I have been involved in recruitment for over 10 years and the thing that I still find difficult to understand is candidates use of clichéd words or phrases when they are trying to write a CV that will help them to stand out from the crowd?!!
There are many words / phrases that get shoe-horned into CV's because they worked for someone a generation ago, because that's what everyone writes or because, and lets be totally honest about this, people don't spend the time to think about a better, more unique, more personal way of saying it.
You can imagine the recruiters worst nightmare; 200 CV's to sift through to select candidates for interview, trying to find the real person in each one, trying to read into the wording to find out who they are and what they can offer and everyone, one after the other, uses the following words and phrases...it becomes like a never ending CV ground hog day.....
1. Successful (successfully)
2. I can work well individually or in a team
3. I work well under pressure
4. I consistently hit my targets
5. Passion (passionate)
7. I am looking to develop my career
8. Fast learner
9. Hard worker
10. etc etc
There are ways to find a new a more individual way to describe you, what you have done and how well you have done it.
· Try not repeating the same word or phrase at all in the CV, that automatically brings variety
· Try using a Thesaurus and find a few new words that can make your CV m ore interesting, varied and memorable
· Actually read your CV out loud before you send it anyone; does it sound boring and repetitive and run of the mill to you? If it does then change it.....
How much better would the above sound with a little thought...how much more of a pleasant experience would it be for the recruiter if candidates weren't just reeling off lines that careers advisor's, parents or friends had told them would 'work.' If everyone thinks they will then we are back to the beginning because they won't.
Branding you through your CV is becoming as sophisticated as product branding - people don't just buy washing powder these days because it gets clothes clean and smells nice..you get the idea...
You are unique - allow your CV to show that uniqueness in your choice of language and phraseology....make your CV one that I (we) will remember rather than one that anyone could have written....
The title of this blog article is the best advice I can give any career seeking school leaver or graduate at the moment. Why? Because it works!
I know that the kind of jobs that you may be aspiring to and may have geared your education towards may not be thick on the ground at the moment and that getting a chance to be interviewed can often feel like constantly hitting the same brick wall but that does not mean that settling for second best and going off the radar of all employers is the way to deal with it. There are loads of cracking job and career opportunities out there but the candidates that get them are the ones who are prepared to do the leg work, build the relationships and get noticed...
Go to everything...
Look on-line, in printed media and through social media for every opportunity to get out into the world with a smile on your face, your best interview gear on and your CV in your pocket. The numbers game of on-line applications, posting your CV on one of the big sites or connecting with an agency is of course worth it because they might find you what you want. But I strongly encourage anyone, of any age, to get out there and find opportunity for themselves.
I am not of the Norman Tebbit school of 80's thought when he encouraged people to get on their bike and find work, patronising as it was, instead I am very much of the school of thought that you live, in person, being brilliant and smart and excited and interested is going to have a far greater chance of being spotted.
Why? Well despite many 'big' employers computerising their recruitment filters to the point of programming key words and qualifications into their selection programmes on-line; there are still vast numbers of employers, decision makers, recruiters and event organisers that understand about personal brand, making an impact, the personal touch and impressing someone with actions and words and not just qualifications and experience.
In my experience SME's particularly take great heed of their 'gut feel' for an individual candidate. Because every single one of their staff matters to them, as there are fewer, then meeting people is a way they still find their stars of tomorrow.
So prepared with a CV that does all of things I have spoken about at length in the past as 'the flier for the brand of you' (see previous blogs) and with a brave attitude to talking to anyone because as I have said in the past 'you never know who the person will be that gives you a break' you should get yourself along to everything that might lead somewhere; careers events, networking events, industry events, university and college events and national employment events at the big venues like the NEC.
Prepare your 'pitch', know what your USP's are and be ready to really sell yourself when you get the ear of someone who wants to listen and is interested in what you have to offer. As a recruiter of 20+ years standing from my point of view you being there already puts you in credit with me and then if you have a positive attitude, something to say and some energy and interest then you are really beginning to get my interest...
Speak to everyone...
Be that person who is interested in what every employer does, find out more, understand when you hear an opportunity that you like that you need to act and project the professional image that you want to promote going forwards; set yourself dress, speech and manners standards and let those things as well as your skills, knowledge and competencies be your message to employers...you will be saying 'I mean business!'
Networking is a very inexact science and actually the more you try and apply scientific methods to it a) the more mercenary you appear and b) the more you remove the random factor... but talking to people and asking questions and being open and honest about what you aspire to does work..
My two best job / career conversations? One was with a lovely Australian lady in a bar in Paris at Christmas time and the other was with a chap by the coffee machine during lunch at a careers event...you never know, who or when but you need to be there to benefit and to be on duty for your brand at all times to get the most from any good fortune.
I think it was Gary Player (the very good South African golfer for you Tiger Woods generation people) who said 'the more I practice the luckier I get' that's kind of my point in a nutshell!
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
Being an employer is tough. Being an employer that is looking to find new talent is even tougher. How are you supposed to be able to find, indentify and engage with the right sort of people that can do the job, fit in with your company culture and add that something special to take your brand forwards??
Well it's your job as a candidate to know your brand, assets, competencies and skills and then show them off in the best possible way. Impact is the key word here. I have recruited for a wide range of roles and when you have a pile of CV's either on your desk or in your In Box you have to sift through them and they have to talk to you in order to stand out and be the one that you select. Pink paper and funky fonts aren't necessarily the answer but you might find some inspiration from the brilliant CV's that have been compiled here:
Of course it's 'horses for courses' and the guys that put those CV's together were looking for roles that might not be the kind that you are in the market for but my point is that they have gone to town in making sure that they use their CV as a marketing flier for their brand and to succinctly communicate what it is essentially about them that the recruiter / employer should see immediately and understand.
Put it this way; you are walking down the High Street or through the shopping mall / arcade and someone thrusts an A5 flier into your hand. That glance, that moment that you spend looking at it is everything; you decide if the flier is talking to you, if you are interested and if you want to associate your brand with it - either by buying, attending or supporting whatever it is that the flier is talking about. Try and take that experience, that choice that you make into your thinking for how you want your CV to be received.
What does the headline are your flier / CV need to say / do to engage the reader. That 'handshake moment' is everything. Just like when you meet someone for the first time a whole myriad of thoughts speed through your mind, you are weighing them up; face, handshake, eyes, clothing, smile, words, body language...now think about how without many of the impactful weapons I just listed you can make an impact with the reader of your CV in the same way. They will be looking at type face, layout, words, vocaulary, easy of reading, relevance, personality and potential.
Forget bland and conservative unless you know that the people you are trying to impress want exactly that! Think about how you can reach out in your opening 'Personal Statement' and grasp their attention, introduce yourself and get them wanting to read more...
You are your own career manager, your own brand manager and your own PR company and your CV is the marketing flier that will create interest in what you are and what you can do.
Worth pondering on next time you are updating your CV or perhaps worth implementing now and getting together a CV that you can be proud of because it represents you in everyway it needs to rather than being a functional document with generic facts and statements and won't stand out.
Some basics; bullet points (make it easy to find the good stuff), tangibles (make it easy to demonstrate walking the talk), vocabulary (makes you stand out because you don't over use words like 'passionate') and layout (visual appeal leads to interest and engagement....
We can help with CV rewrites and reviews either face to face on on-line; it is the key that opens doors!
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