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An insider's guide to CVs

Why rewriting your CV is like putting lipstick on a pig - it's still a pig

I’ve lost count of the number of times during a CV Consultation I have said: “why isn’t that on your CV?” And the stock answer is: “Not really thought about it”. It happens every time.

Why rewriting your own CV is like putting lipstick on a pig – it’s still a pig

So why does this happen?  The answer is simple - once you are asked the right type of questions the right type of information flows. But when you are in a bubble, you are restricted by your own limiting thought processes and stifled by your preconceived ideas of what you think should go into a CV, unconscious bias even. Paradigm thinking suppresses tapping into information that exists beyond the boundaries. That and part laziness – it’s so easy to spot a lazy CV from a well thought out CV.

So the easy option is to replicate your job description, but that tells the reader nothing about you, how you have contributed to the role and essentially, the difference you have made, lacking evidence to support this; yielding none of the content that sets you apart from the other CVs in the pile and denying you the opportunity to reinforce vital messages as to why you should be interviewed.

Where’s the ‘Sizzle’? This is the content that employers really want to read about – the information beyond the Job Description, that needs extricating from the chasms of your mind. You don’t need to have a performance track record like Richard Branson to deliver a great CV (although Richard Branson is dyslexic and has a habit of surrounding himself with experts), you just need to present yourself in the best possible way and ensure all the good stuff is represented in your CV. Someone once said to me – I’ll talk about that particular success story at the interview”. . . but it is exactly that information that not only gets you the interview in the first place, but it is that positive noise in your CV that provides you with an enormous competitive advantage; your CV has enabled the interviewer to form a positive mindset about you, before you have even entered the room. 

The next challenge CV owners face is your competition. Invariably, you never know what you are up against. This is why you shouldn’t compromise or make do with your CV. It has to wow your audience, smack them around the face like a great big kipper. It’s the WOW CVs that land the job, not the average ones.

Challenge Number 3 - Gatekeepers standing between you and your dream job include Applicant Tracking Systems. Some CVs are not even seen by human eyes until the interview.  So that’s another thing to consider;  if your CV isn’t ranked by the ATS, and keywords are missed or masked, you’re on a none-starter.  The simpler and cleaner – the better. You can inject personality into your CV in so many other ways without relying on fancy fonts or pretty pie charts which just obliterate your content and void your CV.

Common Red Flags

The most common one I see on CVs is that it is far too wordy or burdensome. Next is content; I’ve seen CVs which have a lot of content; 2 – 3 pages of absolute waffle that tells me nothing and 2 – 3 pages of factual, well presented content that provide context, sizzle and good quality information – the type of information Hirers really want to know about and brings the CV alive. Remember, the Hirer is thinking – what’s in it for me? They are less interested in your career goals and ambitions at this stage. Next, I have to say 90% of the time I am often deflated by the headline statement which is invariably bland and just lacks umph! Many headline statements don’t differentiate, don’t show value and could apply to any Candidate; I find myself often asking – what are you and what is your candidate proposition? Your CV should answer questions – not create them.

Keep your CV up to date and take the time with each update, keep the formatting, language and presentation consistent. Trim back the older career information – Hirers are more interested in your recent career history. We do like to understand your career journey, but not necessarily the ins and outs of earlier experiences.

CVs are not regulated. There is no finite formula with CVs, but there is an art to crafting a high impact CV. But, no surprise here – a lot of it boils down to common sense. You may have interviewed candidates yourself and waded through a pile of CVs – ask yourself how long did you spend perusing a CV? Where did you go first on the page and what format and style worked for you? What made it a page-turner? For some reason our personality default is modesty and as human beings, we find it difficult to naturally sell ourselves. Ask a Salesman to sell you a product and they nail it – but when it comes to talking about themselves, watch them very quickly degenerate into gibbering mush.

And yes, first impressions really do count. You have to get this right. Your CV is your business card, it represents your personal brand. Would you hand over a business card with a scribbled out phone number?  Would you issue crumpled brochures  to potential prospects? Hirers linger over a CV for just a matter of seconds and very quickly form an impression in their mind – it is hard to reset that judgement once they have made their initial evaluation. Everything counts in a CV. 

Anyone who knows me knows my passion for CVs and how I like to craft mini masterpieces, each one is treated like a commissioned work of art and something that’s guaranteed every time to send me word blind and drive me nuts in an attempt to reach perfection. 

The recruitment landscape is ever evolving. But there is one constant that is still integral to all of this. And that’s the CV. Don’t underestimate the power and influence of your CV, especially a well written one.

Remember this - you are unique and so is your CV.

Ginnie Riley

CV Writer, Job Search Strategist & Recruitment Strategist



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