I’ve always thought it was completely unsurprising that people who have not been trained in something would be less than expert when it comes to doing it.
So, why should we expect job applicants to be experts in CV writing?
Of course it’s impossible for employers to meet every applicant and so a CV or an application form is likely to be the method of shortlisting for some time to come.
One of the most frustrating things that I often hear from recruiters is ‘If the candidate doesn’t have a good CV then I’m not interested in them’. This statement really makes no sense unless you believe that ability to perform a given role is correlated with the ability to write what you believe is a suitable CV. Of course there is no reason why this should be the case. The one exception is if the job is ‘CV Writer’.
I find that there are many very good reasons that candidates who are ideal for a particular job lack ability in CV writing. Here are the main reasons:
This surely is not a bad thing. You are so good at what you do, valued by the employer and happy at the company that you have not had any cause to think about moving. You have almost certainly progressed within the company, but a CV was not always required for this progression since the employer knew your capabilities or an application form was used instead.
I have worked with people who have been with the same employer for 30 years or more. The time has come to move on but the change is quite daunting. What they don’t need is to be judged negatively based on a piece of paper.
This is particularly likely if you work in the public sector or in large companies.
Application forms typically test a different type of skill – the ability to write a single piece outlining why you are suitable for the job without being provided with any structure to follow. What this requires is judgement about content, structure and style. These are the same skills needed for a CV but in what is perceived as a very different context.
Having an up to date CV is of course good preparation for writing application forms. It ensures that you have all the dates and details together in one place. It gives you a summary of the content that you will use on the application form.
Some jobs involve moving from one fixed term position to another and can operate a little more informally. Candidates might feel like there is a clash of cultures if they suddenly have to start dealing with recruiters who require a CV.
Some schools and colleges educate students in CV writing. Some don’t.
Even if you were educated in CV writing then this will vary in its quality. It may also have been for a different location. The expected layout and content of a CV varies from place to place; although these differences are very often exaggerated. The differences that are significant include whether one page or two pages is the norm and whether or not a photograph is expected.
You may have been instructed to use a particular template and this might be limiting your ability to communicate your value. The ‘europass’ CV format is my least favourite template for example (and I hate templates in any case!)
The advice you were given may have been perfectly fine in a different time.
Competition may have been lower and decision making more straightforward. Things like personality profiling, personal statements and social media profiles may not have been around.
It happens. And let’s be honest: Bad advice is everywhere. Almost anyone will be willing to tell you how to write your CV. This includes friends, family, colleagues, business associates, government agencies and companies. They can’t all be right.
So, if you are in the same position as most others and you decide that your CV writing skills or your CV itself could do with some improvement, you have a number of options:
If you think that I can help with any of this then feel free to get in touch - Graeme@GraemeJordan.co.uk – and I can offer a free CV review to those that do.
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