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How Good Is Your CV

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By Imonikhe Ahimie

How good is Your CV?

Due to the fact that the jobs market, in every part of the world, is an increasingly difficult one, the job-seeker has a duty to him or her to put his or her best foot forward, so to speak, right from the time he or she starts out looking for that job.

First impressions count; perhaps even more so when one is seeking for employment. A commonsensical view indicates that there are more seekers for jobs than there are spaces for them. The days when governments declared full employment as a cardinal goal are long gone; it does not seem likely that such goals will become common again anytime soon!

The commonsensical view regarding jobs availability is clearly supported by practical evidence. Indeed, looking from a historical perspective, it has always almost been true that available paid employment has always been less than the numbers of those who seek such employment. As the 21st century progresses, the situation is likely to grow even more difficult for the aspiring employee. To qualify for a job, the aspiring employee requires increasingly complex qualifications; this at a time when the opportunities for gaining such qualifications are becoming less and less affordable.

 It would seem that at no time in history has the Master’s saying being more apposite: For everyone who has will be given more and he will be given abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (See Matthew 25: 29)

The vast majority of job-seekers will never get that job they aspire to, even when they have all the qualifications that qualify them for the job. Why? Simple! The resume such folk have submitted are just plain lousy; too many resumes contain such basic errors that help to screen out otherwise qualified applicants.

 HR departments the world over are swamped with resumes from would-be employees; the HR practitioner has no time to be an editor for the aspiring employee. Clearly, therefore, since the first reviewer of a resume has no time to sift through every resume on his or her desk searching for the information that qualifies the job-seeker for the position applied for, the onus is upon the job-seeker to present such information in a manner that enhances his or her chances of getting the job that he or she seeks.

Research shows that if a resume does not catch the attention of the first reviewer in the first 20 to 30 seconds of the reviewer looking at the resume, the chances of such a resume progressing to the subsequent stages of the employment process is extremely dim: a resume that is not short listed for the subsequent stages of the process can be considered to be a wasted resume; in truth, that is what it is. The aspiring employee should endeavor not to waste his or her time as well as the time of the HR reviewer.

There are quite a number of errors that occur in the resumes that applicants submit; perhaps the most striking is the absence of what one might call an impact statement. Simply defined, an impact statement is a carefully crafted sentence that tells the reviewer why the applicant is uniquely qualified for the position applied for.

Such a statement is best placed at or near the top of the resume so that it catches the reviewer’s attention in that critical 20 to 30 seconds time frame. It can be done in slightly larger font size and/or in bold. In crafting the statement, the applicant should have in mind that the impact statement is not a career objective statement, which statements are fairly commonplace in resumes.

Whilst a career objective statement may be useful, it is probably better to omit such a statement if the job specification does not actually, or by necessary implication require it. Whilst the short, medium and long term progression of the applicant’s career may be of great importance to him or her what is likely to concern the prospective employer now is how and why the applicant will be an asset to the employer.

Another major shortcoming common in resumes is the length; too many resumes are just too long! The longer a resume is, the longer the time is that is required to extract relevant information from the document and, because reviewers like most other folk are generally disinclined to search for needles in haystacks, most reviewers will simply discard an overly long resume: he or she has perhaps a hundred more resumes to assess! Applicants ought always to keep in mind that 20 to 30 second limits; if you don’t catch the reviewer’s attention in that time frame, you may (almost certainly) kiss that dream job goodbye.

If at all possible, keep a resume to just the one page; at all events, anything exceeding two pages is almost certainly too long.  In this regard, over lengthy sentences are a no-no; the resume writer ought never to use two, three or more words where a single word will do. Organization is vital; way too many resumes lack any form of organization. Language that is merely descriptive of the job which is being applied for should be avoided in favor of direct focus on such things as responsibilities, achievements, and measurable performance indicators.

