Tackling the Job Market | Part 2: Your CV

With the rate of unemployment at its highest for the past five years, I decided to create a three-part series on Tackling the Job Market. Job hunting is a full time job. It can be overwhelming and often gruelling. The purpose of this series is to help you find your way, particularly today, with the increase in applicant competition.

This is the second of a three-part series. Part 1 tackled how to approach your job search. If you missed it, you can find it here: Part 1: The Search.

Good luck to all currently job searching at this time.

Your CV can make or break your application / approach. The vast majority of the time, I pay attention to the CV more than anything else. It tells me all I need to know about you… and guess what, I’m judging you.

As a Recruiter, you simply do not have time to call every single candidate. You may do this as a rookie, but you quickly learn, the quality of a CV often reflects the quality of a candidate.

A Recruiter working with a high number applications and vacancies has to be efficient in order to meet their stakeholders’ requirements. This means they regularly have to judge who is worth speaking to based on the CV.

23 Pages

Yep, I have seen a 23-page CV, and I’m sure I’ve seen a CV longer than that. No one has time to read a 23 page CV. If you are an experienced professional, your CV should be no longer than two(or three, at a push, pages). If you are a fresh graduate, please deduct one page.

CVs are old school TiKToKs. They should be punchy, presenting a high-impact snapshot, highlighting relevant key skills, experiences and achievements.

Magic Bullets

Please, break up the descriptions of your roles with bullet points. At the speed a Recruiter reviews a CV, your paragraphs can quickly look like a clump of words jumbled together. Separate the points you are trying to make with bullets. Consider the reader, and ensure the content of the CV is in a digestible format.

Yep, we’re still on bullets: • vs ★ vs ✓

Your CV is not an ode to yourself. Your CV’s purpose is to make an impression on a professional who does not know you. What do you want that impression to be? When selecting bullet points, please consider the company, department and role you are pursuing. Also consider the reader, and their position and seniority.

You can never go wrong with the classic bullet, it’s simple, clean and professional — a personal favourite 💁🏾‍♀️
★ Ehhh… this one depends on the industry, I still wouldn’t recommend it though
No. Just…. No. Your CV is not a checklist.

Photo on CV

Personally, I’m not a fan of putting your photo on your CV, but if you decide to do this, consider why. What value will the photo bring? Perhaps you’re working in a front-office role and this is a way for you to show you are “friendly” and “approachable”.

I really don’t feel this is necessary, your CV is not a form of photo ID so please make sure the photo adds real value to the application. I do believe as time goes on, this will become a faux pas, if it isn’t already.

Formatting

Uniformity is a key element to your CV. How you choose to approach this creates an impression of your working style. Inconsistent fonts and sizes scattered through a CV shows poor organisational skills and attention to detail. You may want to use a different font or size for the title or headers, but ensure you apply clear rules around this so there is consistency and uniformity. Don’t forget to put yourself in the position of the person reviewing your CV, they don’t know you so don’t assume they will understand your logic. Keep things streamlined, clean and simple.

Content

Sometimes it can be tricky to know how much detail should go into a CV. You want to avoid overloading your CV with information. Equally, you want to provide enough detail to help the reader visualise you in your roles.

Too much detail

I get it. You don’t want to leave anything out because you never know what will come in handy. The problem with this approach is that too much detail can be overwhelming for the reader, making it difficult to pinpoint the important elements they are looking for. In addition, this is often perceived as an inability to succinctly communicate.

Too little detail

I get it. You want your CV to be clean and light. Each role simply has one bullet point, providing a very high level summary of your role or achievements. This is not enough detail and actually does you a disservice. You may get a call for more information but this then means time on the call is spent building up your CV, rather than using your CV as a launchpad for a quality conversation about what you’ve done and how.

Just right

I have two quick rules to help you get this “Just right”.

  • Summarise your experience with four to eight bullet points; the longer the sentence, the fewer the bullets
  • Ideally one bullet should be one line on your CV

LinkedIn

Visibility

Once I see an interesting CV, the first thing I do is go to the LinkedIn profile. If I cannot find you on LinkedIn, I interpret this as either your CV not being completely authentic, or that you are out-of-touch. Considering I work in the tech space, and LinkedIn is a tech platform that every professional should be on, being out of touch is a big red flag for me.

Content

LinkedIn and your CV should be in-sync. Even if you choose to leave out the bullet points depicting your role, the chronology, companies and job titles must match. A mismatch puts your integrity and/or ability to pay attention to detail under question.

Photo

This is also the place where your choice of photo matters. You have two options here:

  1. Use a professionally taken photo
  2. Use a photo taken by someone else, that ideally shows the upper quarter of your torso and upwards — your photo should show your face clearly

Basically, no toilet selfies overlaid with a SnapChat filter please. 👻

Activity

I’m not going to dictate how to participate on LinkedIn, but do bear in mind, your activity may be looked up. To be safe, interact in a respectful way, even with people you may disagree with.

Social Media

More and more Recruiters and employers are checking social media to get a true depiction of your personality. Again, I’m not comfortable telling you how to behave on personal social accounts, but do bear in mind, others may also see and draw their own conclusions.

Personal Details

This point is specifically referring to the personal details at the top of the CV. Please remove details that have nothing to do with your job, i.e. date of birth, marital status, number of children, blood type, etc. As well as these details being unnecessary, it is unlawful to filter your CV based on this information so it’s just best to leave these out.

Housekeeping

Once upon a time, spelling and grammatical errors. The End.

Please pay attention to the blue and red zig-zags that appear under words, and use the available spelling and grammar check features available. The odd mistake is fine, but a CV littered with errors is a surefire way to not receive a phone call.

CV Template

I have created a very basic CV template for you to use as a starting point. In order for this to work effectively remember to:

  • Keep details simple and relevant, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here
  • Research the roles you are interested in and ensure your suitability is reflected in your skills and / or experience and/or achievements
  • Google sample CVs for inspiration on how to construct your sentences (for instance your CV should not be written in first or third person, but a version that removes pronouns)
  • Research the industry to understand and apply industry expectations
  • Don’t forget to stick to the two-page rule (ideally one page less for grads)!

If you’re a fresh graduate:

  • Replace ‘Career History’ with ‘Work Experience’
  • Highlight your key skills and education more heavily
  • Move the Education section above Work Experience

I could go on forever, so I’ll stop here. Hopefully, I’ve shared enough to help you build a solid foundation for your CV. If you would like more specific feedback or advice, feel free to contact me.

In Part 3, the final segment, we tackle… the Interview. See you there! 👋🏾

You can find the full catalogue of my articles on my personal website, Medium and LinkedIn.

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Lola Oguntokun

Lola Oguntokun

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I help build, shape and champion innovative companies and culture.