Thursday, 2 August 2012

"What's Your Problem" series #3 - Troubleshooting Your CV

If you have sent your CV off in response to lots of job adverts, but haven’t been having any success, then your CV might be suffering from one of these common problems:

1.   Too descriptive – Reads like a narrative or like a ‘cut and paste’ from your job description.  Lots of detail about what your duties or responsibilities are, but little analysis of what your results or achievements have been.
Remember, your CV isn’t your life history; it is your personal marketing brochure.  Like a brochure, it should focus on the benefits you bring to an organisation, not on a list of things you have done.  Put the most beneficial tasks and outcomes, or those most relevant to the job you’re apply for, near the top of each section.  Make sure your skills and achievements are clearly stated.
2.   Too assumptive – Leaves the reader to assume what your skills are from the mere fact of where you have worked, what your job titles have been or the length of your experience.   Assumes that the reader is going to be a librarian or information professional who ‘gets it’ and will understand.
Both of these assumptions are likely to be wrong.  The reader is more likely to be from HR, or to be a senior line manager who doesn’t come from a library background.  Even if a librarian is involved, they may not make the leap from your job titles or lists of duties to believing you have the skills they feel are necessary to do the job they’re advertising.
A CV should have as its primary goal communicating your key skills clearly to the reader.  As a test, give your CV to a friend, without any hints, and ask them to tell you what you main skills are.  Make sure they tell you skills, not ‘things you have done’, or experiences.  Can they see what your skills are?  Are the skills they come up with the ones you expected?  Are they the relevant skills for the job you’re applying for?
3.   Doesn’t look professional.  You are an information professional; part of your core skill set should be presenting and communicating information.  If your CV is poorly laid out, riddled with grammatical and spelling errors or typos and hard to read then you are demonstrating that you fall down in this key skill area.
Your CV needs to be well designed.  There are lots of CV templates and examples available in books and on the internet to give you ideas.  Make sure that you use a professional looking font, use enough white space to make it pleasant to read, and use bullet points, bold, a larger font size, indented paragraphs or columns to make sure the information is well laid out and key points are highlighted.
4.   Lacks key words. While your organisation may call the intranet their ‘Knowledge Base’ or another jargon term, the reader of your CV or the agency doing a text search of your CV is more likely to use the generic, well known, term.  Make sure you ‘translate’ organisation jargon into everyday terms.
If your CV is going being uploaded to an employer’s CV database or to an agency, then their system may not be able to read text inside text boxes or tables, so it is better not to use them in those circumstances.  These databases can parse text and pick out key words to populate skill code fields in the database.  Make sure you include the right key words for the type of job you are seeking in the plain text areas of your CV.
Addressing some of these issues with your CV and making sure that your skill, achievements and passion for your work stand out will greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.

Tailoring your CV, so that the skills and experiences most relevant for the job you’re applying for are found near the top of each section, will also help you get to the top of the list for shorlisting for interview.

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