Archive for the ‘CV Writing Tips’ Category
Imagine that you’re the person tasked with dredging through the slush pile of CVs (curricula vitae). How many seconds will you spend looking at each one? What will grab your attention?
Beyond the CV
A single sheet of paper highlighting your career history will only go so far at getting you the job. Meaningful connections and relationships must be formed for your CV to attract the most eyes. These days, the primary concern is networking; connecting with other business professionals grants you an “in” at companies or may lead you to further career opportunities. The to-be CEO of Ernst & Young, Mark Weinberger, understands this. While he worked in the nation’s capital, Weinberger regularly conversated with members of Congress that brought him from his first government job to Chief of Staff of the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, according to the Washington Post.
With relentless determination and networking finesse, he ascended the political ladder. Your CV is important, but it’s only one tool in your arsenal to land the job.
Tailored for Position
If you’re sending out identical CVs to employers, no wonder nobody is calling you back. Before applying, research the company and position, and tailor your CV to match the culture of the company. You’ll want to apply the same technique to your cover letter, as well. You’re sending cover letters with your CV, aren’t you? Also, incorporate keywords pertaining to the job description. CVs are regularly scanned into digital databases, and search queries are enacted to target those specific keywords.
Listing accomplishments on your CV is a way to illuminate you from a slew of competitors. If you’ve earned prestigious awards, such as executive Weinberger who won the Anti-Defamation League Award, or Samsung’s CEO, Dr. Oh-hyun Kwon, who was declared the year’s most successful brand-builder, you’re going to want to place that on your CV. It’s best if these accomplishments fit the job you’re currently applying for. Even if they don’t, these achievements still speak volumes about your character. The Huffington Post suggests adding quirky accomplishments, as well. If these “accomplishments” are appropriate and will potentially pique employers’ interests, it’s worth a shot.
Avoid At All Costs
Don’t add flair by printing on colored paper. Sure, your CV will stand out among the others, but not in a positive way. It’s such a blatant attempt at getting noticed that it will likely irk whoever’s eyes lay upon it.
Type in a standard font. There’s a multitude of fonts to choose from, and most will work just fine. Avoid ornate, pretentious fonts that prefer showiness to readability. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid overused fonts (e.g., Times New Roman). Moreover, ensure the type is large enough. Your name should be the most conspicuous and the first thing on the page. Don’t use headers and footers for important information.
CVs aren’t the place to opine and state your personal beliefs. Avoid stating your ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliations and religion.
There are a number of ways that you can address a long gap in your work history and the reasons for the gap. Your strategy will depend on your previous experience and your target job.
If you are applying to a company that uses computer scanning, such as an applicant tracking system, your dates of employment will be appear in the resultant report. UK employers want to see months and years in your employment history, so you may not want to leave out the months or indeed the whole date.
However, if you have the skills and experience required, you could still be in the running for an interview because of your key words and total amount of relevant experience, even if you gained it years ago.
If your target company uses staff members to screen the CVs, you could impress the reader with your skills and experience before they notice your employment dates. Explain the gap in a cover letter and in your profile statement.
Try to explain the gap in the most positive, honest, and dignified way possible. Emphasise that you are ready, willing, and able to re-enter the workforce or at least, to handle the target job.
The reader of your CV could easily assume the worst possible reason for your gap and could be suspicious that you are hiding something that would affect your ability to do the job or integrate into the organisation’s culture.
People take breaks from employment for all types of reasons – illness or burnout, education, childcare, parent care, travel, redundancy and then lack of employment opportunities, moving because of spouse’s job, or prison time.
You may be able to partially fill the gap with a course or workshop or other activity that you did during your recovery. Also, include education or training information in the appropriate section.
EDUCATION BREAK: Certificate in Something, Training Institute, London <either a comma or tab to the right> 03/2012-06/2012
Whether your gap is short or long, prepare a strategy for your CV and interview.
