored and distributed and much less likely to be lost by the recruiter. However, there are circumstances where you will want to send a paper CV. A paper document has more impact than an email, which can be helpful if you are sending a speculative CV, although you will probably want to send an electronic version as well. You may also know that you are sending your CV to a technophobe who avoids using email!
I work as a designer. I can understand that businesspeople should use the very conventional CV format that you have described above, but shouldn’t I take a more creative approach? I want my CV to stand out in a very competitive job market.’
If you work in a creative industry, you do have a little more leeway to be creative in your CV, and image will be especially important. However, don’t let your CV become gimmicky. A CV is a serious business document and should be presented as such – it should be presented as professionally as you would present your design ideas to a client. The best way in which you can make yourself stand out is by selling the outstanding skills that you have to offer.
Don’t send a photograph of yourself unless you are specifically asked to. People form opinions about you very quickly from your appearance. If you do not fit the recruiter’s preconceived image of what the jobholder should look like, your CV will be heading straight for the reject pile.
If you are asked to submit a photograph
Occasionally, you will be asked to send in a photograph of yourself. This is usually to help the employer remember which candidate is which at the interview stage. But be aware of the deep importance of first impressions. Senior people should never send in a snapshot or a picture taken in a photo booth. For the right result, you will need to use a professional photographer. Choose someone who is used to taking photographs for businesses. Take great care to dress in a way that will create the right impression, and let the photographer know what image you are aiming to project. Once you have a result that you are happy with, have a stock of pictures printed for future use, as reprints are expensive and take time.
Question and answer session
’I know that I’m physically attractive and photogenic. Wouldn’t it help if I included a photograph?’
It might, but not necessarily. You might still not fit the image that the recruiter has of the ideal candidate, which might be based on what the last post-holder looked like.
KEEPING A COPY
Make sure that you keep a copy of each CV and covering letter that you send out. This will be crucial in helping you to prepare for interviews.
Sue revamps her CV
Sue has prepared a CV full of good selling points. However, she knows that the appearance of the document leaves something to be desired. Because she has limited time to play with, she goes to a professional office bureau which provides a CV writing service. For a modest fee, they provide Sue with an electronic CV laid out in a clear and attractive format. Sue knows that these CVs will project a thoroughly professional image and is pleased with the result.
- Is your CV short?
- Is it attractively presented and easy to read?
- Have you checked your spelling and grammar?
- Have you kept a copy for yourself?
POINTS TO CONSIDER
- 1.How could a different layout make your CV easier for the recruiter to read?
- 2.What image will the presentation of your CV give to the recruiter? Is this image appropriate?