Ask James Caan 21st March 2011
This week, in his Q & A column, James Caan discusses CV technique and tips for graduates looking to give their application the edge.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s column focusing on small business start-ups. I really believe UK SMEs will help to re-build the economy and should be provided with as much support as possible.
This week, I’d like to focus your attention on CV advice for graduates, thanks to an email from Kushalraj. He tells me he graduated around six months ago with an MBA in International Business. Despite a gleaming academic track record, he’s finding it hard to find a job and has little response from the agencies he’s been using. As such, he’s asked me to look at his CV and provide any suggestions to give him the edge over his competition.
Kushalraj, the latest figures state that unemployment is still increasing. It has reached 2.53 million, the highest figure since 1994, and has affected all levels of worker in most industries.
Add to the mix the fact you’re a fresh graduate – part of a group of workers who are missing out on opportunities offered to previous years – you’re really going to have to up your game to get a prospective employer’s attention.
One way to up your game and begin to really shine is re-evaluating your CV. Having looked at your CV, I can see you’ve obviously put a lot of effort in. It’s clear, well structured – you’re off to a great start. You follow fundamental advice and it’s relatively easy to scan.
I’ve covered CV advice many times before, many areas of which I’m certain you will have heard, but especially in today’s climate, there’s a difference between reading advice and acting upon it.
A CV does not have to follow a particular pattern, even though there are certain elements that are givens. There is no grid that you must follow. Writing a CV is not a science. It requires judgement; it needs intuition.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of resources dedicated to crafting the perfect CV. Having spent 25 years in recruitment, I’ve seen a lot of applications. I know what an applicant has to do to get noticed; I know that one size does not fit all. The formulaic 2-page CV is a firm favourite with people, it forces them to condense content, but it really does depend on the desired industry.
The first thing that strikes me with your CV, Kushalraj, is that you’ve amassed a terrific range of experience, but your personal profile summary could do with much more punchier text.
You mention that you’re seeking experience in customer service, business administration, sales and retail management, and other management – perhaps it’s worth tailoring this list to a specific job? Hone your experience, make it fit an opportunity.
Remaining on the theme of tailoring your application, how do you use the services of a recruitment consultant? Do you fire off your CV in the hope they’ll pick up the phone? I’d suggest signing up to a number of agencies and uploading your CV to industry-specific databases. Get your name out there to really capitalise on any potential leads.
When deciding what content to include, ask yourself: is this piece of information relevant to me getting this particular job? You have listed your previous responsibilities – but why not replace them with your achievements within each job?
I’ve noticed an increasing number of people putting links to their social media profiles. This is a great idea. If I want additional information before picking up the phone to you, I can delve further into your skill set by, for example, looking at your LinkedIn profile. Use anything you can to support your case and really sell your skills.