Myths of CV and resume writing

resume & cover letter Jul 21, 2016

As a career coach and former HR exec, I know first hand what makes a resume stand out. Equally, I know what makes a hiring manager drop a resume into the ‘No Way’ tray.

Many myths are propagated in relation to CVs and resumes. It’s a veritable minefield! In today’s blog, I’m busting some of those myths to help you avoid the common traps and shape your CV into something the hiring manager really wants to see.

1. CV content should be copied and pasted into LinkedIn

Not exactly. LinkedIn is a powerful tool, so we need to be very careful how we use it. The world – including headhunters and recruiters – can now access us there. Because LinkedIn doesn’t give us the opportunity to customise our profile depending on who’s viewing it, it’s even more important to take a focused approach to how we position ourselves in our online profile. While you definitely want to copy and paste some of the content from your CV – especially things like the titles of previous roles – you don’t want the entire kitchen sink in there. Your LinkedIn profile can be a bit more friendly and informal than your CV (using the first person “I”), but it should also be quite a bit shorter. Focus on elevator pitch-style summaries and use key words in your byline so that you come up in the search when recruiters are looking for candidates. The byline is not just your title from your current role, but rather, a personal brand statement.

2. Hiring managers spend 5 minutes reading a CV

Nope, they don’t! I hate to say it, but all those hours you put into crafting your resume, all the agonising and reading and re-reading are worth about 40 seconds of the hiring manager’s attention. This means that you need to communicate very quickly the reasons why they should keep reading. If you do that successfully, you might get another two minutes. When going through the initial stages of recruitment and whittling down the applications into the ‘A pile’ for interviews, the majority of content in your CV isn’t going to be read. Readability, white space and clear accomplishment statements make it easier for the recruiter to get a sense of your USP. Huge blocks of text do not. (Remember, no kitchen sink!)

3. Special styles and fonts make you stand out

Again, no! A lot of jobseekers are looking for new and different ways to highlight your individuality and unique skills and there are a lot of graphically designed CV tools online to help you do this. But I would say that these types of CVs only supplement a traditional CV. Don’t use special styles and fonts to stand out, rather, go for something that’s very simple and easy on the eye.

4. You need one CV that works for all positions

Sort of. You will need one CV that works for most positions, and that’s going to correlate to what’s on LinkedIn, but it will be necessary to customise around 20% of it for each application. See my recent blog ‘How to answer a hiring manager’s questions before they are asked’ for more help.

5. CVs should include everything you’ve ever done

It depends. Many people worry about gaps in dates, but the extent to which you should obsess about it depends on where you are in your career. If you’re later in your career and you’ve got 10+ years’ experience, it’s likely that what you did early in your career isn’t going to be as relevant to a new job as your most recent roles. So it’s not necessary to spell out all the detail of roles that aren’t relevant, instead you may want to collapse some roles together and include a one-liner just to cover the dates.

6. References, sports and hobbies are a part of every CV

This is a good one. I’ve heard people say ‘I got a job because I put down that I was a triathlete and the hiring manager was also a triathlete, and that’s how I got the interview’. That’s great, and it is important to build a personal connection with the hiring manager, but I would only put down sports and hobbies and interests if you have some sort of achievement to associate with them. For example, if you’re a runner, I don’t care. But if you ran the New York City Marathon, that might be interesting. If you ran it three times and raised money for charity, that’s even more impressive! You don’t need to worry about References and you don’t need to say that they’re available on request because that’s assumed. It isn’t necessary to go into the reference part of the hiring process until you’re at the contract negotiation stage.

Good luck getting your CV in shape. If you’d like some one-on-one support, register on my contacts page for some personal advice.

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