One of the fastest ways to ensure your CV finds its way to the recruiter’s bin (virtual or real) is to write what I call a ‘backwards-looking’ CV. This kind of CV tends to be written as a first step in the job hunting campaign, even before the candidate checks job boards or actually thinks about what kind of jobs and companies they want their CV to be aimed at in the first place. As a result, rather than being a clever and relevant edit of their career history based on where they want to go next, their CV becomes a historical confession or brain dump of everything they’ve ever done professionally. This sadly means that the irrelevant bits often distract from the good ones and thus make the CV much less competitive and even confusing. Remember that recruiters don’t have much time to read your CV, so don’t just hope that they will be able to pick out the good bits and skim over the irrelevant ones!
Would you write a speech before knowing anything about the person the speech is aimed at? You get my point. Don’t put your CV together before you have decided what kind of job you actually want to apply for (even if it’s similar) and done your ground work to ensure you know what the CV should be tailored towards (= forward-looking!).
Here are some forward-looking actions you can take before putting together your CV:
- Become familiar with and use the the language/words used to describe the jobs you are after (you can do this by visiting online job boards. You will quickly notice a trend – especially if you print out job ads and highlight the commonalities).
- Ensure you are clear about the most requested key skills, working knowledge and achievements required (this is what you build your CV around).
- Be up-to-date with current key terms and issues within your industry (including them on your CV shows you keep abreast).
Taking these future-oriented actions will help you be much more clear about what parts of your past is relevant and what you need to play up/down to ensure the recruiter knows exactly why you are the right person for that job.
If in doubt about what (not) to include, ask yourself: Is my CV a confession of everything I’ve ever done in the past or a clever edit representing where I want to go next?
If You Only Do One Thing This Week: Remember that you don’t have to put extensive details about every job you’ve ever done on your CV (past). A CV should be written with the future in mind and tailored towards and reflect the kind of job you want to land next. Now go (re) write your CV accordingly.