There is no shame in periods of employment, so keep positive and remember why you are the best person for your target job!
LinkedIn is a social media site that should now be a key part of each and everyone`s job hunt, whether for a first job or for something that will further develop a career.
A site of purely business connections, where the only interest from other users is purely business-minded, it multiplies countless times the number of people that can be made aware of and potentially aid, the search for a job.
Just signing up for LinkedIn is a very good first step, but there are several additional measures that can be taken to maximise the site`s potential.
First and foremost, a key thing to do is to complete as many profile options as possible. The more that is known about current and former jobs, the more chance of someone liking something they see and taking a chance based on it.
A second, and also key step, is to reach out to as many current and past colleagues as possible, particularly those still working in the career fields that are of interest. Hunting for a job can be a numbers game and the more people aware of a job hunt, particularly when they may be in a position to help either by spotting an appropriate job or by personal recommendation, the better. There is no stigma in being upfront about wanting or needing a new job, whatever the reason behind it. There is now an option for status updates on the site, which gives further opportunity for job hunters to alert their contacts and potentially a wider network, about the fact they are on the lookout for a new post.
LinkedIn also offers an option to feature personal recommendations by former employers or clients. Having features such as this on an account will be one of the things that makes it stand out from potentially hundreds or thousands of similar ones and anyone job hunting should think hard about who could usefully vouch for professional and personal qualities on their behalf. The more senior the person making the recommendation the better, for obvious reasons.
For more personalised searching or to target prospective companies, there are many search options available on LinkedIn, including searching by skill and searching for companies and/or individuals within a preferred postcode. Combining two or more of these searches could potentially identify, for example, companies with a matching skill set or job opportunities in a desired location.
Another useful feature of LinkedIn is the company profiles which reveal a lot of information about the nature and form of the company, but also about the previous jobs of people working there currently. These can be a mine of information for anyone trying to work out how to get into a particular company, or what would be needed to change careers.
Read LinkedIn’s help files and terms of service. In particular, don’t be tempted to put your job title (or target job or contact information, for instance) in the ‘Name’ field of your profile in an attempt to get higher in search results. It will result in LinkedIn restricting your account or locking it if someone flags up this transgression. You can, however, put your letters, such as John Smith, PhD. For further information see LinkedIn’s guidance here and here.
One final tip, particularly as the UK news is full of the on-going recession and the impact on jobs, is to get started with LinkedIn before a new job is needed, so that the connections and tools are already there when the day comes that you want or need to put them into use.
According to a 2010 Society for Human Resource Management survey, 76% of the organisations they asked conduct reference checks on job candidates.
Are you one of the many job seekers who don’t know who should be listed as a reference? Do you know how to prepare your references to help you secure the job? Are you sure that all of your referees are on your side? Could one of them be unintentionally, or even intentionally, sabotaging your job offers?
In the following newsletters, we will cover what references are, how to select referees, how to prepare them to help you secure the job, and which myths should you ignore.
What are references?
Your CV will get you the interview, your skills and experience coupled with your great personality will get you the job offer, but it is your referees who will secure the job. The interviewer might be impressed with you, but they will want to confirm their decision to hire you with opinions of the people who have first-hand knowledge of your work ethic, character, skills, and experience.
Reference checks are important for both job seekers and employers. References are a chance for employers to add to the information they learned from your CV and in the interview. Information that they find out from your references will either confirm their desire to hire you or make the decision not to extend the job offer. A great reference will help the hiring manager feel good about their decision to hire you.
The definition of “reference” includes two important functions in a job search. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a reference is “a person to whom inquiries as to character or ability can be made.” A reference is also defined as “a statement of the qualifications of a person seeking employment or appointment, given by someone familiar with the person.”
Reference checks are often part of a comprehensive employment screening programme, which can also include verification of employment eligibility as it relates to immigration status, credit checks, and background checks.
Job seekers applying for positions with access to confidential information (related to other employees or the company’s clients) were most likely to be subject to reference checks, as were candidates for financial positions, information technology jobs and customer-facing positions.
