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...