Before I begin, let’s just re-cap what we have covered so far (if you have missed any, click on the relevant hyperlink below):
Getting in the right mindset to create a great CV
What to avoid putting on your CV
How to ensure your CV stands out from the rest
How to tailor your CV for a specific requirement.
Many people would think they have it cracked now- the CV is done, the jobs should come rolling in now, shouldn’t they???
What good is the CV going to do for you sat on your desktop until the right role comes up in 6 months time (when your CV is probably out of date and needs fine tuning again anyway!)?? You can obviously put it on a Job Board and wait for something to come in, but here are 5 other things that will help your CV fly!!:
- Align it with your online presence– Make sure your CV and your Linkedin profiles are aligned. Not only that the information in both is accurate (I have seen some profiles with different companies, let alone different dates to their CVs, which is often a big question mark on an applicant), but that they both echo the same “brand”. Your online profile is becoming more and more important, so ensure that the person you claim to be on your CV is echoed as much as possible online. If you say that you are driven, give 100% to your employer and are a workaholic, then perhaps avoid repeatedly commenting on twitter that you are bored at work and can’t wait until the weekend (believe me, I have seen this!).
- Promote yourself– now that you have your online presence aligned, in particular Linkedin, then start to make proactive approaches to people who you’d like to work for, or within organisations where you would like to work. You don’t have to be pushy, but you can ask for their advice on how to get in to the organisation or develop some useful contacts. Also, start to be visible on Linkedin- comment on posts, write some yourself. You’ll be surprised how many people will approach you and ask to see your CV. Away from the virtual world, you could send your CV in hardcopy with a handwritten envelope to the relevant person within a company you’d love to work at- trust me it works wonders. Apparently, 60-70% of unsolicited emails go unopened, but a handwritten letter (as it is so uncommon nowadays in the business world) has a vastly increased chance of being opened, so its surely worth a try, isn’t it?
- Tailor your application– this is just an extension of the advice about your CV, but for some reason, people still get wrong. If you have spent time tailoring your CV, then don’t let yourself down by using a “cut and paste” supporting statement/e-mail. I often get applications from people who have forgotten to change the Job title that they are applying for, which for me, is another quick rejection. Talk as much about why you want to work for them, as you do about you and your suitability. MATCH yourself to them, don’t just tell them how great you are. It is the difference between a consultative salesperson and one of those charity people who try and catch your eye and talk at you in the street.
- Follow up– If you have applied for a role, and taken the time to tailor your CV and application, then don’t fall at the last hurdle! Call to confirm receipt and see when you can expect feedback. This makes some people uncomfortable, but genuinely, there is no downside if you have the guts to do it. Firstly, it is giving you an additional window of opportunity with the employer that many others haven’t taken. It will make your name memorable and stick out when they come across it. If they print the CVs off into a physical pile- when you call and they check, your CV will automatically go to the top of the pile when they put it back which can also improve your chances.
- Register with an appropriate agency– If the above seems like too much hard work, then let someone like me do that bit for you. A good CV helps a recruiter sell you to their clients and also gives them more buy in to you as a viable candidate. If you have taken time to pull together a decent CV, then you are serious about your job search, and it is those people that people like us, want to work with. But please make sure you choose a reputable one- you don’t want them to undo all the good work you have done to this point.
I hope the above, and the previous blogs have been of help- but if you want to discuss any of topics I have covered or want some individual guidance or recruitment advice, then feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
As mentioned in my previous blog, tailoring your CV is the single most important thing you can do when applying for a new role. When employers have a pile of CVs to go through, and minimal time to do it in, they will scan the CVs for, on average, 6 seconds and if they don’t see the relevant information, you go in to “No” pile, and no-one wants to be there.
I would say about 80-90% of people won’t tailor their CVs for specific roles, so if you make sure you are in the minority, you are significantly improving your chances of being invited in for an interview. Before I start, I want to make one thing clear- “tailoring” your CV is not carte blanche to “lie” on your CV. By tailoring, we mean highlighting your relevant experience/attributes to their requirements and making it as easy as possible to see this.
So, if you have been following this series so far, you can probably guess how many pointers I am going to give you (if not, there is a really big hint in the title to this blog!), and this will be accompanied by another very cleverly constructed and memorable acronym- RAMSA!