Some companies will check your references and some won’t. You should prepare your references for the companies that do (as well as for the ones that ask for your references, but never use them).
Findability Factors for your CV
You have heeded all the advice on CV content and format. You have uploaded your CV to the top job boards. You are waiting to be found.
Increase the chances that your CV will be found by recruiters looking for your skills and experience by learning about how online job sites function and what you can do to increase your chances of being called for an interview.
The recruiter will search for a candidate by entering key words and phrases into the search engine. Be sure that you have included many of the important words and phrases that appear in the target job advertisement and in other job advertisements for the same type of job. Include words and their synonyms that are relevant to your experience and achievements, as well as well-known industry-specific jargon or terminology.
This is a time-intensive endeavor, but if enough of their search words match those found in your CV, your CV will be flagged for further investigation, and if you are truly qualified, then you will be called for an interview.
If all these key words and phrases do not fit conveniently on two A4 sheets, do not despair. Online submissions will rarely be printed, so a wordier version of your CV could be appropriate. Check the word or character limits prior to submission and work with the limits to submit the information that the recruiter needs in order to find you.
CV File Type
Consider creating a CV especially for online submission – not just in terms of content, but also in terms of file type. A plain text file (.txt) that is clearly formatted with appropriate section titles, such as Summary, Experience, and Education, will be parsed more successfully when the recruiter retrieves it during a search.
The stereotypical recruiter giving a 30-second eyeball to your CV as an A4 sheet of paper, or even as a Word document, is becoming a rarity. As technologies improve , it is becoming more important that your electronic content (CV) ranks high in the recruiter’s search.
Transform your North American résumé into a UK-style CV
Back in 1887, the British writer, Oscar Wilde wrote … “we have really everything in common with America these days, except, of course, language.”
It is still true today so if you want the information in your résumé to be instantly understood and appreciated by a potential employer in Britain, you will want to make a few changes.
Whether your résumé is formatted using the reverse chronological, the functional, or the combination style, this is fine. Check three things, however – be sure that your contact details show your telephone number as you would dial it from the UK – complete with country code – AND that your employment start & finish dates include months as well as years – AND finally, that you have explained all employment gaps that are longer than about 3 months.
Just as you would use your profession’s jargon and terminology in your résumé, you want to use language that puts you ‘in’ the job in the UK.
To edit the descriptions of your work experience, search the Internet for appropriate job vacancies in the UK and note the key words that are used to describe your target job. There may be other differences, so avoid clichés and idiomatic expressions that might not be well—known outside the US. Be sure that your achievements are written in a factual, not boastful, style. If you use the correct tone and expressions, you are demonstrating that you are a good organisational fit to a British firm.
There are several websites that compare UK English and North American English. Read through the words and see if any should be changed. For instance, did you use “specialty”? then, change it to “speciality” … “oriented?” – change it to orientated … “while” – change that to “whilst”. As well, note that “learnt and spelt” are spelt – and pronounced – with a “T” instead of “ED” in Britain.
A misspelt word on your CV could be disastrous! Your CV could end up in the bin – that’s the trash!
Although using US spelling consistently throughout your documents is not incorrect per se, the reader will expect to see UK spelling. Don’t let a potential employer stop and stumble on a word that appears to be “wrong.”
Start by changing Word’s language setting to UK English and doing a spell check. Be aware that some words – like the résumé standards – organise, strategise, and prioritise – are spelt with ‘ise’ in the UK and Word won’t flag them as misspelt if you’ve written “I- ZED-E”.
Zed means Zee, by the way.
Finally, change the paper size to A4; fix the tabs; proof it again; and submit it.
As Oscar inferred, there are many aspects of work, and life, that the British and the Americans do have in common! So, if you’re heading for the UK, transform your résumé into a CV, and discover them for yourself.
