Self-interest is sometimes a wonderful thing. I just had an opportunity to learn from colleagues who had the enviable task of paper-sifting through more than 75 CV’s submitted as part of a recent recruitment campaign.
Why self-interest? Well, barring a major Lottery win, I know I will eventually be looking for another job, so, even though I can never guarantee I will be successful in my next application, I still want to make sure that my assumptions about techniques for getting through to the interview process are still valid.
Although getting a job is the ultimate goal in the process, getting an interview is really what it is all about; interviews are your chance to shine, to use your undoubted abilities and charm to woo the employer in a way your CV alone cannot do.
So, having learnt a few things (and having had a few things I already knew, confirmed), I thought I would share with you. They say that free advice is worth every penny; I would submit that this particular free advice IS worth at least your time, if not your cash, especially if you want to keep earning when you leave The Job.
All the reviewers I spoke with had similar observations about the bulk of the unsuccessful CV’s. In fact, the consistency was remarkable – it was as if many unsuccessful applicants had all taken the same (wrong) advice. The pragmatist/cynic in me suggests that it was more likely that many unsuccessful applicants had either not taken advice, or that they had ignored advice they had been given….
Aside from those candidates who are unsuitable, insufficiently experienced, or under-qualified (and there’s not much a CV can do about those things when there are specific technical requirements for a role), my research suggests that the following are common reasons that CV’s get paper-sifted out.
- Police jargon and acronyms. I have blogged on this before, especially acronyms, but it is still a regrettable feature of many CV’s coming from coppers. Even if you are going for a Police job, it is a common rule of the written word that the first time you use an acronym, you should give the reader the courtesy of S.I.O (Spelling It Out). This is even MORE important if you’re applying for a post in another country, because they may use A.D.A (a different acronym). As one of my colleagues said when we discussed this: “When a Senior Detective leans over and asks a staff member what a particular acronym means; you know that the application is likely to struggle”. If I don’t know what being the SIO in an MCO for a busy BCU actually means, then I am going to be unconvinced that you’re the OFTJ (one for the job). S.I.O!
- Match your cover letter with your CV. Several cover letters really did sell the applicant. However, when compared with the CV, guess what? They didn’t match. They were glowing, valedictory appraisals of what appeared to be potential interviewees, who simply did not evidence their skills in their CV. A waste of time, really, especially with more than 75 applications to wade through.
- Match your CV with the actual job. Honestly, how many times does this have to be repeated? If you arrest someone for Going Equipped for Theft, they have to:
- be not at their place of abode and
- have with them an article
- made, used or adapted… etc etc.
So, if a job description requires:
- a driving licence and;
- programming skills and;
- the ability to hop on one leg whilst whistling ‘Dixie’.
…then you NEED to evidence these things. In the CV. You should assume nothing, because for many reviewers, if it is not in the CV, it is not evidence. Absence of evidence, in this regard, is often seen as evidence of absence, whatever Sherlock Holmes may have said.
- Be clear about your skills. Define what you mean and then read it back out loud to a “critical friend”. Unless you are not human, you will always write something that you think means one thing, when in fact it means another. Never written an email that you wish you hadn’t sent because of the frantic explanations you ended up having to give? Of course not, ‘cos you’re perfect…. The same thing applies to your CV. Make sure you are clear and that your understanding is what others would understand.
A short while ago, having had a “critical friend” rip my efforts at CV writing apart, I paid a small fee for an expert to do the job with me (note: “with”, not “for”). I can honestly say it took all the stress out of the job and made me see CV writing in a different light. With that knowledge, having reviewed some of the recent batch of CV’s, I can see similarities in the successful ones (that got an interview) and I can see different similarities in the unsuccessful ones (the ones that didn’t get past the paper-sift).
Maybe it is time to get your CV looked at? Just sayin’ ………..
this guest blog post appears courtesy of Carl Mason
Head of Organisational Review and Development – RVIPF (Royal Virgin Island Police Force)