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Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...

#1 Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
10/03/2006 16:17


I've been screening CVs all day, and thought I would channel my annoyance into some advice for people applying to consulting firms. Here are a few principles of CV design that I would like to draw your attention to. So in no particular order...:

Length – 2-3 pages should be sufficient to summarise your career even if you are Bill Gates… We understand that you want to give us as much detail as possible, but the ability to describe yourself succinctly is important. I opened a CV this morning that was 16 pages long. Not a good idea. I don't have time to read your life story.

Grammar – CVs should be written in the first person or be ‘person-neutral’… Writing in the third person, e.g. “Bob worked on…” is just distracting. We are assuming you wrote this document. It should read that way.

No photos – Don’t get me wrong. They’re normally pretty entertaining, but they don’t ‘add’ anything to the application. Quite the opposite in fact... Do you really want us to assess how you look?

Chronological, rather than skills based – We want to know who you worked for and when, and what you did there. If there are gaps, tell us what you were doing. Don't use sweeping generalisations about your abilities. Telling us you are a “strategic thinker” is fairly meaningless. Your skills should be evident from your explanation of your achievements in your previous roles.

Education – Unless you are a recent graduate, we really don’t need to know where you went to high school, or that you got a B in A Level Geology. We do want to know what degree level qualifications you have and where you studied.

Professional Development – We don’t need to know every development course you've ever taken. Selected highlights of relevant ones are fine.

Summary – We like it when you provide a brief summary of your career/aspirations at the top of the CV.

Hobbies and Interests – Honestly, we don’t care. The theory sugegsts that this stuff shows what a well-rounded person you are. They inevitably just lead to us making assumptions about you - and not necessarily the ones you are hoping for. Unless the hobbies have some bearing on your ability to do the job, your passion for flamenco dancing or star trek conventions just aren’t relevant. If you MUST include this stuff, try and keep it recent. It's 2006. Your completion of the London marathon in 1987 isn't as impressive as you might think.

Family Situation – You may be married to Janet with two young kids (Billy aged 7 and Bobby aged 9), but we don’t need to know that. We don't need to know whether you are married / single / whatever. It pains me to say it, but it's even less sensible for women to point this stuff out. Some less ethical organisations may not see the presence of young children as a bonus...

Ability to work in UK – If you are a non-EU national, we need to know you have appropriate work permits in place. Be specific. Being on a Working Holiday visa is very different from being on the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme.

PROOF-READ THEM – You wouldn't believe the number of CVs that have typos in them! What sort of first impression do you want to give? If you can't can't ensure that a two page document about yourself is error-free, why should I feel confident about your ability to compile a report or presentation for one of our clients. Write it. Check it. Check it again. Then get two or three other people to check it.

Apologies if this comes across as grumpy and/or blindingly obvious, but if it means I revieve a few less dud CVs, I'll be a much happier recruiter!

Happy job hunting...


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#2 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
11/03/2006 11:23


Hello RG, is it really you? Are you back? Did you take a sabbatical or something? Good advice and welcome back, your fans were missing you!

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#3 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 07:49

what a load of old tosh....

You are suggesting leaving off A level qualifications and adding a personal statement? quaint....

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#4 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 10:27

CVer in the know

“what a load of old tosh....”’s response to RecruitGal’s post is illustrative of how people never take the time to properly understand what they are reading. You would not believe the amount of applications submitted incomplete and automatically rejected because the applicant never bothered to read or didn’t properly understand and follow the application instructions to the letter. And this happens to aspiring consultants from all levels, from all backgrounds. Intelligence is not the problem, rather attentions to details and thoroughness. RecruitGal said to leave off your A Level qualifications UNLESS you are a recent graduate. And she said a “brief summary of your career/aspirations at the top of the CV” not a “personal statement”. The career summary, most often, is the only text of your CV that is search-accessible when your CV is placed in a database. It must contain your key qualifications and skills; your key roles and/or achievements; the names of the companies where you worked, if they are blue chip names; your degrees and where you got them. All of this should not exceed 1000 characters with spaces. 1001 won’t do because, as you know, database fields have strict limits.

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#5 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 10:29


Hello... No, I haven't been anywhere, just busy with Q1 recruiting! I still check in from time to time, but I've been lurking, rather than posting... :o)

Apologies to the person who didn't like my suggestions - I know they weren't earthshatteringly original, but when you see as many bad CVs as I do, it seems that some people could do with a refresher...

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#6 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 12:51


Dear "what a load of old tosh", how dare you question HR??

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#7 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 14:53


My firm make consultants review the CVs (after HR have done an initial sift and got rid of the cycle courier who 'quite fancy' working in consulting- and the woman who sent in a photo pf her in a bikini)- and I am always appalled but hugely amused by what people send on their CVs. So the suggestions are timely, I think- especially as this site is filling up with misspelled contributions asking why they can't get a job.

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#8 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 16:21


Would agree with most of this valuable list of points RG.

I'd disagree with one point, however, which is around "Family situation". Like it or not, consulting is a tougher job for a married plus children person to do, than it is for a single person.

If you are single, put it on your CV - like it or not, it is an advantage to your application.

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#9 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
13/03/2006 17:48


Hello Recruiter. I take your point about the lifestyle, and reluctantly agree that singletons are (in theory) more likely to cope with the travel requirements.

But my inner feminist feels compelled to point out the blooming obvious - it's dangerous to make that assumption. In more ways than one...

There is no obvious solution to this problem. Maybe if the consulting firms were all a bit more upfront about the work/life balance issue, more people would 'de-select' themselves when they realise that "having a life" and "having a consulting career" are not mutually compatable...

The first big firm that can genuinely get W/L right will the one that wins the fight for the best talent. But I fear that day is a long way off...

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#10 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
18/03/2006 12:45


I agreed with RecruitGal on most of the points except the family situation. Let me share my experience with you. In 2001, I moved to UK from overseas, I went for interviews with some UK-based well-known international recruiting agencies. The most common questions they asked me were: 'Do you have kid?', 'What does your husband do in UK?' 'What company is your husband working for and what position is your husband holding?' They just weren't not interested in any of my UK professional and academic qualification and international working experience at all. Honestly, I was quite annoyed by those questions as I thought it was irrelevant to my job hunting and they were intruding my privacy. Eventually, I got a contract job offer by one of the top and largest high street banks just 3 days after I interviewed with a small recruiting agency. They never asked me about my family situation but focused on my qualification and skill sets and acted more professional and efficient than the big ones. I have also got many phone calls from recruiting agencies in UK over these few years after I finished my first contract job. Some of them just didn't know what sort of candidate they needed to recruit.One agent even just realized I am not British ( I always declare my nationality in my CV) after I talked to him on phone over 30 mins! Once he realized I am not British, he handed up the phone immediately!!! Positively thinking, I may have British accent when I speak English. Good luck for all in job search!!!

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#11 Re: Some CV advice from a grumpy recruiter...
01/04/2006 16:02


Thank you RecruitGal for this expert and useful advice.

I particularly agree that it's vital to proof read.

I hope you "revieve a few less dud CVs" too.

Sorry, wink, wink - I couldn't resist!

Seriously though - your advice is sound and, as a prospective candidate, I've copied it to my pc for a future look. I hope others take note.


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