Resources: Audio Link
If you are writing an English CV for a position in Germany, here are a few tips:
- Include a cover sheet with your name, address, telephone number, and email address on the top right side and your place of birth, date of birth, nationality, and marital status on the bottom right side.
- Place a head and shoulders LinkedIn- and Xing-type photograph on the top right hand corner of page one.
- Start your CV with the same style and content of letterhead that you would use on a UK CV or American résumé (name, email address, telephone number, postal address).
- Either start with the experience section (reverse chronological) or include a very short profile statement.
- Don’t use a career highlights, key competencies, or similar section before the experience section.
- Ensure that you use months in your employment dates.
- Explain all gaps in your employment history.
- Leave space to date and sign it (and include the city in which you signed it) at the bottom of the last page.
- Alternatively, use the new Europass template as a starting point, but be sure to add the date and sign it.
- As with all European CVs, use A4-size paper.
- Use UK spelling unless the target company’s literature and job advertisement uses American (or other) spelling.
- Have copies of your educational transcripts, certifications, and references ready to be submitted, if required.
iAgora – CV for Germany
Berlin Info – German-style CV
Europass CV Template – CV Template in German
Working in Germany – CV and Employment Tips
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When you cannot use attachments or formatted documents, copy and paste the relevant sections of your Pro-CV PLAIN TEXT.txt file or your own .txt file (without line breaks) into your EMAIL ‘compose’ box.
If a job description asks you to include a plain text CV in the body of an email, make sure your email software is set to send plain text. Otherwise, your email browser will add formatting to your CV and the recruiter may assume you didn’t follow instructions.
The method for sending a plain-text email depends on the email program you’re using. Look for a “Plain Text” button or option and/or make sure the “Rich Text Editor” is off. Further information can usually be found in the “help” section of the program.
Here are instructions for some major email programs.
Choose “Compose Mail”. Click “plain text” option amongst the formatting options. Then, simply copy and paste your CV into the e-mail. You may have to make some minor formatting changes.
* Yahoo! Mail:
Create a new e-mail. At the bottom of the email, click the “plain text” button. Then, simply copy and paste your CV into the e-mail. You may have to make some minor formatting changes.
Create a new e-mail, in the pull-down field labelled “Tools” make sure the “Rich Text Editor” is off. You’ll be able to tell if you’ve successfully turned the Rich Text Editor off as all the formatting options will disappear from your compose screen. You may have to make some minor formatting changes.
* Windows Live Mail:
If you don’t see a menu, press ALT. Click Tools then Options. Click the Send tab. Next to Mail Sending Format, tick the option for Plain text. Click the Compose tab. Set the Compose Font for mail to 10 pt. Courier New. Click OK.
* Microsoft Outlook:
Create a new email, click on the “Format” button and choose the “Plain Text” option. Then, simply copy and paste your resume into the new email. You may have to make some minor changes, but most of your formatting should remain intact.
Before sending an email, read over all the contents of the compose box to ensure that you have copied and pasted the relevant sections. For instance, have you inadvertently included your references?
1. CVs are more important than ever in today’s competitive job market. What are the best ways for job seekers, particularly project managers, to grab the attention of HR/recruiters?
- HR managers and recruiters desperately want to find the right candidate as quickly as possible. You will grab their attention the moment they can find the information they need to validate a decision to interview you. Give it to them on a plate by presenting your relevant qualifications and experience near the beginning of your CV/résumé.
- One way to do this is to create a section called, “Professional Summary” or “Key Qualifications” or similar. Present your information relating to the job criteria in bullet point form and embolden the first few key words, if appropriate. Start with an action verb (e.g., Spearheaded the project …) and state the benefit(s) that your actions brought to the company (… that resulted in …).
- Under your name in your letterhead, include your relevant qualifications (e.g., B.Eng., PRINCE2).
- Instead of using the section heading “Profile,” use a positioning title. That is, use as the heading your most relevant job title and subtitle it with the relevant industry in which you have experience. For instance, Project Manager – Oil & Gas Industry.