If, for instance, the job seeker is an Account Executive in his or her current situation (or was, if he or she is currently unemployed, in his or her last employment), a general description of the functions of an Accounts Executive is unlikely to set the reviewer afire. The reviewer is more interested to know about the achievements of the job seeker in that position, e.g. how many new business accounts did the job seeker develop in that position. Of course, achievements etc. that are included in the resume should support the impact statement.

The applicant should always keep in mind that a resume is just a collection of statements designed to bring the reader of the document to the same point of view as the one that is held by the writer of the document. Having said this, it ought to be remembered that what convinces one person may not necessarily convince another.

Different jobs may require different resumes; far too often, job seekers create a resume and send it to all manner of potential employers. It is well worth the job-seekers while to carefully read and understand the specifications attached to a particular job and arrange his or her resume in such manner as will best position him or her for advancement in the employment process.

Of course, the fact that the applicant has to put his or her best foot forward does not mean that the job speaker should engage in dishonesty, whether overt or covert. Too many resumes are marred by what, putting it as mildly as possible, can only be described as integrity issues. Of course, it can be extremely uncomfortable to admit to certain information about oneself; however, it is certain that on balance it is always better to put all such facts into the open and, in the job seeking process, the best place to do this is in the resume.

In an era when background checks are increasingly commonplace in employment processes, it is most unwise to wait until the interview stage or, worse, after the job seeker has transited to employee before such dishonest information comes out. The experience of, for instance, a one-time Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives (Nigeria) is a clear indication of the potential dangers attached to using false information in getting a job.

Too many resumes contain just plain irrelevant information. As stated earlier, read the job specifications carefully and understand them. If the specifications do not directly or by necessary implication require some type of information then such information ought not to be included. Such information as about the job seeker’s hobbies, religious or political affiliations, etc. often have no positive effect on a resume. At best, they just add pages to the document. Usually, if the employer has any interest in these matters, they will come up at the interview stage, after the job seeker has scaled the first hurdle in the process.

Remember, we live in an increasingly interconnected world; never has the world being more a global village than it is today, and all indications are that it will become increasingly so. Before sending out resumes, the applicant may want to carefully go through the information that he or she has posted online, particularly on social websites, and, insofar as is possible, remove all information that the job seeker does not want in the hands of employers. The case of the South Korean man who, on holiday in the Netherlands, smoked marijuana (a perfectly legitimate thing to do in the Netherlands) posted the information on a social website and subsequently lost his job back home in South Korea as well as facing criminal charges ought to be cautionary enough.

User friendliness is vital and too many resumes are not user friendly. The job-seeker should print his or her resume on plain white good quality bond paper. Formatting should be consistent, i.e. avoid fancy fonts, unnecessary underlining, colors, sidebars and the like. In short, the job seeker should keep his or resume simple. Complexity only helps to keep the applicant an applicant in perpetuity.

Finally, a list of seemingly idiot checks:

  • Spell check. The job seeker will certainly feel like an idiot if he or she finds out that the job was lost because of spelling errors. Most modern word processing programs come with a spell checker. Use it! Invest, also, in a dictionary; I recommend Chambers, but any dictionary suitable for primary school use ought to meet the applicant’s requirements. Most jobs don’t require you to be Wole Soyinka or Chinua Achebe.
  • Print out the resume and read it. Reading a paper copy often alerts one to mistakes that are not immediately obvious on a computer screen.
  • Make sure that the proper contact information is included. The job seeker will certainly feel like an idiot, and probably is one, if he or she finds out later that an interview opportunity or even the job itself was lost because the employer could not contact him or her. In particular, email addresses should be checked; it may be useful if the job seeker has a particular email address dedicated solely to applications. It’s probably better to use free email accounts, e.g. Yahoo and Google, rather than paid for accounts which can be suspended if you miss a payment.
  • Get someone else to read the resume. A second opinion (from a trusted friend or colleague) goes a long way to give a resume that extra edge that might just clinch the job.

Happy job hunting.

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