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It’s become apparent that writing a CV isn’t common knowledge and certainly taken for granted when working in the recruitment industry. So, I thought I’d share my opinion on what I think a CV ought to look like and what should and should not be on it. (I’ll attach an example CV free to use.)

  1. The photo debate. For me personally, I really don’t think it’s necessary, I can’t see the purpose it serves.
  2. A colorful and graphic CV? For me personally, most of the time it clouds the important information. I’m trying to read if you have the skills and experience. You can prove your creativity in the recruitment process.
  3. A skills matrix. Rubbish. How can you rate your own skills? Yes, Tim, of course you’re a 5 of out 5 and then went it gets to the technical assessment, you’re just a 2. Leave the self-rating matrix out. However, a skills matrix on your skills and years’ experience could be valuable to some industries.
  4. Do not put personal information on your CV. For example. ID number, home address, tax number. Regardless of where you are sending it, identity theft is real. No-one needs those details to start a conversation. Name, surname, contact details and location – Cape Town / Claremont / Sandton is appropriate.
  5. A short and concise biography is always helpful. A little summary of your experience and who you are. Make this personal. It’s incredibly hard to read someone from a CV, so use this opportunity for your personality to shine through.
  6. Education. I know you think the year you matriculated is irrelevant but it’s not the year we are after but more for gaps. Matriculated 1998, completed a degree in 2012, started work in 2013. There is an interesting story for that 14-year degree. Also, don’t be sneaky and put qualifications in that you didn’t complete. If you do, boldly state, not completed.
  7. List your current jobs from recent. It engages the reader faster and makes for better reading than your contract work as a pet-setter 15 years ago. Ensure you have the correct dates. Again, we’re looking for gaps, length of stay and any possible trends. A few 3-month stints look very much like probations not extended.
  8. Don’t make duties vague. This is your selling point. Don’t assume the reader knows what your skills are. Write down every single duty from 8am – 5pm (including extra’s.) The more detail here, the higher the likelihood of someone engaging.
  9. Your reason for leaving can be tricky. Be honest, but not too honest. Let me explain. You have a real piece of work for a boss and he/she is your reason. Don’t say “My boss is an A*****”. Simply put, personal reasons or even wrong culture fit. No-one wants to hire someone that can’t be professional. But NEVER LIE!
  10. Don’t put references on your CV. Your references are doing you a huge favor and the last thing you want is for them to be contacted out of the blue on too many occasions. Simply put “References on request”. Once you get to the reference stage, contact your references, arrange a suitable time and keep their admin low.
  11. PDF your CV. Looks more professional and less chance of someone tampering with it.

I’d also like to add that a big part of sending your CV is HOW you send it. Don’t purely attach your CV with nothing in the text box, people can’t read your mind and, in my opinion, it comes across rude.

I’m not a huge fan of cover letters, I think it’s very 1980’s. A simple introduction, reference to the role, possibly a brief summary of why you think you’re right for the position and a “Kind Regards” shall suffice.

And whoever spread the rumor that a CV should be 1-page needs to be schooled. How on earth are you going to sell yourself on 1 page? It’s the lazy ones who need 1 page to scan. I say make it your book of life, your story to the world, your selling pitch. 5, 10, 15 pages, bring it on, but be sure to make it an interesting read.

Lastly, this is just my opinion. After 15 years in the recruitment industry, this is my take on how to write the ideal CV. Have fun with it, after all, it is your story.