- Present information about your projects in a uniform way. For instance, Challenge: … Actions: … Results: … or Project: … Activities: … Results: …
2. What are the biggest mistakes that people make when writing their CV/resume? How can they avoid these mishaps?
- There is a fine line between arrogant boasting, succinctly explaining the value you offer, and humbly describing your job duties. It is important to tread the middle road. Honestly, but descriptively, tell the reader about your accomplishments.
- Ensure that you have addressed as much of the job criteria as possible. Do this as early as possible in the document.
- Do not include irrelevant details or out-of-date qualifications.
3. In terms of design, what are some creative approaches that project managers can take?
- Use a dark color from the target company’s logo in your section headers.
- If you want to include a list of skills, use bullet points in columns.
- Divide your document into two columns – allocate less than one-third for your section headings and at least two-thirds for your body text.
4. In terms of design, what are some mistakes people often make? What sorts of things are considered “over the top” e.g. too many colors, etc?
- Easy-to-scan is the most important design feature, so using all upper case letters, underlining, and more than two fonts can impede this. If you use two fonts, use one Serif and one Sans Serif.
- Never use WordArt or similar word processing design features. A project manager’s CV/résumé should be a professional-looking document, so one color (e.g., dark blue or a dark color from the target company’s logo) could be used for your name and section headings.
- Do not choose a font that is uncommon. If the recipient doesn’t have it, their computer could replace your wonderful font with an unsuitable font. Consider using the super-safe Times New Roman or Arial, or the semi-safe, but more interesting, options of Book Antiqua, Calisto MT, Californian FB, Cambria, Candara, Corbel, Garamond, Georgia, Goudy Old Style, Lucida Sans, or Palatino Linotype.
5. What advice do you have for print CVs versus online CVs?
- For international applications, be sure to use the correct paper size (8.5” X 11” for North America and A4 for the rest of the world) whether printed or electronic.
- Use good quality paper in either white or cream if a hard copy is required.
- Use a good quality laser printer if you are going to print your document.
- Do not use a font size smaller than 10 point Times New Roman.
- Give at least 2 cm or .75 inch for a margin.
- Never fold or staple a hard copy CV/résumé. Protect it with a board-backed envelop.
- Send a digital/electronic version in .doc or .pdf by email in addition to submitting a required paper copy.
- Electronic versions of your CV/résumé should conform to the instructions from the target company. That is, don’t upload a .pdf or a .docx file when they ask for a .doc.
- Don’t copy and paste your Word document into online forms because they are unlikely to support formatting features, such as bullet points. Save the Word file as .txt, fix the formatting problems, and then copy and paste from the .txt file.
6. When should project managers seek professional help? Is this really a job for a professional CV writer?
- If you feel that your CV or résumé does not compare favorably to other CVs/résumés – your colleagues’ documents or examples on the Internet.
- If you are qualified for the job and your CV or résumé is not generating interviews, it is time to seek help.
- If you are not fully qualified for the job and you want the best chance of getting an interview.
- There are plenty of very good CV/résumé writing books if you want to take the time to read them and apply their advice. I would recommend Expert Résumés for Managers and Executives by Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark.
7. Any additional CV tips?
- Always tell the truth.
- At an interview, you will be asked to elaborate on information contained in your CV/résumé. If you don’t want to discuss it, try not to include any aspect of it in your CV/résumé.
- There is no need to include your references or the statement, “References available upon request. It is understood that you will give references upon request.
- Do not include personal information (e.g., age). Include work permit status if there is an issue with permission to work in the country.
- Do not include interests/hobbies unless they are highly relevant (e.g., you lack paid employment project management experience, but have experience as a volunteer).
Thanks to Denene Brox for these questions. Parts of this post were quoted in Denene’s article, Top of the Stack / Build the right resume and they will call, which was published in the August 2010 issue of PM Network (Project Management Institute).