Like the necktie and cufflinks, the CV belongs firmly in the old school of business. So why do we still rely on it today? And more importantly, how can you ensure your CV will get noticed by recruiters and employers?
As recruiters, we can assure you that the CV still matters. A lot. You can’t apply formally for most jobs without one – for reasons we’ll get into below – and every candidate, from the new intern to the new CEO, will at some point have to swallow their pride and send along the humble CV.
The true value of a CV is that it allows a candidate’s record to take centre-stage. Other factors that can help people get jobs – like good connections, brash confidence, or simple dishonesty – are difficult to reproduce in a CV. Most people would agree this is a good thing.
The CV also remains the most convenient legal document for making a job application. If your CV is later found to contain false information, you can be legally and swiftly dismissed, something that would be much harder to prove if you said it in a job interview or wrote it in your LinkedIn profile.
The CV is unique in dealing in cold hard facts. Facts like the names of employers, the dates you worked there, and the positions you held. We do occasionally get a candidate who tries to muddy the details, but obfuscation will usually draw attention to itself. In other words, anything that looks amiss in your CV is more likely to be raised during interview.
CV OR RESUME?
To some, CV and resume are simply British English and American English terms for the same document. However, there is a technical difference between the two. A CV should include every job you’ve ever had, while a resume is a curated summary that works more like a sales pitch.
So which is better? In our experience, no employer would hire someone for any type of professional role without seeing a full overview of their career first. Which is why we always ask for a CV.
But here’s the thing: what we really want from you is one document that provides BOTH a comprehensive overview of your career AND highlights your biggest strengths. In other words, a CV that sells.
WHY RECRUITERS ASK FOR A CV
One advantage of applying through a recruiter or headhunter is that we can present you as a candidate directly to the hiring manager or HR, bypassing the client’s formal application process. But for that, we need something to show them, in other words your CV.
Your CV helps us get the facts of your career straight. It also serves as a bond between recruiter and candidate. Our clients will accept a CV as proof that we represent you. No other contract is necessary at this stage, because the last thing recruitment needs is more forms.
That’s why you should never put your CV online. No really, if your CV is somewhere on the internet, stop reading this and go take it down immediately. Only ever send your CV to a recruiter that you trust completely, and be aware that nobody has the right to share your CV with third parties without getting your permission first.
WHAT YOUR CV SHOULD LOOK LIKE
As recruiters for advertising and marketing positions, we get to hang out with some pretty cool-looking CVs. We also start to notice some patterns:
- The CVs of UX designers look like websites and are illustrated with fun little charts to illustrate how they are 50% better at CSS than they are at Spanish.
- The CVs of top executives are not shy about their achievements and they aren’t afraid to use BOLD UNDERLINED CAPITALS for emphasis.
- The CVs of the terminally hopeless list high-school achievements and come with a photobooth portrait attached.
Creative layouts are best when applying for freelance jobs or to smaller companies where your CV is more likely to be screened by a human being. The latest trend is for the single-page, two-column design that uses a grid layout and adds visual interest to avoid the death-by-bullet-point of the traditional CV.
However, most recruitment agencies will advise you to stick to the traditional format of headings followed by bulleted lists of responsibilities and achievements. This is fine. You can still make it appealing to the eye with some white space and well-chosen typography. Get a designer to help or use one of the handsome templates available online.
HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD CV
Now for the important part. How your CV looks is nowhere near as important as how it’s written. Fundamentally, the CV is an act of communication. It’s a test of your ability to explain to a person you’ve never met: (a) what you’ve done in your career so far and (b) what you can offer to your next employer. That requires empathy, the ability to ‘see it from their side’ and explain it in language they understand.
So go easy on the jargon and write like a human being. List your major achievements but don’t bore us. However, do over-explain. The jobs you’ve had may be deeply familiar to you, but others could be left scratching their heads. Very smart people can become so afflicted by the curse of knowledge that they forget to explain what it is they actually do.
Begin your CV with a summary of three to five lines that highlights your strengths in relation to the position being applied for. If your CV is well written, this is the only part you’ll need to change when applying for different jobs.
However, beware of too much special pleading. We’ve received CVs that were so front-loaded with skills and objectives that we had to flip over to the second page to find out what the person actually does. Needless to say, these are the CVs that run to five or six pages.
Unless you’ve had ten jobs or you’re listing academic publications, there really is little excuse for a CV to be more than two pages long. A crisp, single-page CV speaks volumes about a candidate’s ability to select and highlight what really matters, while not wasting a moment of their supervisor’s time.
Edit your CV regularly and keep the focus on what you’ve been doing in the last ten years or your most recent three positions. Anything before that should be covered briefly: position, dates, one or two sentences to explain. Education comes after career history, unless you’re a new graduate.
And one final point. Some people overlook the importance of their CV because they assume that the real test begins at interview. But look at it this way. We’ve never had a client with the liberty of so much time that they ask to meet candidates they don’t intend to hire. If you’re invited to interview, your CV has already persuaded the hiring manager that you qualify for the role. Now you only need to back up those assumptions in person, and the job should be yours.
AP Global Talent is the search specialist for marketing jobs in Japan. Think you’ve got what it takes to work in Tokyo? If you speak English and Japanese to business level and have at least one year of marketing experience, we’d love to hear from you! Contact us here. And yes, we do accept CVs…