Tag Archives: cv

Change your life in two pages…(or, how long should my CV be?)

I had an email from an old friend last week asking for my help in resolving a debate taking place amongst his peers at work. How long should a CV be? As the hiring Managers, they wanted 2 pages but recruiters and job seekers alike were sending CV’s ranging anywhere upwards from 3 pages.

As a Recruiter, knowledge is power (yes, I know, I suffer from delusions of grandeur!) The more in depth, detailed information I have about you the better placed I am to introduce you the job you want. However that information should come when I interview you. It is up to me as the external recruiter to ask the right questions of you to ensure you give me all I need. I suspect I may be one of a dying breed in this respect.

Many recruiters (both internal and external) don’t read CV’s. The CV arrives through some form of online portal and is dropped automatically in to a database where keyword searches throw up the pre – requisite skills the hiring manager needs to fill the job order. Therefore from a candidate perspective you need to ensure your CV is content, keyword rich, highly visible to search engines.

You can’t afford to leave anything out fear of the search engines missing you and the opportunity passing you by. So you err on the side of caution, work on the principle of more is better.

Culture has a part to play. Over the years I have interviewed lots of South Africans. Their CV’s would make Tolstoy proud. They appear to work on the principle the longer the CV, the more you will have achieved. On the other end of the spectrum I have only today seen the issue of the one page CV come up. As labour markets become ever more transient and global war for talent hots up, cross border issues will arise when it comes to CV’s. So what’s the global view?

My last search returned 3.6 million results. It’s all a matter of opinion, clearly there are many. So for the record, here’s mine.

Two pages.

Your CV is simply a catalyst for conversation. You have to grab my attention and you have a short time in which to do it. Jaguar Land Rover recently announced 14000 + applications for 1500 vacancies. The competition is fierce. Every word must count.

I need to know fast who you are, how to contact you, what you are qualified to do, who you worked for, what you did for them, what you achieved whilst you were there and what impact those achievements had on the business. 60% duties and responsibilities, 40% achievements. Make sure you can quantify those achievements, put some numbers to them, evidence the contribution to the top or bottom line. Then you’ve got my attention. I want at most your last 10 years and will really focus on the last five in detail. The rest is history.

I want to know a little bit about you outside the work place, what your hobbies and interests are, just enough to want to know more. I don’t need to know it all, just the bits of which you are most proud that you consider wholly relevant to the post.

If you don’t get shortlisted for interview, it is not you that is being rejected, it is your CV. You need to work on it. It should be a living, breathing, up to the minute document of which you are intensely proud. There can be no sense of that’ll do. It should be fine tuned, fine tuned and fine tuned again.

Give it the attention it deserves. Its two pages that lead to a conversation that could change your life.



Filed under Careers, Recruitment

The best job application ever?

Every once in a while someone comes along and really raises the bar.  Earlier this week I blogged on the brilliant “Employ Kyle” campaign conducted by Kyle Clarke.  Hot on his heels I came across this exceptional approach to the job search from self-confessed “PR propagandist, social media transmitter, digital brigadier” Graeme Anthony.

This just might be the best job application I have ever seen.  Creative, thought-provoking, passionate, engaging, different.

Would you employ this guy?  Judge for yourself.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Filed under Careers, Hiring, Recruitment, Social Media

Kyle Clarke Job Search Genius!

The only constant is change.  For some, change is scary, for others it’s exciting.

Right now we are living through the scariest and yet most exciting of times.  It used to be said that if you always do what you always did, you would always get what you always got.  My sense is that in many cases this is no longer the case.  The rulebook is being ripped up.  The old ways of doing things are being challenged.  Disruptive methods and technologies are challenging our assumptions and expectations and our comfort zones are being stretched daily.

Never is this more evident than in the jobs market.  It’s a scary place.  How an earth can you make sense of it all?  How can you use the multitude of platforms and routes to market to reach out to those people who will have a positive effect on your career?

How do you stand out?

Your CV alone is no longer enough.  You are a brand.  You need to sell yourself relentlessly online and offline.  You need to step outside your comfort zones, to stretch them daily to get to where you want to go if you want to succeed.  Nowhere have I seen a better example of this than in this campaign by 2010 UK Graduate Kyle Clarke.


It’s brilliant.

Innovative, purposeful, confident, bold.  Kyle epitomizes the initiative, get up and go self-starting attitude that you need to succeed. Be inspired by him.  Take the initiative.  Be different.  Go Kyle!

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Filed under Careers, Recruitment

For Sale, one hugely talented person

Success in your job search should be considered in much the same way as taking any product to market. It’s a sales process. To succeed takes research, careful planning and relentless execution.

You have to know your market place. Who are your customers? What are they looking for? How can you find out?

The advantage for the job seeker in 2010 lies in the amount of information readily available at the click of the mouse. Do your research. Start by subscribing to the major job boards and get daily updates in to your inbox that will tell you who is hiring. This is a great source of market intelligence, telling you which sectors are hiring, which areas of the country the opportunities are based, how much is being paid and for what. It will also tell you who the major recruiters are in your sector or skill set and will enable you to build a list of recruiters with whom you should develop a working relationship (and indeed those that you don’t).

Despite the immense network provided by social media, the 2010 CiPD Resource and Talent Planning survey highlighted the use of Recruiters along with a company’s own website as still the most successful method of candidate attraction. So Recruiters should be an integral part of your strategy.

Not only do the job boards provide a great source of who and where your market is, they are also a great source of understand what the market needs. What words and phrases are being used in the advertising? What skills, experience, achievements, contribution, qualifications are the Hiring Managers in your world looking for? Make a list of these key words and find ways of incorporating them in your CV, ensuring your CV and your online profiles are rich with the words Hiring Managers are pumping in to search engines. Crucial to your success will be not only who you know, but who knows you. Make sure the buyer can find the product.

You have to know your product. This is where you have a huge advantage over your competitors. Your product is unique. You have therefore to understand its unique selling points and you have to be able to articulate them relentlessly with passion and conviction. What is it that makes you special? How do you relate that usp to the needs of your prospective customers? What skills, experiences, qualifications, achievements, personality, attitude, talent do you possess that make you the person that the customer buys.

The competition is fierce, the market place huge, the choice for the customer vast. How are you going to stand out? You must be really clear on this at the outset. Sure your interview experiences and feedback will help you to hone this, to get it clearer and your pitch sharper, but you must understand this before you get started. Don’t be shy. This is not the time for it.

Know your product, know your market place. Next up what are your routes to market? You have to be really clear on what you want and how you are going to get it. Again the job boards are a great source of market intelligence. What’s the application process? How do your target customers go about hiring? Your routes to market are many. In excess of 70% of vacancies never make it to the public domain. Who in your network can open doors? Statistically the likelihood is that it will be someone you know who will unlock the door that leads to your success. Work your network tirelessly.

Have a plan. Have a strategy to execute that plan. Know your customers, listen to their needs, make sure your product is visible, easily identifiable and stands out. Then sell it relentlessly with passion, conviction, persistence, commitment and belief.


Filed under Careers, Hiring

Your CV – its all a matter of opinions (Part 2)

Another way of enhancing the power of the words you use in your CV is to study the words and phrases your target employer uses in their own job advertisements, website, marketing literature, press releases or financial reports. Look at the mission statement, vision and values. How can you incorporate some of these words or phrases in your CV?

If you have recruited in the past and now find yourself looking for a position, this can be a huge advantage. Think back to those CV’s you liked and those you didn’t? Take the best and worst of what you have seen before and use this as a guide to shape your own CV.

Its extremely important that your CV reflects not simply your experience, but the skills you possess. Start with a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm your skills. Leave no stone unturned.

Ask yourself what skills you feel you have acquired not just in your career but in your life. Can you evidence those skills and talk about them with confidence?

Your CV should reflect the entire range of skills you posses. Your work experience should reflect how those skills have been employed and what benefit those skills have bought both you and your employer.

Your work experience should not be simply a list of “things you do”; it should reflect entirely your achievements. Specifically you should look to tangibly evidence just how your employer has benefited from that which you have achieved.

If you can quantify such achievements with a number or provide evidence of bottom or top line benefit to the company, this will certainly help to strengthen your case.

Include in your work history a brief description of your employer. References to turnover, number of employees and industry type all help to paint a picture of your responsibilities. Don’t assume your prospective new employer knows anything about those organisations that you have worked for in the past.

You should refer to your reporting lines, the size of team you are working in and the number of staff you are responsible for. This again helps to paint a picture of your responsibilities. The job of Financial Controller in a £5m turnover business where you are reporting to the Managing Director is distinctly different to the Financial Controller post in a £500M business with a reporting line to the Finance Director. Similarly managing a team of 3 direct reports is distinctly different to managing a team of 10.

How much should you include in your CV? Employers don’t want to read pages and pages. Ideally your CV should be a two page document with a detailed career focus of the last 5 years. This is the experience on which employers will focus most of their attention.

Consider having a flexible document, one that you can tweak for specific applications. All this takes time and effort, but you are talking about an individual pitch on every occasion.

A one size fits all approach to your job search may not be enough of a catalyst to get you in to those critical conversations that can dramatically shape your future.

It should be a document that is a constant work in progress that is continually updated to reflect your ever evolving skills and experiences.

Ultimately with 1.79 million opinions available on line, there are no right or wrong answers to the question of the perfect CV. Take your time to ensure you produce something of which you can be intensely proud.

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Filed under Careers

Your CV – its all a matter of opinions (Part 1)

Standing out in the crowded place that it is the job market is an enormous  challenge.  How do you present that critical information on your CV that sets you apart from your competition?  What format should you use? Where do you get the information you need to understand how best to prepare your CV in order that it reflects what Employers are looking for?  How do you prepare that perfect CV?

