Blend In or Stand Out?
If you were to be asked whether or not you were ‘just like everybody else’, how would you feel? We all want to feel that we are unique, quite rightly, and we are all unique, with a different set of life experiences; goals; attributes; skills and perspective, and yet, at times we modify our behaviour to either please others or to ‘not rock the boat’, whether that is at work, university or in a social setting!
I’m no expert on human behaviour; these are only personal observations, of my own and others. There is one place I have observed this as happening, one of the most important times a person SHOULD stand out from the crowd of their peers, and that place is on your CV!
Same old, same old….
Don’t believe me? Then I would have to ask myself why I keep seeing very similar descriptions of great ‘Hard working’ ‘team players’; people who can ‘work on their own initiative’; and ‘good communicators’.
It is really hard not to fall back on this type of phraseology, because these are the kind of skills and attributes that employers want in the people who they trust to ‘deliver outstanding results’ within their organisation.
Is it Really So Important?
As long as you get the message across, surely that is enough? Put yourself in the place of a recruiter who sees nothing but CVs pouring into his or her inbox, seeing the same old stock phrases must become so tedious, and most of these terms are almost a given.
A prospective employer would EXPECT you to be hard working, or a good timekeeper! The fact that you have mentioned it almost suggests that this is something special, as if everyone else will be saying ‘I’m not really a grafter, but we’ll see how it goes.’
There was a market stall in my home town, their speciality was discount food, toiletries, household goods and the like, and their strapline was ‘We’re here to treat you, not to cheat you!’ I’d walk past and think ‘So, was that in the business plan at one point, but you decided against it?’ It is a bit of a given, you want to shop somewhere that doesn’t have ‘ripping customers off’ as a significant part of their mission statement.
How Can You Sell Yourself?
Innovators throughout the world are marketing products and services that…a year ago, or five years ago, we didn’t know we needed, that is the whole essence of innovation isn’t it?
It is the same with you. What can you [and we have already established that you are unique] tell a recruiter that they didn’t realise that they needed? Obviously, your CV will tell the recruiter about all the relevant skills and experience that they have asked for, otherwise your CV may not even get near human eyes.
But can you also sweeten the deal? Adding some extras, some of the items in the 'desirable' section of the job description is a phenomenal way to raise the stakes.
A few years back, I had the privilege of working with a man who was simply awesome, an expert in his field, with incredible experience, after polishing his CV up, I introduced this man to someone on Twitter that I knew to be looking for such a candidate.
He called me after and said ‘You’ve really stitched me up here, I can’t afford to take this guy on, but I absolutely cannot afford to take him on!’ [he took him on…]!
6 Things you can do to stand out
Now, I am not suggesting anything too radical, but using a refreshing choice of phrases and syntax, pull out your Thesaurus [not for every word] and mix it up with an eloquent and articulate document, you are likely to stand out, and find yourself on the ‘definite maybe’ pile. Proof read, spell check, double check…read it out loud to make sure it makes sense.
A great format! Huge blocks of text are awful…just awful, and you will stand out for all the wrong reasons, split your CV up into sections that make it simple to extract all the relevant information…don’t leave the poor reader trawling through the document looking for the essentials and desirables.
Font choice! Sans Serif every time…as well as being robot friendly, humans also prefer something easy to read, and stick to the same font, or at least the same font family. Keep the font size uniform too. Go easy on the Bold; Underlining and Italics [and any combination of such], watch out for bolder fonts, if they are used in the normal [11pt] text, they may look a little blotchy – Arial Black looks good in headings, not so much for the rest.
Font Colour! There are several schools of thought on whether to change the colour of your headings and other elements of the CV, you should go with your gut on this, I have seen some that work better than others. Make sure that the colours are readable [avoid pastel pink], and that they are in harmony with a CV from a professional within your industry – I will let you be the best judge of what this means.
Tell the recruiter what you will do for him, lists of ‘responsibilities’ serve little purpose in terms of adding value, focus on achievements and the skills you use to get there! How will you increase the profit margin, save time and cost, and contribute to an awesome place to go for eight hours every day?
Draft a bespoke document. I am not ‘anti-template’ but you could run the risk of using a format that isn’t appropriate for your industry, some templates suggest details that are not relevant, such as date of birth and nationality. Finally, recruiters have a spidey-sense and will spot a template a mile off, it may not be a problem, on the other hand, the recruiter may prefer to notice how much hard work you have put into your CV.
Standing out for the sake of Standing out is not advisable…I have seen multi-coloured CVs, CVs with HUGE fonts, weird fonts, funky [and not so funky] photos in appropriate [and not so appropriate] settings. Elaborate boxes, grids and tables and all manner of variations.
You should aim for a slightly raised eyebrow in admiration of your creativity, rather than a CV Blooper that goes viral within 24 hours.
Feel free to send me your CV for a free Health Check along with your Linkedin URL.