Published on July 2nd, 2012 | by bubble1
CVs, Elevators and First Impressions
By Adam @BubbleJobs
Those of you that have read my blogs on CVs before will know that it’s one of my favourite topics to talk about. For those that haven’t… I do have more interesting past times but being a recruiter, CVs are something which are a part of my daily life. Screening, sifting, assessing, ranking, you get the gist.
When you see literally hundreds of CVs from keen job seekers looking for their next digital marketing job or web development career move, you do start to see patterns emerging when you start to look at elements such as format, style, layout and content. I started looking into this in a bit more detail recently, principally because I’m in the middle of a pretty big project and have had to look through more CVs than normal. And it occurred to me just how similar a lot of these CVs are.
Slight tangent here, but I promise it’s relevant. I recently had the ordeal, (sorry…pleasure) of delivering a best man’s speech at my cousin’s wedding. I’m pretty used to delivering speeches, but a best man’s speech is a bit different. I mean you’ve just got to get it right. Personally I’m much more comfortable with delivering a presentation to a room full of hundreds of people I don’t know compared to standing in front of family and friends trying to deliver amusing anecdotes about my beloved cousin.
It might sound like I’m digressing slightly here, but the point is, with my determination to get this speech right I thought I’d turn to the online world to see if I could find some useful tips about writing a good best man’s speech. I wanted to double check that I was following the correct protocol and that I was going to say all the right thank yous to all the right people in the right order etc. To my surprise, I hardly had to do any searching at all as there are loads of useful sites out there offering hints, tips and templates. There’s even sites where for a small fee you can download a near fully completed speech, (just requiring you to add the right names) with jokes guaranteed to get a laugh and you’re done.
Needless to say I avoided the temptation of taking the easy option and decided to note down a few key pointers and then create some original material. Let’s face it, nothing could be worse than reading a speech out that you’ve downloaded which turns out to be exactly the same as the one your mate gave when he was best man at the wedding you went to the week before. Right?
Well funnily enough when it came to the groom and father of the bride’s speeches, guess what happened? Yep, seems like they both went to the same site, paid their £10 fee and got exactly the same jokes, one liners and anecdotes as each other……AWKWARD!
Anyway, what’s this got to do with CVs and job hunting? Well the point is, after sifting through nearly a hundred CVs yesterday, I swear I could have created a pile of over 60 which had pretty much identical executive summaries or career profiles.
There’s only so many times you want to read, “able to work under own initiative or as part of a team” or “ability to multi-task effectively, strong communicator, excellent stakeholder management skills” I mean seriously?!
Does everyone STILL think these phrases impress your prospective employer? Do you think it’s original? Or is everyone visiting the same web resources or speaking to the same careers advice providers? Seriously these are the types of phrases I was being advised to put in my CV over 20 years ago.
My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that it’s down to plain old laziness. Now I know, “doing your CV” is one of life’s most tedious tasks. It’s a fact. But if you’re job hunting or considering your next career move, consider this. At the moment in the digital job market, over 25 people are applying for each vacancy, more in other areas of the online jobs landscape. 25+!!!
So if you really are desperate to get that next digital job you need to make sure you make your CV original. Not just in terms of layout, but in every aspect and especially the content. I know I sound boring but if you’re going to include an executive summary as the headline of your CV, then make it count!!!!
Your future employer isn’t going to put your CV at the top of their hotlist if you’ve got the same old phrases in there. Be a bit creative and think about some phrases or lines which really depict YOU. What do you bring to the party? What have you achieved? What are your real skills?
Take it from me, if you’re a HR manager or hiring manager as much as you want to recruit for your open vacancies, the task of reviewing CVs is one which gets put off as long as possible. When you finally get round to doing it you’re not really approaching it with any particular gusto or enthusiasm. Trust me, it sounds harsh but it’s true. So, if they’ve got 50 or a 100 CVs to get through before lunch, do you really think they’re going to even make it past the first half page of your CV? No chance!
First impressions count and that small piece of real estate is your prime CV property and the best chance you have to sell yourself. In a competitive jobs market like the digital jobs or e-commerce career sector, you need to make a high impact, instant impression. Seriously, no one wants to read that you’re a great team player or that you can work quite happily under your own steam. These days, that’s a given. What employers want to immediately see is that you are a candidate who can solve a specific problem…..after all, that’s why they’ve gone to the trouble of advertising the job vacancy!
Way back when, a little phrase came out in the business world. It was called the “elevator pitch”. I believe the concept refers to an imaginary scenario where you might find yourself in a lift, travelling between floors with a potential investor and you have 30 seconds to pitch your product or business idea.
Well imagine the same scenario where you’re in that lift with your prospective employer. Same scenario, same opportunity, only this time you’ve got 30 seconds to pitch yourself with a chance to land that dream job you’ve been longing for……. Is the first thing you’re really going to tell them is you’re an amazing team player but if required you’re happily able to work on your own without supervision? If it is, you’re only going to be going one way and that’s back down to the ground floor and most probably out the door.
No, in that 30 seconds, I’d hope you would like to convey that through the re-structure of the e-commerce platform you project managed, you’ve managed to increase site conversions to product sales by 50% in 3 months, or that SEO and link building strategy you implemented has delivered a fivefold increase in unique visitors. That’s what employers want to see and hear.
You need to grab their attention. And, if you’re a job seeker looking for your next career move, there’s no better place to deliver that message than right there at the top of the most important and valuable document you send out into the employer community.
So think about it…yes, it’s a chore, yes, it’s tempting to leave that “generic”, “one size fits all” summary at the top of your CV. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you just need to have a summary or headline at the top of your CV, (because that’s what everyone does) but that what really matters is the detail and bullet points you put down in your career history. Wrong! Yes your career history is important, but to have a chance of an employer even getting to that part you need a high impact opener which will encourage people to read on.
Think about it, newspapers have been doing it for years. The right headline to draw you into the story. So there you go, there’s a little bit of advice. If you’ve been getting frustrated and have been wondering why “that recruiter never got back to me!”, take another look at your CV. Read it through a third person’s eyes and ask yourself whether it would give you a good chance in that elevator? Yes it might take a bit of time, and a bit of effort, but if you’re prepared to put that in you just might see a big difference in your job search.
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