Your CV: Creating the right first impression (Part 2)

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Writing a CV can seem like a daunting task! We often read and hear about what information to include when creating your CV – and yes! That is very important. However, it’s also useful to know what shouldn’t be included. Here’s part 2!

Click here for Part 1

CONTENT: WHAT YOUR CV SAYS ABOUT YOU!

Skills

We come across a multitude of CVs that list ‘SKILLS or EXPERTISE’ –

  • Outstanding Leadership Skills
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Impressive Business Acquisition Capabilities

These are great skills to list, however they’re simply words on a CV – these intangible skills require evidence in the form of examples. 

For example: ‘Outstanding Leadership Skills’ – I successfully recruited, developed and managed a team of 5 direct reports i.e. Junior Sales Reps. I provided the initial training and continued to invest time and effort into developing my team. By the end of their first quarter they were all hitting their sales targets and onboarding between 2 and 5 new clients on a monthly basis.

Please also be selective over the skills that you list. Your CV should highlight the skills most prevalent to the job you’re applying for.

For example, if it’s a Sales Manager position, then key skills would include:

  • Solid Key Account Management; relationship building and client satisfaction.
  • Effective Management; managing a team of Sales Reps.
  • Accurate Sales Reporting and Analysis.
  • New Business Development.

Skills that would not necessitate mention, could include:

  • Able to create great PowerPoint Presentations.
  • Report generation using Excel.

Whilst these are key skills, they are also covered already in the core skills – one would assume that the Sales Reports would be generated on Excel, and that PowerPoint presentations would be necessary as part of New Business Development initiatives. Rather include these points in the body of your CV, under ‘duties and responsibilities’.

Most important of all is to list skills that you’re actually proficient in. For example, listing Photoshop as a skill but having very little real working experience with the programme is a recipe for disaster. More companies are utilising skills assessment tests, as part of the interview process. If you do have experience with Photoshop but it’s limited then state that:

Photoshop (basic knowledge: approximately 6 months’ working experience).

Work Experience

Rule of thumb is to include every position you’ve worked. Most agencies and hiring companies will want to ‘fill in the gaps’ since leaving High School or University. Listing each job however, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to list duties. As an example:

December 2004Matriculated
January 2005 – December 2005Travelled around the United Kingdom. Waitressed to make additional income.
January 2006 – December 2008Waitress at Waxy O’Connors whilst studying towards Degree.
January 2009 – December 20102-year internship with [company name]
– Job duty 1
– Job duty 2
– Job duty 3

Tip: Don’t copy duties straight from your previous contract. When you include your job duties/descriptions, adjust them to reflect your actual experience. It’s always advised to compose your CV in your own ‘tone’ – this will result in a more accurate, well-thought-out and consistent CV, that is a true reflection of you and your experience!

Tip: Job duties prior to your current position should ideally be written in past tense.  

For example:

  • Check stock reports for discrepancies and report findings to Management.

In past tense:

  • Checked stock reports for discrepancies and reported findings to Management.

Tip: We’ve noticed an increasing trend for job duties to be written in paragraph/story form. This doesn’t make for an ‘easy read’ for recruiters and hiring managers. You ideally want your duties to be concise and impactful. We have found bullet points to be the most effective form for duty listing.

References

Firstly, never include your current employer as a reference. We have heard too many horror stories whereby a current employer was contacted for a reference!

In fact, we don’t believe it’s necessary to include your references at the first stage of the application process. Instead:

  • State on your CV that references are available upon request.
  • Have a saved document ready – which lists all your references.
  • Include the following information:

Company: ABC Company
Name of Referee: Mr Joe Soap
Designation: Managing Director
Work contact number: (031) 123 4567
Mobile number: 083 123 4567
Work email address: joesoap@abccompany.co.za

Please note: it is always best to 1.) ask for your referee to be a referee on your CV and 2.) receive confirmation from him/her that they are happy for you to include their mobile numbers and email addresses.

Tip: A referee should ideally be your Direct Line Manager. Someone who can attest for your work ethic, attitude as an employee, and general skills and capabilities in your position.

Tip: Ideally, your referee will still be working for the same company. However, this is not a requirement! If your Direct Line Manager has subsequently left the company and is now working elsewhere, you can still list them as a referee, but make a note on the reference listing:

Company: ABC Company (no longer with the company, now working for DEF Company)
Name of Referee: Mr Joe Soap
Designation: Managing Director

Lastly, at the time of referencing we always recommend that our candidates contact their referees first, to let them know that “Megan from Futurelink will be calling for a reference”. This not only gives the referee a ‘heads up’ to expect the call, but also allows for a ‘memory refresh’, especially if it’s been a good number of years since you worked for them.

FINAL CHECKS – WHAT YOUR CV SHOULD LOOK LIKE WHEN IT IS FINISHED

You’ve found the perfect position that you’d like to apply for, you’ve tailored your CV for that position and ensured that you’ve only included useful and relevant information. You’re ready to go right?

No! Don’t just send it. Proof-read your CV and application email before sending it! In fact, we recommend having a friend or family-member proof-read it too.

Your CV is one of the most important documents that you will compose; so spend the right amount of time and effort making sure it’s a perfect representation of you!

If you can take one thing away from this blog it should be: make an effort. The more effort you invest into composing your CV, the greater your chances of success. Recruiters and hiring managers notice these simple details.

Megan Moffett

Author