Lynn, is the CV today more or less important?
It’s as important as it was back then. It was quite easy to produce a CV that would stand out, that was clear and well-printed and looked good. These days it’s actually quite difficult to produce something that will stand out from the 150-200 people who have also sent in their CVs.
In your workshops do you find people making obvious mistakes?
Very much so. And I still get people who bring their CV along and it’s just a list of jobs, just a list of the people they’ve worked for. There’s nothing about their skills, nothing about their achievements, nothing about their competencies — and that’s quite a key word that’s cropped up in the past few years. Companies hire competencies; they hire skills; they hire background; they hire experience.
So, how do you make your CV stand out?
I think the best advice I would give somebody now, in the current situation and probably for the future as well, is to customise your CV. I’m not sure that the day hasn’t gone when you could go to a CV-writing agency, get thirty copies of your CV and send them out to various people.
This is no good any more?
I don’t think it is. You might be lucky. You might have exactly what they’re looking for and you and might have somebody who’s got the time to sit down and read through your CV and pull out the key points, but what you really need to do now, to make sure that you stand out, is to pull those key points out for yourself. Make sure that you look at the job ad and look at exactly what they want, the key skills, qualities, background, experience and put those right at the top of your CV: name, personal profile, and your key strengths.
What’s the maximum length of a CV?
The preferred length is two pages, and unless you’re going for a very, very senior position — and I emphasise ‘very’ senior position — it shouldn’t be more than two pages. If you need to cut it down, look at your most recent two jobs and give details on that and condense the rest.
Is it ever acceptable to lie on your CV?
It’s absolutely never acceptable to lie on your CV, and you can actually be dismissed if anything you put on your CV is found to be wrong. Don’t forget we now live in the age of google, so people can find out exactly what you’ve done and who you’ve done it for — but really it shouldn’t be necessary to lie on your CV. It’s not necessary to dress things up, to make them look better. If you’re reading the job ad, looking at the skills that they want, and telling them when where and how you’ve demonstrated those you’re telling them exactly what they want. You shouldn’t need to dress that up at all.
Should a CV be a very dry statement of fact?
On the whole I would err on the side of being as dry and as professional and as businesslike as you can be. You can loosen it up at the interview if that’s the impression that you get, but I would be very careful about doing that on the first approach that you make to a company.
Having too much personality on your CV is more dangerous?
It can be off-putting, yes. I know people do it in an attempt to stand out, but I go back to what I originally said: if you’re looking at the job ad, if you’re looking at what they need, if you’re telling them exactly when, where and how you’ve demonstrated those skills it will be personal enough. You will be painting a detailed, professional picture of yourself.
Is customisation of CV the most important piece of advice?
That is the most important piece of advice I would give anybody.