Do you really want that job?

As a former Managing Director for HR for Europe Middle East and Africa, where we had 34 offices in 21 countries, I was engaged with selection at the top end of our business, Country Managers and so on. Even so I got 4-7 CVs coming to me every day.

Here is how I treated them:

  1. The 20 second rule: If I did not get the feel from 20 seconds worth of reading that this person could be a high performer in my business then the CV went into the bin.
  2. If I read beyond 20 seconds, and any one of the following were apparent, then it went into the bin:
    Spelling or grammatical errors

    • No accomplishments showing measurable results achieved
    • Poor layout, lack of structure
    • Hard to read fonts or mixing bold and italics with too much elaboration making reading difficult
    • Waffle, poor English, too much jargon, too many long sentences
    • Lack of detail: made me suspicious
    • Too long; only if you are over 55 can you run to three pages. I once had a 9-page horror complete with photos.
    • Manifest exaggerations
    • Anything other than white paper (yes we still used the post in those days)

Thing that got my attention:

Crisp clear simple short sentences with action verbs and phrases laid out in an easy to read manner with white space for me to add notes.

Name, telephone number and email at the top, but not in huge font size!

Sans Serif fonts make reading easy: Arial, Century Gothic etc.

Clear structure and accurate, concise details.

Above everything a list of accomplishments that demonstrate real achievement, with measures of success. High performers that can list accomplishments in a succinct and simple way with numbers catch my eye every time. “In 16 months improved sales by 49% in key sectors”.

Professional qualifications and education at the end; max 3 lines including your full and official university and school names, the years that you attended them, the courses that you took and the qualifications (grades) that you obtained. Where relevant you should add a short summary of your level of written and spoken language skills.

Where to start

Your name should be on the header of every page of your CV. The page number should be shown on the footer. Your CV should ideally be no more than two pages.

Then there should be a factually accurate summary of what you offer to the organisation you seek to join. Max 3 lines.

Next: Career history with summaries of the role and accomplishments

Your career history should be written in reverse chronological order. Potential employers are most interested in what you are currently doing. You need to be able to let the employer envisage the value you can add to their organisation.

Use a simple format:

  • Current/previous company name and a short summary of the company in your locationState the month and year that you started and finished with the company
  • Your responsibility in each position
  • State all your Job Titles in the company
  • You responsibility should be no more than 2 lines and can be in note form
  • Your key achievements or accomplishments in each position; this is the heart of your CV. Invest time in getting this right.
  • This should be written in 4-6 bullet points
  • Example(s) of what you have achieved in your position(s) with measures of success
  • State any awards, rewards or other recognition of your work

Be aware

Many employers now use checking agencies to verify claims made in CVs. If you claim to have attended University X and to have achieved a 1st Class Degree this is verifiable. Telling lies on a CV will lead to your name being blacklisted; and yes employers do tell each other about these things.

Above all

Don’t over-promote yourself. If you are a high performer you will have plenty of data that shows this. Top managers and HR people hate those that over-promise and fail to deliver.

Kind regards,
Rowan Jackson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *