Recent intensive sessions with some of my career coaching clients have made me increasingly aware of just how out of sync candidates and recruiters can be when it comes to understanding what a CV is for, what it needs to do and just how fundamentally critical it's influence on the whole recruitment process can be.
I have spoken before about the way that I work with candidates; getting them to think about themselves as a product / brand, about how to market that product / brand and then to understand that their CV is basically a marketing flier for that product / brand and an interview is in effect a product / brand pitch...so with all of that in mind and with my latest insight into the candidates perspective complimenting my 15+ years of wearing the recruiters hat; I want to explore the very real gap between what candidates offer recruiters in their CV (there must be a better word than that, it means 'the story or journey of m y life in Latin...really?!) and what recruiters really need the CV to say and do.
So let's get Key Debate Number 1 out of the way immediately...the Personal Statement / Profile Statement or Introduction (I'm not married to any of those names for it really) must be in the first person, no questions, no arguments. Why? Well for me the first thing on your CV sets the tone just like the 'hand shake moment' when you are networking. So why use archaic language when you are talking about yourself and when you want to make a positive impression? When someone says "I" in their Personal Statement then the recruiter is engaged from the start, a relationships is being formed and there is somehow more validity and humanity in the words because you are owning them and not allocating them to this mysterious third person.
One of my favourite personal brand words is Congruence and I am often taken aback by the absence of it; when for example I sit down with a graduate who is friendly, approachable, informal and warm and then read their CV commence with a third person description of themselves that would not be out of place in a Dickens Preface! Authentic and Appropriate (two more of my favourite personal brand words) dictate that one should be the "right sort of me" for each different circumstance and environment. Well in a CV one chance to impress type situations then surely the 'right sort of me' is the one that is natural, warm and which can create a connection with the reader? I for one am far more engaged when someone tells me in their CV...."I love the challenge of working to demanding deadlines and I get a real buzz from hitting personal and team goals" rather than "Charlotte has a passion for personal achievement and she thrives under pressure" no-brainer surely?
So in short whatever the candidate calls the first bit on page one of their CV they need to understand that all a recruiter wants to gain from reading it is a sense of their personality, what is important to them, what they want in the future and whether they seem to fit the brand that the vacancy is with....they want a sense of what the candidate is all about and to give that most clearly first person and proper engaging vocabulary does it for me every time.
I always try to impress upon my coaching clients after we have covered the 'intro' that they have now shaken the hand of the recruiter and said hello and that it is now time to now tell them what you can do and show them how well you can do it! Many CV's slip into the easier go to of Education & Qualifications, which I do concede in some roles is crucial but in the majority of the jobs people apply for it is the list of competencies / skills and knowledge that dictates success and usually dominates the job specification against which the recruiter is checking each CV.
So if you are a candidate play to what the recruiter wants; they you to mention as many of the key competencies that they have on their list as possible and not just in a talking the talk way but very much in a walking the walk way. So it's all about listing the desired competencies, illustrating that you can do and/or have done and some tangible evidence to back it up; qualifications, training, results and promotions. Sell them you and what you can do in mutually understood language that of competencies and real life tangible outcomes of you doing those things.
Finally it's the career history, education and training bit. From a recruiters point of view they are looking very much for succinct, perhaps bulleted content that tells them in concise short-hand what the candidate has done so far, who for, how successfully and for how long. CV's that go into the minutia of every role down to what the candidate did on Tuesday's and the name of every one of their managers just overwhelm and probably tired and under pressure recruiter. Again I am back to the gap between a candidate telling recruiter everything (or what you think they need to know, which is often everything) or making it easy for them to gather the information that they need to know.
I am a great advocate for the schools employability workshop we run called 'You are the Recruiter' which is a part of our Employability offering to Secondary, Further and Higher Education; Why? well probably because I wrote it and it helps put bread on the table but mainly because I am convinced that being put in the shoes of a recruiter just for a few hours at the right age, where choosing between CV's under time pressure is the end game, is invaluable in helping to educate tomorrows candidates on what a recruiter looks for and needs. That knowledge is powerful.
The CV game is not always about pure candidate talent in terms of qualifications, job ability and achievements sometimes (and increasingly often in my experience) candidate talent in terms of communicating with the recruiter in the right way, with the right structure, focus, vocabulary and personal brand clues is crucial. Obviously the candidate needs the right stuff to 'show off' but the fact is that many others increasingly have the same stuff; as qualification standards rise, work placements / intern-ship numbers grow and part-time work for students is more common.
Back to brand of you, flier and pitch; candidates that don't 'get' this will increasingly find that the gap between them and the candidates that do growing. That's is why what I do is so rewarding; a CV rewrite coupled with coaching to help a clients to see themselves as a brand so often changes their 'luck' in the job market.
Paul Goring 2014
AGR MIPR BPS Lvl B+
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