The truth is that this is all very much a matter of opinion.  To prove my point, I googled “How do I prepare my CV” this morning and my search returned 1.79 million search results in 15 seconds!  That’s a lot of opinions!  However there are certain fundamentals when preparing your CV that you should at least consider.

What is the CV?  It is a catalyst to enable you to engage in a conversation about a subject that you know better than anyone else, namely you.  So it should be something of which you are intensely proud, that reflects a genuine sense of what you are really about, a document that portrays you in the best possible light.

It is your elevator pitch, your sales document.  You only have that one opportunity to grab the attention of the person who can change your working life.  It should be something that you prepare with great care. It should be the document that in terms of your career requires your greatest investment of time and effort.  Would you consider going in to a critical sales meeting with a key client without taking the time to prepare a killer presentation?  I guess not.  Why then should your CV be something that you knock up in five minutes?

Your CV should ensure you are extremely accessible.  As the Hiring Manager, I want to be able to contact you easily, I don’t want to search high and low to find your email or contact telephone numbers.

Should you have them, relevant qualifications should be listed after your name. You work hard enough to achieve them, you should shout about them. They portray you in a very positive light and create very positive impressions of you as an individual before starting on your career history.  If you are professionally qualified, your CV should be a document that reflects entirely your professionalism and integrity.

Hobbies and interests should reflect subjects or interests that you are genuinely excited by. You never know if the person doing the hiring isn’t an expert on a hobby that you last engaged in 20 years ago. Make sure they are up to the minute, relevant and genuine.

Your profile should be a genuine reflection of your personality, characteristics, attitude and experience.  Think of this as an honest look in the mirror. You don’t need to be an elaborate wordsmith.  In order that you can tap in to the mindset of the person making the hiring decision, thing back to your own hiring experiences and ask yourself what language, words or phrases did you look for in a CV. Do you have those skills and traits?

Instead of opting for “buzz words” think back to your previous roles and consider what the key words and phrases were in your industry, company or responsibilities.  Look for ways in which you can employ these key words throughout your CV.  You want to be talking and using the language of the employer.

Remember your CV is simply a catalyst to a conversation.  However, it could be the catalyst to unlocking a whole new world of opportunity.


Filed under Careers, interview

The importance of Social Media in your job search

Recently I have had a number of requests to comment on people’s Linkedin profiles, specifically how profiles could be improved in relation to job search.

I am certainly not evidencing any cutting edge thinking when it comes to suggesting the strength of personal branding and its place in the job search. Experts have been blogging about the subject of personal branding for some considerable time, with the likes of Dan Schawbel leading the way.

Personal Branding is not however a new phenomenon. It is something that we have had to contend with since the day we were born. How we view ourselves, market ourselves and as a consequence how others view us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we market ourselves throughout our lives. People buy from people and we are all promoting ourselves in some way to get ahead, even if we are not doing it consciously. We may not all be gaining the maximum leverage from our personal brand, but we all have one.

The strength of social media lies in the opportunity to decide exactly what we want our personal brand to represent and to market it relentlessly to a global audience. So what basics can you apply to the profiles out there that represent your window to a world of opportunity.

Your profile is your elevator pitch. It’s your 10 second (if you are lucky) opportunity to make a lasting impression. Start with a decent up to date photograph, preferably with you smiling! You don’t have to be grinning from ear to ear, but at least look like you are someone with whom you can engage. In the same way that your CV is a catalyst to a conversation, so is your social media profile.

Choose your photograph seriously, it will say a lot about you. Think about the audience you want to look at the photo and the image you want to portray. In Speedo’s on the beach may be fine for the family album but for the Headhunter looking for the next CEO of MegaCorp Plc, its unlikely this will be well received.

You should start with a statement that defines what you are about as a person, not a job title. Incorporate your passions, values and ambitions. Be honest with yourself, this will help to ensure consistency in all your messages. Remember this profile should be like a really good look in the mirror and what you see staring back at your you should feel extremely confident about. If you don‘t, then you have work to do. Don’t stop until you feel ready to take on the world.

Start with the end in mind? What is the outcome that you want your profile to achieve? Then what statement will help you to achieve it?

Your profile should be achievements focused. These were my actions, these were the results and this was the impact on the organisation I was working for. If you can quantify those achievements, make them tangible with some numbers, then all the better. It needs to scream out if you hire me then this the value I bring.

You should view your profile as if it were the most critical, life changing pitch you were ever to make. Cobbling something together in five minutes and never updating it won’t achieve the desired outcome. Approach it as if it were a presentation to the biggest client you will ever land. Dusting off the standard company presentation in such a scenario will never be enough, you have to be prepared to go the extra mile. The same must be said of your online profiles if you really want them to work in the job search. It should absolutely reflect your values, personality and talents. If you don’t feel it absolutely achieves this, don’t go live.

Gone are the days when first impressions were based on a CV and that first handshake before the interview is underway. That first impression starts the day you post your first profile, article, comment, picture, whatever it may be online. Once something is on the web, it’s always on the web. Make sure you feel intensely proud of it.

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Filed under Social Media