- Review– review the Job description and Person Specification, and then go through your CV and highlight all the elements on the JD/PS that is covered on your CV. Hopefully, you end up with a reasonable amount of colour on both documents. If not, then you may want to consider if this is going to be the right role for you to put your efforts in to. Then look at what you haven’t highlighted and establish if that is because you haven’t got that experience, or if it is just not on your CV. If it is the latter, get it on there quick smart!
- Advert– for me, the advert is one of the most important insights in to what the recruiting manager is looking for. A JD and PS is often dusted off from a previous recruitment process and seldom altered/adapted. Equally, it covers everything you could ever expect to do in the role, and so doesn’t give you an idea of the emphasis of the role requirements. The advert, however, will be written with this particular role in mind, will often be written by the recruiting manager, or drafted based on the specific requirements they have. It will give you hints as to what they want to see on a CV and what the main emphasis for the role is. So, take this and use it to formulate your personal profile box- use their language, talk about how you meet those criteria and what appeals to you about helping them to achieve their goals.
- Manipulate– You will probably have a master CV with a number of bullet points underneath each role. The reader of this CV will often make the automatic assumption that the top bullet point is the most important aspect of your role and will progress in decreasing importance. Therefore, if a key part of the new role is halfway down your list, move it to the top. Not only does this make the main points easier to find (you have 6 seconds to get their attention remember), but it plays a little mind trick on the reader, thus improving your chances of being shortlisted.
- Separate– I talked in the last blog about ensuring your CV is output/achievement focussed. In order to make these as easy as possible to find, there are a couple of ways of separating these out. You can either separate each role into small sub-headings for responsibilities and achievements, or, I prefer to have a small section before your employment history which summarises 3-5 relevant achievements. The reason I prefer this is that it means they will be on the first page (some employers will never get to the 2nd page of a CV), it is easy to find, and it clearly reinforces your suitability for the role with minimal effort on the readers part.
- Adapt– this is perhaps my most contentious point, but I think merits inclusion (and there is a halfway house option if you don’t like it). We have talked at length about using their language, making your CV relevant to them. Over the years, Housing has become more and more creative and no more obviously than when it comes to job titles. Now that is fine internally, but it can often be confusing to other organisations with another language. Let’s take the simple role of a Housing Officer- just in the Midlands alone that could be called a Tenancy Officer, Neighbourhood Officer, Housing Patch Manager, Housing Advisor, Neighbourhood Champion, Neighbourhood Coach to name a few. The issue comes when you are applying for a role with another organisation. Say you are a Neighbourhood Champion for example, and applying for a Generic Housing Officer role. The tasks within both are very similar, but you open yourself to being overlooked, if the recruiting manager makes an assumption (in those 6 seconds) as to what a Neighbourhood Champion would do. So you can run the risk, or you can make it relevant and change it to their language. It isn’t lying, it is helping the reader of the CV to understand in their language what you do. In reality, in that example, I would absolutely do that, however, if it was the other way round (i.e. a Generic Housing Officer applying for a Neighbourhood Champion role), I probably wouldn’t as that title is quite unique. And this is the halfway house option. In that case (or if you were uncomfortable doing the first option at all), I would put Generic Housing Officer (equivalent of your Neighbourhood Champion role), or something to that effect. It not only avoids any misunderstanding, but again confirms you have spent time on this specific application, which shows your commitment to the position.
So there you go- I imagine I might get some feedback on those, but I’d welcome any discussion! The final blog will give you some useful tips of what to do with your CV now it is first rate!
My blog from yesterday looked at what NOT to do on your CV, so let’s now look at what you SHOULD do that will help you stand out from the crowd. For many roles in Housing at the moment, you can expect upwards of 40-50 applications, so it is absolutely critical that you do everything you can to ensure you make the shortlist for interview.
According to Google, you have on average 6 seconds to get an employers’ attention (I had also heard a stat which was closer to 4), so it is vital that you give yourself the best chance of being shortlisted.
“How do we do that, Barry?”
I’m glad you asked. The simple answer is to follow these 5 steps and you won’t go far wrong. For the acronym lovers amongst you, this one is slightly more memorable than the previous blog- KROPP (is that Danish for “to trip over”?)
- KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid– okay, you’re not stupid- in fact, you are obviously very clever as you are reading this! If you have only 6 seconds to get the employers attention, it is absolutely vital that your CV is easy to read, easy to find the relevant information and easy on the eye. This is where your format and font is important, but also that you keep the information simple and concise. You don’t need to go into minute detail- you just need to demonstrate your experience in particular areas and peak the employers interest- if you leave them asking some questions, then you are more likely to be invited in to interview so they can ask them.
- Relevance– Some people are worried about changing their CV, but they really shouldn’t. Remember- the CV’s sole purpose is to convince the employer that you are worth interviewing- it is NOT a story of your life. That is initially where people get it wrong. The most important word here is RELEVANCE. Every piece of information on your CV should be relevant to the reader- otherwise it is pointless. Tailor your CV in line with the JD/Job advert and align your experience with what they need. My advice is to have a master CV which can be as long as you want (but that never gets sent out), and then select the relevant information from each role and send that out to the role. It takes a little more time, but it will not be as fruitless as sending out the same generic CV to every job. We’ll go into more detail on this in the next blog, as this is the MOST important aspect of CV writing.
- Output focus– This is the area that many people get wrong. They will describe their job tasks rather than their impact on the business. By illustrating your achievements/outputs, you are clearly demonstrating what benefits the employer will get if they take you on. See the differences in the example below:
- Responsible for Rent Arrears Management
- Reduced arrears by 3.4% year on year through implementing a pro-active approach from officers and establishing a clear business process for the team, backed by KPI’s.
Not only does the latter show the impact that you have had, but also clearly demonstrates that you know how you achieved it. Equally, the figures will draw the eye in, and so immediately stands out when initially scanning the CV.
- Positioning– As mentioned above, you have 6 seconds to get their attention, so you want to make sure the employer can find the relevant, concise and output focussed information as easy as possible. A little trick I like, is to ensure that the really key information is in the 2nd quarter of the first page. This is where many people start to read a CV, so you are getting off to a flying start. They assume that the personal details etc are in that top quarter and that doesn’t matter to start with. If the first few bits of information they read match their requirements, you will seldom fail to make the shortlist.
- Personalise the Profile– If you align your personal profile with what they are asking for in the advert, you will:
- Demonstrate your suitability for the role
- Demonstrate that you have given your application due care and attention.
Use the same language that they use, and clarify why you demonstrate those attributes. Also, it is often a good idea to align yourself to the organisation and its values for the same reason. Please, please, please don’t use the old and tired phrases that mean nothing like, “I work well in a team or on my own initiative”! I see it soooooo often it is starting to sap my will to live!
Tomorrow, I’m going to go into some more detail on how best to tailor your CV so I’ll see you back here tomorrow!
I hope you enjoyed yesterdays blog- if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it here.
I’m going to be honest- the title to this blog is a bit misleading, but I wanted to grab your attention and get you to want to read on (much like you want to with your CV). The truth about CVs is that they are very subjective. What I like or want to see on a CV, someone else won’t like or want to see. It’s a really personal thing, and you can’t play to everyone. However, you can play to the majority by following some of the advice I’m going to be providing over this series or ignore it at your peril!
Before I start, I think it is important to add this caveat.
My advice is based on recruiting to the Social Housing market over the past 15 years, and so the advice is particularly relevant to that market. It is based on what has worked with my clients, from feedback from clients and candidates and knowing the drivers within that industry. That’s not to say it won’t work elsewhere-it will in the main, but there are always exceptions (e.g. a graphic designer CV will be much better suited to demonstrate their design skills with graphics etc, but that isn’t as necessary for a Housing Officer).
With that covered, lets crack on with our list of what to leave off your CV but seem intent on including:
- Personal Details– Before I lose you immediately, I don’t mean name and contact details etc, I mean “personal”, personal details. Within this I include:
- NI number
- Date of Birth/age
- Marital status or number of children
- Health statement
- Political or religious affiliation
- Hobbies (unless relevant to the role)
None of this is relevant to your employer at this stage, and can lead to possible discrimination in the recruitment process (or worse still, fraudulent use of your personal information if found on a Job Board).
- Photograph– I know it is common place in Europe, but even pre-Brexit, it is not required on our CVs. Firstly, it doesn’t help someone decide if you are suitable for a particular role, and it can again lead to unjust discrimination. (Also, it puts me at a disadvantage, as I am not very photogenic- see below) Who would employ this!!?!?
