Bring Life to Your CV Featuring Alistair Cox Article


The CV is Not Dead: But is There Life in Yours?

By Alistair Cox, London, UK Published September 27, 2013

The digital prophets have been predicting the demise of the CV for years. But the curriculum vitae or resume is still with us and it’s alive and well. For vast numbers of people in professional roles, as well as those of us working specifically in recruitment circles, it’s still common currency. However, for such an important tool, I’m frequently surprised at how poorly it is sometimes used.

The internet has opened up a vast opportunity for individuals to develop and present their own personal brand to the world. Social media has accelerated that and your profile on LinkedIn is an important part of how you appear to everyone else. It’s important to get that just right so that you create the impression you want to create in a crowded marketplace. However, it’s not the only aspect of your digital presence that is important. Your involvement in LinkedIn groups, your participation in discussions and blogs here and elsewhere, your publicly available Facebook posts or tweets are all part of the impression you are making to the big wide world. Increasingly, potential employers look at that whole collection to form a more rounded view of you – your web presence is fast becoming an important digital resume and something that should be thought about and crafted very carefully. But that’s a story for later.

This does not mean however that the CV has been made redundant. Far from it, as in a world where there is so much white noise and information overload, a simple, concise and well structured resume speaks volumes about who you are, what you have achieved and why you are absolutely the person your future employer must hire. That is the sole purpose for that document. So is that what yours says?

Job applications are read by busy people. They may need to wade through hundreds of applicants to find exactly what they are looking for. You can make it a lot easier for them and yourself if you put yourself in their shoes for a moment and write your CV in a way that tells them very efficiently what they must know about you. Think of it as a passport to your interview. Here’s what I look for.

Your career summary and the roles and organisations you’ve worked for needs to be short and concise. I want to see your education and qualifications too but it’s really your achievements in work that matter so these need spelling out. I want to understand what you have actually done, not just where you’ve been. What exactly have you delivered in your various roles? Quantify it if you can and keep it to the point. Long essays get boring and if I have a hundred CVs to read, do I have the time to wade through yours?

Don’t use buzzwords and management jargon. Use words that you would actually use in real-life. You are telling me how you are as well as who you are and the language you use is communicating that to me. Double-check your spelling and grammar. Typos and misspelling tells me that you cannot be bothered to ensure your pitch to me is high quality. Sorry, there will be other candidates who take more care in their work and they are the ones I will hire.

People have differing views on the need to include a section on skills and interests outside work. In my view, you should include it, but only if it gives me a fuller picture of your talents and what makes you tick. Stick to those points that help me understand you and the unique aspects you will bring to my organization.

These are just a few high-level pointers that I believe help make a CV stand out. Many of you may disagree with my points above. However, remember why the CV exists and that should help. It’s your 3 minute written pitch to your future employer that absolutely makes them want to spend an hour interviewing you. That’s the measure of a good CV and that’s why I think it has a long and healthy future ahead, sitting at the heart of your personal brand.