Making a CV that helps

Published: Thursday, September 01, 2011    

Oasis Living's guide to navigating the job market, resumes, keeping sane at work, and more

Last month, Oasis Living debuted its Human Resources series, where we jumped into the deep end of tried-and-true HR insider knowledge to help you land your next gig, make the most of your current one, or leave that old job with poise and grace. We've already gotten some helpful advice and great questions through, and we're hoping for more input from readers as our series continues.

For September, we're focusing on square one: your CV and cover letter.

Reader Larla Anne Landicho, who has been in HR and recruiting for over a decade in the UAE and beyond, sums it up perfectly in her email to OL. She states that, "having a really good resume starts it all. First impressions last." We couldn't have said it better ourselves. In fact, of all of the career and job search topics we'll be covering in our series, this one might be the most important. This is because your CV is representative of you and the kind of work that you do, and first impressions last.

That said, there are a few tricks to ensure that your CV and cover letter are the ones that get the attention of the HR professionals and hiring managers. The watchwords when it comes to such introductory documents are clarity, content, length, and mirroring. That, and absolutely, under no circumstances, ever, should there be typos or other mistakes in your CV or cover letter. We cannot stress this point enough. Submitting a CV or cover letter that includes mistakes of any kind is like telling potential employers, "Your job isn't that important to me." Again, these documents are a little snippet of who you are, and what kind of employee you might be. You want to put your best foot forward.

After you've run Spell Check and had a friend double-check your work, think about how your CV looks. This includes everything from correct formatting on computer screens to how the document is organized. Most word formatting programs include CV templates, which can be a great place to find some basic structure and outlines for resumes. Be careful of simply plugging your information into a boring, standard template, though, as doing this can indicate a distinct lack of creativity and hard work. Have you noticed how arduous a process it is to slog through many companies' online application processes these days? HR people do this on purpose, to see which applicants are willing, right off the bat, to put in the time and effort to work for their company. Your resume should indicate the same level of dedication and ingenuity.

Also, crisp, clear, and identically presented information is very important. It helps to use small pieces of information outlined by bullet points or numbers instead of writing paragraph after paragraph, which can seem daunting to busy recruiters. And, whatever format you decide to use for, say, employment dates, should be used identically throughout the document. Switching up your formatting style is confusing and, again, indicates that you may not have a careful eye for quality and detail (which many employers look for in their new hires).

Next, you need to consider how long your documents are. Ms. Landicho continued her email by indicating that your resume "should be detailed yet concise." It helps to keep in mind that HR professionals are often totally swamped with resumes. If you send the hiring manager a seven-page dissertation on your life's history, there's a very good chance that it simply won't be read. If you whittle down your relevant experience, however, into one to two clearly and cleverly written pages, your friendly HR professional will already like you for having saved her bundles of time.

Ms. Landicho also advises that content for your resume includes not only relevant work history, employers, and dates, but that it should also include a brief "job description, as this is where employers look to see if you have the experience in the job that you are applying for." In fact, she says that this is the area where most of her applicants have issues. One good way to combat this is to, very literally, take words, descriptions, and other information from the job description to which you are applying, and drop that into your CV or cover letter. Essentially, you are mirroring the language of the job description and the company, which indicates to the HR team that you've done your homework, are genuinely interested in that particular job, and are a self-starter when it comes to research and finding out information. Plus, nothing gets your cover letter or resume deleted faster than applying for, say, a training position with a resume that clearly indicates "objective: to secure an executive assistant position." If you take the time to make your resume match the description of the position you're applying for (while being honest about your experience, of course), you'll fare much better in your job search.

We know this is a lot to take in, but in the end, it just comes down to having an honest look at your CV, and taking the time to really make it shine. If it helps you, get a friend to take an objective look at it, then consider a few questions: What does it say about you? It is well organized? Is all of the information presented accurately? Does the formatting look identical throughout the document? Did you clearly but concisely outline the duties of your former roles? Does the CV reflect the particular position and company to which you're applying?

Based on this CV, would you hire you?

If you have any thoughts or advice on creating great CVs and cover letters, we'd love to hear it at

Until then, we'll see you next month!

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