Sending the right CV

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Barry Whelan offers some advice on how to make your CV as relevant as possible



18 April 2011

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CVIn today’s competitive market, hiring managers have a larger volume of applications to go through then ever before so job seekers need to make every word count when presenting a CV to a prospective employer. Whilst every candidate will want to present the story of their career progression, is it necessary to go all the way back to the beginning of your career history?
The answer to this is not black or white. The answer lies in each candidate’s career progression and the preference of the company recruiting.

Here in Excel as a rule of thumb we look for all the experience a person has had since leaving secondary education. This includes college jobs and casual work. We always feel it is important to see if a candidate demonstrates strong work ethic, for instance holding down a part time job while studying. We also feel it is important to account for all the time a candidate has spent in employment, to really build up a full picture of the experience gained. On the other hand – what relevance is that job cleaning glasses in a local bar or packing bags in the local supermarket to someone who for instance is a sales or store manager.

Most relevant experience to the fore

It really depends on each person’s experience. In order to make CVs relevant and avoid pages upon pages, we will often advise two definitive CV norms. Firstly work backwards leaving your most relevant experience to the fore. This is what the recruiting manager is looking for and also do not expand your CV beyond two pages. Again, this is to do with efficiency and the time available for a recruiting manager to actually read a CV.

Concentrate on last 10 years

We would also advise to concentrate on the last 10 years. There are two reasons for this. Firstly with the changes in technology and business practices, anything further back may become meaningless or at least an awful less relevant. I am not suggesting for a minute that if you have worked for the same company for only 10 years that you leave off the previous 20, but let’s say you worked for six companies for 15 years, simply concentrate on the last ten. Recent, relevant experience is the requirement of most recruitment managers.

However, there are also times when 10 years back just isn’t far enough; For example, a company may be looking for a controller with 20 years of experience. In this case, truncating your CV may be inappropriate.

Filter your information

While we would still advise to include your full career history; it is all valuable information and part of telling your story, but it is also important to really focus on your most relevant experience and that is your most recent. A 10 year career gap on a Curriculum Vitae may raise a red flag to a recruiting manager and will certainly raise some questions.

If you eliminate this experience altogether, you’re filtering information from the prospective employer that might just be the experience you needed to rise above the competition.

You just need to be clever about your CV and use the space on your CV properly. I don’t know how many times I open up a three or four page CV to find the words ‘CURRICULUM VITAE’ in bold size 20 font blazing across the first page like a banner ad! Folks, we know what a CV is at this stage and announcing it like a banner across the document is quite frankly a waste of space.

Presentation crucial

However far back a job seeker chooses to go, effective presentation is crucial. Showcasing key skills and accomplishments at the top keeps the recruiting manager reading, allowing more time to sell attributes. Unless there is something from your early career that is particularly noteworthy to highlight, older information tends to be placed towards the bottom of a CV and summarised completely. List early positions by title, name of the company and dates of employment only.

While there may be no black and white as to what should or shouldn’t be included on a CV, remember that the ultimate goal is to present oneself as the best possible candidate for the position at hand and one of the best possible ways to do that is to look to the information given in the job description for guidance.



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