Impressive CV’s get you the job

Framing a quality CV is the first hurdle for job-seekers… and most of them stumble horribly at it, according to The Focus Group, the Forest Town-based human resources consultancy that takes on the full spectrum of human capital management functions for some of the country’s leading employers.

Says Focus Group director Gavin Sher: “Job-seekers get one chance to make a first impression. The CV is that first impression. Make sure it’s a good one!”

Companies receive dozens of unsolicited job applications a week. If you wish yours to stand out it must be professionally presented and avoid obvious errors. The Focus Group identifies four main pitfalls. All are relatively easy to avoid.

1. The Clutter Club

‘More’ means less chance of a fair reading when the CV recipient is a time-pressured executive. Yet some applicants write two pages on interests and hobbies and include testimonials from the vet and parish priest. A personnel manager skips the clutter and concentrates on more succinct CVs.

South Africa is following the US trend toward brief CVs (usually on a single A4 page).

Don’t include letters of reference and diplomas. Restrict the initial CV to personal details (name, address, contact numbers, language skills, marital status, health, birth date and driver’s licence), academic record and career chronology, giving time period, title, job description and reason for leaving. State salary level only in the case of the last job.

Keep the covering note brief, too. It should state simply the applicant’s interest in a career at the company in question, the fact that a brief CV is enclosed and a polite request for a response. It should explain that more details and letters of reference can be supplied on request.

Keep copies of certificates and diplomas until an interview or a request for follow-up information. If you lack the skills to present a succinct, businesslike CV you can have one prepared for you. Several companies advertise this service.

2. The Amateurish Approach

This approach is characterised by errors and poor presentation. The CV might be hand-written on a piece of paper torn from a notebook. The text may be littered with spelling and grammatical errors, smudged erasures and crossings-out.

A letter obviously in an applicant’s second language is an opportunity to impress the recipient by the care and seriousness of the approach. The job-seeker should consult a friend, relative or old teacher who is proficient in the language concerned. Make corrections on a first draft. The corrected text should be properly typed. It might be necessary to invest in the services of a typing bureau to ensure proper presentation.

3. The Misdirected Effort

A covering letter and CV might be quite professional, but strike the wrong tone. A wacky covering letter may be acceptable in the advertising industry, but unacceptable at a bank. Some job-seekers slant slightly different covering notes and CVs at various employers after researching an industry or corporate culture.

As a general rule, keep the tone businesslike and stick to the facts.

4. The Obvious Novices

A first-time job applicant obviously has no previous experience. Just leaving a gap after the academic record draws attention to this fact. Plan ahead. Take weekend or holiday jobs in your area of career choice while at school or college. You can then list these jobs. Even if part-time work is outside the industry concerned, list it anyway. It proves you are no stranger to the world of work.

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