- References– we see this a lot, but there are a few issues with this. Firstly, it often takes up valuable space, that would be better served “selling you” to the employer. Secondly, if you put your current employer on there (and they don’t know you are looking), the employer may take it as an open invite to contact them for a quick assessment of your abilities….and get you in to hot water! And a third reason is that the unscrupulous recruitment agencies will use it as a way of adding new contacts to their database (and all of a sudden your friendly referee is getting hounded by agencies!)
- Reason for leaving– It is very difficult to convey a reason for leaving concisely, and is also open to mis-interpretation. This is much better being kept to a conversation in the interview.
- Jokes/humorous comments– (e.g. I have been a longsuffering Aston Villa supporter/I play golf (badly) etc- I love a joke as much as the next man (perhaps more), and I have laughed at some comments on CVs that were very funny, but you are playing to a very niche market there. Also, you are relying on the person reading it, to understand the tone/meaning. A CV is a professional document and should be presented as one- save the jokes for the interview!
There are others that I could include, but these are the most common ones that I see, but I’d welcome your feedback as I’m sure some of the above may be contentious.
I have seen a marked increase in requests from my clients and candidates recently to either look over their existing CV, or help them pull one together, and it got me thinking that I haven’t written any blogs on the subject yet. So, I want to put that right, and to make up for this oversight, I am going to publish a series of 5 blogs to be published one per day throughout this week. Does that make it up to you? I thought so- you’re an understanding bunch.
So where to start?
One of the most difficult parts of writing a CV is actually getting started. You sit in front of your PC/Laptop/Tablet and stare at a blank page thinking of everything and nothing at the same time. All the advice out there seems to miss out this key stage!
What do you actually do?
How do you summarise your entire career on a piece of paper?
How can you explain how busy and productive you are everyday in a bullet point?
What information should you include?
What should you miss off?
I’ll come on to some of the above points throughout the series including the actual content, but here are my 5 “Useful Tips” to help you get your CV on to paper/screen. If you like acronyms, then this one easy to remember (and pronounce), I’m sure you’ll agree- RBFSR!
- Research– You need to get in the right mindset. Often, you’ll mainly remember what you have been doing over the last 3-6 months or possibly year, but what about the rest of it? It could all be relevant, so do your research on yourself. Look over old appraisals, JDs, presentations you have done to remind you of what you have done, how you are perceived, what your strengths (and weaknesses) are, what you have achieved etc.
- Braindump– Get everything down, don’t worry about anything else yet, just get it down. I would suggest breaking it up into sections- Personal Details, Key Skills, Achievements, Job tasks, Other, but feel free to choose your own. This will then give you your “working document” to mine when you pull the CV together.
- Format– this is a really important thing to get right, and therefore merits serious consideration. Templates are useful, and I’m not telling you not to use them, but as a recruiter who sees tens of CVs every day, I can spot them a mile off now. Why is that a bad thing? In a world where there are more people vying for the same job, you need to stand out, and if your CV looks similar to another 5 CVs in the pile, are you likely to stand out? If you are creating your own format, make sure you consider how easy it is to read. Make sure there is enough white space to balance out the words- make it easy to find the relevant information, rather than cramming loads of information in. Also, make sure you are consistent in the format- whatever you choose to do, make sure it is the same throughout.
- “Sell” the idea of you– The information you “braindumped” in part 2 of the RBFSR process (I should get it trademarked- it’s catchy isn’t it?) now comes in to play. You need to think about how to position that work in a way to “sell” you as a viable future employee when inputting it in to your chosen format (N.B. you may change the emphasis for various roles). We’ll touch more on this later in the series.
- Review– Please, please, please read over what you have put together. Check for typo’s, check for mistakes, check for inconsistencies in the format. Look at it as though you were recruiting for your own dream role, and consider whether you would interview you. Also, get independent opinions on it (from friends, family, recruiters etc) and take a balanced view on the feedback.
So you should hopefully have the semblance of a functional CV, or at least the raw materials for one, but don’t rush off too quickly! I have another 4 blogs to follow which will cover what to avoid putting on your CV, how to make your CV stand out, how to tailor your CV for roles, and getting your CV to the right people. When you are fully armed with the above advice, I can release you to put it in to practice!
See you tomorrow!