Winning the job search arms race

Mon, 10/09/2012 - 11:31 -- nick

This is one of Richmond Solutions' excellent blogs on writing a CV. In it you will find information on how to make sure your CV gets read and how to make it stand out. The most important points are not to lie, not to put in any information on your weaknesses, and making sure you are seen as an individual through including all your achievements and making sure you don't leave some of your older ones out.

'Consider this.

What job are you in? Are you a Civil Engineer, a Public Servant, a Plasterer, a Nurse? Something else? A bit of everything?

Ok. How many other people are in your jobn? Have you ever sat down and considered that? Unless you have a very niche skill set, and depending on whether your job market is local, regional, national or international, it’s going to be in the tens, even hundreds of thousands.

So why are you starting your CV by telling the world you are “unique”? Even if you are not doing that, why are you writing the same opening paragraph as everyone else in your profession? Yes, of course you are an inspirational leader and innovative problem solver who is committed and all the rest of it. So are the other 236 people who’ve applied for the same role.

Job application processes that start by asking for a CV are not exactly cutting edge human resources practice. They are, however, still far and away the normal method. So asking yourself how you are really different from the competition is terribly important. It is also very hard.

Just about everyone now knows that a CV should include words and phrases often used in adverts, job descriptions and person specifications to get past software driven or HR conducted competency checks. Consequently, almost everyone now does this. So, once this hurdle has been surmounted, what happens?

Your CV gets read. The reader is looking for reasons to eliminate you from the race. They are also looking for reasons to fall in love with your application. After all, there’s (normally) only one role to fill.

How do you stop yourself being eliminated quickly? How do you stop being an “automatic” fail. Start by being selective in what you tell the world. Don’t lie, that’s a disaster in the making. But never put anything forward that hints at a weakness, or seems somewhat diffident about your abilities.

I’ve just seen a rather extreme case of this, a CV which read like an annual appraisal report. It balanced the good with the bad. Honest. Commendably so. Doomed. Why admit you can only run projects of “minor complexity”? You can run a project. Leave it at that.

Having avoided this disaster, now you need to shine. This is where your achievements come in.

When I write CVs and LinkedIn profiles for people I interview them at some length first. A client last year described it as like being cross-examined by your defence barrister in a criminal trial, which was a rather striking analogy. What I try to do, what any good career advocate will do, is to bring the best out in your story and hide its weaker elements.

Time after time clients tell me “I’d never thought of it that way”, or “Yes, I suppose that was very different” or “I’d totally forgotten I invented the mobile phone”. Ok, the last one is an exaggeration, but you get the point.

We are, ultimately, individuals, even if there are 560,000 other people doing what we do. Thankfully we all, therefore, have a different story to tell. Telling this unique story well is how you win the jobs search arms race.

David Welsh

Via Richmond Solutions