Q: I have worked in about 12 jobs over the years. My CV is currently six pages long – and, even at that, I feel I have left out some good stuff. I have read your advice about keeping your CV down to two pages, if possible. How might I achieve that? I can’t seem to find anything to leave out. (PP, email )
A: Make decisions. You have the power to do that – and the obligation to do that. As the saying goes, it is not War and Peace you are producing here. You have to decide what helps to sell you. To make some items stand out, others must appear small or not appear at all.
There is a point of diminishing returns in a CV where you pile more and more and more information in. But at that point you are losing, rather than hooking, the employer.
So you have got to find just the right amount ‘good stuff’ to stand out. You must decide to leave other stuff out of the CV. There comes a point when the more you add to the truth ultimately takes away from it.
So you really must make those decisions and don’t expect the employer to wade through page after page after page after page. I often feel this is like asking someone directions in a strange town. In a bid to be ever so helpful, they earnestly instruct you to ‘go right, and then drive to the junction, and then go left, and second left, and then left again, and through the roundabout, and right, and second left...’
They tell you so much that they end up telling you nothing. You can’t even remember the first right. Employers are likely to scan read CVs and they cannot take in all the information you are putting in front of them. So don’t run the risk of annoying or alienating them by placing reams of information on their table.
Say to yourself: “As the person who knows this life best, I suggest these are the attributes, skills and achievements you need to know about”, and work from there.
Be brutal. Chop out duties from irrelevant jobs. Cut out repetition. One good bullet-point on a job might be more useful that five in terms of hooking the employer.
Go for early impact. Seek to catch the employer from the first lines of your CV. Here’s a simple test to check how quickly you are exciting the curiosity of the employer.
Take your existing CV, fold the front page in half, and read only the top half of that page. If the employer only read this half, would he or she be encouraged to bring you in for an interview?
If you see things like Personal Profile, Key Skills, and Previous Achievements there, and if all of those are relevant to the employer, your chances are good. If you have Contact Details, Nationality, Date of Birth and the like over most of the first half of the page, you could be falling into ‘scanned over’ territory.
In anything to do with the CVs, get to the high points early on. In school we learned to slowly build up the school essay – the beginning, the middle and the end. In CVs, like in newspapers, we favour an Inverted Pyramid approach, where the most important ‘stuff’ is put at the top/front page, rather than buried away on page 2.
Make it easy for the employer to see what matters. Don’t ask them to read too much. PP, get out that scissors! Best of luck with it, you will be surprised how much you can clip out when you set yourself the target of selling to the employer, rather than merely listing everything you have done.
— Liam Horan will speak on the topic of career change at a seminar hosted by SCCUL Enterprises Ltd in Ballybane Enterprise Centre on Thursday, February 23rd, at 6.30pm. ;Participants can register in advance by contacting Tomas or Mark on 091 386 004 or emailing [email protected]