Questions of the Week from Career Directors International:
Is a Job Objective really necessary on a CV?
There are several types of generic job objectives that are simply a waste of precious review time. However, providing key direction to a reviewer about why the CV has been presented (beyond the fact that the candidate is looking for a job) is critical for a number of reasons:
1. It tells the reviewer how to look at the CV. With no verbal cues, they have to make ‘assumptions’.
2. It allows reviewers to orient quickly and familiarise themselves with the candidate.
What to avoid in an objective / header:
1. Using person pronouns such as “I”, “me” and “my”.
2. Focusing on selfish elements such as the type of company and environment the candidate is seeking.
3. Writing very generic objectives that don’t say what type of position is being sought.
Example of a bad objective that emulates all three of these elements:
“I am seeking a professional position in an environment that offers opportunities for growth, and that will be able to use my technical and interpersonal skills.”
AAGH! All that says is that you didn’t do your homework on the company and are not clear what you can do. Plus, it wastes the reviewers’ time and doesn’t let you necessarily apply for what you want.
Headers are preferable over objectives, but an example of a good objective is:
“To pursue the position of Director of Marketing with the XYZ Company.”
While the ‘with the XYZ Company’ is not required, it clarifies that the CV is for them!
Using Headers Instead of Objectives
Many job seekers today find it’s more effective to leave the traditional objective behind and move to a more visually effective ‘header’. Just like the other section headers, this would stand out. For example, if you have centred your headers in Arial 12 pt., then you would put your objective header centred in the same size and font.
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING
This is clear, quick, and to the point! Whichever way you opt to go, realise that leaving off any direction can negatively impact you as a job seeker.
If you are unsure, try something that covers the bases like:
Office Support ~ Customer Service ~ Bookkeeping ~ Sales
This type of objective offers flexibility and direction at the same time!
Is it appropriate to put a business phone number on a CV? What about a fax? Or, what I only have a mobile phone number?
While some might say it is all right to put a work phone number on your CV, but I do not suggest it. The reason is that many employers would find it a misuse of the time an employee is being paid for if they are taking calls for other jobs while working. Of course, they may already be departing from the company and have the employer’s blessing to do so, but a prospective employer will not know that. Therefore, it is just best to avoid using a work number whenever possible on the CV.
Appropriate numbers for a CV are home, mobile, or an alternate number where you can be reached if you don’t have a home number. Additionally, when a local and a permanent address are both displayed on a CV, you would typically have one phone number for each.
While there is nothing specifically wrong with listing a fax number on the CV, however, with all the points of contact most candidates currently have today (mobile phone, home phone and email), a fax can be overkill. In addition, an employer would rarely, if ever, use a fax number before they had a chance to speak with the candidate.
Finally, if you only have a mobile phone, that is not a problem and is quite common these days. Simply list it as the phone number with no designation as “mobile” needed.
When sending a hard copy of your CV should you staple or paperclip a 2-page or multi-page CV?
This is not recommended or necessary, especially if you include your name and the words “Page Two” at the top of the second page. Also, it’s usually not a good idea to staple because then the CV has to be separated for database scanning, which can damage the paper. One better step is to put your name, phone number and “Page Two” on the second page so that even if the documents were to get separated the information is there to make contact!
Should a new graduate have a portfolio for taking to interviews?
What is this and what should it include?
There are two kinds of portfolios — ones that are typically enclosed in a 3-ring notebook and virtual ones that are hosted on the Internet. For this topic, we will stick with printed portfolios although they are extremely similar except that you hold one in your hand and view the other on the Web with rich text links.
A portfolio is frequently referred to as a ‘brag book’ or ‘show-me book’. The idea is to have concrete, visual proof to supply an interviewer during a job interview. For instance, imagine how much more powerful your answer will be if you can also flip to a page in your portfolio that demonstrates what you are saying! According to an ASTD study, people remember about 35-40% more when they see it vs. just hear it (which is typically a 7% memory level).
So what should your portfolio include?
A solid portfolio typically covers the areas of:
1. Employment Documents;
2. Academic Records;
5. Publications, Presentations, Affiliations, Leadership, and others.
Usually, your portfolio will have a clear cover where you can insert a cover and have plastic page protectors and tabs (to divide topic sections) inside.
In the Employment Documents section you will have four copies of your resume on nice paper (in case you walk into a panel interview) as well as four copies of your cover letter (if you submitted one to the employer).
In Academic Records, you might have college transcripts, continuing education certifications, diplomas, and certification certificates.
In References you should have four copies of your professional reference page and four copies of each of your letters of recommendation (be sure to display a copy on official letterhead to show the employer in your portfolio).
In the Recognition section, you might have copies of evaluations, customer letters, employer letters, awards, and even photos of you receiving awards (you can mount with photo corners or double stick tape).
Depending on your amount of involvement, topics like Presentations, Publications, Affiliations, and Leadership may each have their own section or be grouped together. Include certificates, letters, or other documentation that shows what you have contributed.
It’s also a great idea to think outside the box in terms of content you might include. For instance, a new graduate might include summaries of key research papers, or may have disseminated learning from each course in separate tables of contents (this is easy if you just open your textbook to the detailed Table of Contents). Here are two very clever examples:
One MBA graduate was quite a planner and had really mapped out his way from high school to where he planned to be in five years. I had him create a timeline / flowchart that showed his progression which was terrific when he was asked about his planning skills or where he saw himself in five years.
Another new graduate who studied word processing, broke down exactly what she could do in each software program by using her table of contents as described above. Now, when employers asked her what she knew / could do in MS Word, she had a terrific report to show while using it as a reminder tool for talking points at the same time. It showed preparation and built confidence with the employer that she knew her stuff.
This is not a strategy just for new graduates, however. A sales person or manager might translate hard numbers and growth into visual bar graphs and pie charts to demonstrate achievement. He/she might also show summaries of special projects, include sample writings (if relevant, or organizational charts that show his/her place in the organization. The sky is really the limit here on what you can do to promote your value!
Once the portfolio is complete, it’s important to get the most out of it since it won’t do you any good tucked away in a briefcase! Since you have personalized the cover with wording such as “Portfolio of John Smith” it speaks for itself. Once you sit down in the interview ask if you can place your portfolio on the desk in front of you (don’t assume). Now, when questions come up that are appropriate for citing a document, be sure to open it to the relevant resource and turn it to show the employer.
E.g., Employer: “What would your former boss say about you?” Job Seeker: “Actually, I can show you what they would say word for word as I have copies of letters of recommendation, evaluations, and a few e-mails regarding project achievements right here (You are flipping). As you can see here, I consistently was responsible for driving project completion and repeatedly saved thousands of dollars through quality planning and control. You’ll notice here that my boss, Tom Dickens, was fond of saying I was their ‘indispensable go-to team lead who colleagues trusted and customers demanded.’ Would you like copies of any of these documents?”
WOW! Isn’t that powerful? You showed them, you offered them, you quoted exactly, and all along you had cheat sheets by referring directly to the appropriate documents!
Even if the portfolio never fits in to the conversation, you can always offer references at the end of the interview or let the employer know that you did bring copies of letters of recommendation and sample projects / reports if he/she would like copies. In fact, I’ve seen job seekers put their portfolio on the desk and have the rest of the interview revolve around the employer flipping through and asking specific questions; talk about gaining control of the interview!