CV / Resume Mistake #1 and How to Fix it

Taken from an article on Yahoo’s HOT JOBS (article by Caroline Potter, expert advice by Lauren Milligan of ResuMAYDAY.) I’ve added my own boring comments.

And the thing is … I agree totally with the advice. I’m posting it because it’s good CV advice – in my CV / Resume writing practice I apply this advice all the time. So should you.

Think Big

Whatever jobs you’ve held — be it as an assistant or a CEO — think beyond the everyday tasks of your position … “People get bogged down in the day-to-day details of their jobs, but when it comes to your resume, you’ve got to get out of the clutter and ask yourself, ‘What does this work mean?'” …

… “If I’m hiring for an administrative assistant, I already know what one does. I don’t want to see a resume that only says an applicant can type and answer a phone. You have to go beyond that to point out your specific strengths.” …

Start by having big-picture conversations about what you do and how it serves the organization as a whole … “If you’re in a support position, consider how successful the person you support is and how you help her do her job better. What role do you have in her successes? Those are your accomplishments.”

This is particularly a problem in SA. We love our long lists of “Duties” and “Responsibilities” on our CV or Resume don’t we? Now I wouldn’t advise just chopping them all out. No. But by all means make it concise. Create a bulleted list of maybe 5 key duties, provide a quick overview – then move on to your achievements.

Personal Note – actually the point above is my biggest frustration with CV / Resume writing! Clients – maybe like you!! 🙂 – send me so much detail on “duties” I have a long hard time of simplifying it to make it concise and hard hitting. And it sometimes gives them a shock too! But that’s my job. And it results in an easier to read, more scannable, more understandable, harder hitting CV / Resume.

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Radical CV Idea!

Here’s a radical new idea (well it’s not a new idea really – even I have mentioned it before and it’s been the topic of at least 1 other job hunting book). It’s by Seth Godin – a marketing “Guru” who makes a living telling it like it is and looking ahead to see what’s next. In the article below he reveals 2 things.

  1. The radical idea – you’ll see what I mean.
  2. How it really works when you send out your ‘average’ CV (or resume as he calls it)

See what you think (I’ve included in brackets some clarifying comments):

[Warning!! This is NOT for you if you feel uncomfortable with anything new or unconventional. It’s not for everybody. To make it work WILL require a whole new way of thinking from most job hunters out there.

Why bother having a resume?

In the last few days, I’ve heard from top students at Cornell and other universities about my internship. (Mr Godin offers an internship – so people apply to him for the post.)

It must have been posted in some office or on a site, because each of the applications is just a resume (CV). No real cover letter, no attempt at self marketing. Sort of, “here are the facts about me, please put me in the pile.”

This is controversial, but here goes: I think if you’re remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a resume (CV) at all.

Not just for my little internship, but in general. Great people shouldn’t have a resume (CV).

Here’s why: A resume is an excuse to reject you. Once you send me your resume, I can say, “oh, they’re missing this or they’re missing that,” and boom, you’re out.

Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?

If you don’t have a resume, what do you have?

  • How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
  • Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
  • Or a reputation that precedes you?
  • Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.”

Yeah, that’s my point. If you don’t have those, why do you think you are remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have those, you’ve been brainwashed into acting like you’re sort of ordinary.

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Some of what you’ve just read will have surprised you. You may doubt it. Dismiss it. And that’s fine. If you’re happy being ‘fodder’ for the ‘corporate behemoth’. Some people love it. They love the processes, policies, procedures. They love convention and order. Predictability. Organisation.

But the truth is … the world doesn’t care. The corporation doesn’t care. Maybe years ago it used to (debatable). But now … your company may have Employee Wellness programmes, in-house Gyms, psychologists, hair dressers, creches, etc – but actually you’re on your own.

So … never give up control of YOU. Keep a record of your good work. Measure yourself. Learn how to sell your value, skills, knowledge (even though for now it appears you’re ‘safe’). Develop skills that solve difficult, real problems. Be a provider of solutions.

Get or keep interested in many things. Keep alive in yourself the idea that one day you will work for yourself, on your own terms and make a good living doing so. Keep looking for opportunities. Keep learning. Get used to danger. Take risks. Get used to the feeling. Know that staying in the ‘safety’ of a large corporation is frequently AS risky as going it alone.

Sorry – I got a little off the point here on my favorite topic – but the essence is: be aware that you’re a business. And you’re in a competitive world. Don’t take a back seat in your own business. Build something that’ll last. Be smart about it. Everyone’s got a CV. At least make sure yours sends out a strong, confident, focussed message (that’ll instantly put you ahead, believe me) – not just some boring list of your past ‘duties’ and ‘responsibilities’.

How to Overcome the “Too Old” Stereotype in Your CV

Got a mail from “M”. She was frustrated. Angry. Threatening to … actually here are her words:

I need to see you; if I get told I’m too old again I’ll murder someone!

Obviously her job hunt was going nowhere – and she put it all down to age prejudice. It does happen a lot. Here’s my reply with the antidote to ‘age prejudice’ and the “too old” stereotype.

Hi M

Thanks for your mail. Frustrated, huh? Sorry to hear that. There’s only one way to counteract a negative stereotype (“too old”). Here it is:

  • Show how you are uniquely valuable.
  • Show how you’ll provide powerful benefits.
  • Show how you’ll solve the reader’s (employer’s) problem.

Your problem may not be that you’re too old – you are what you are, so that’s good news! Your problem may be that you’re not doing a great job of showing how you can be of great value to the employer. Maybe I’m wrong? Your thoughts? See attached if you’d like to get me to help you solve the problem by re-writing your CV.

[PS Meeting isn’t something I usually do with my clients. I do work for people all over the world so have everything set up to help people from far.]

CV Writer and Job Hunting Coach

“M”‘s CV was good in one way: It was one page – something which shows confidence and has an ‘up-to-dateness’ that is appealing. But she really blew it in other ways. Her age was all over the place – pretty much the first line was her age/date of birth. She had her picture there. She’s pretty in a mature kind of way. BUT no spring-chicken. And it was a casual pic, relaxing on the couch (this kind of pic seldom goes down well in promoting oneself in a professional environment).

Also there was NO sense of focus – “here’s what I’m looking for, this is the value I can provide, this is why it’ll be good to have me around, these are the problems I can solve for you.” No doubt she has good skills. She has good qualifications. Great in fact. But even on the one page I only noticed her Bachelor of Business Administration degree on my 3rd look.

There IS a negative stigma associated with age. Who knows why? It may have something to do with a very fast, technology driven world that some older people find hard to keep up with. It may be totally wrong.

But whatever the case – there’s no point in doing nothing to counteract the negative perceptions. One’s personal marketing has to be smarter, more focussed to stay competitive.

Good lessons these. What are you saying in your CV? Are you promoting “YOU” as powerfully as you should? It’s important, because “YOU” are all you have. See for more on my CV writing service.

Your CV – The 1st Second is Critical. Why?

Are there little things you can do to make a quick but effective difference in the attention grabbing, interest generating, interview winning power of your CV?

Sure there are. And they have much to do with the first impression your CV creates. When your CV is received, opened and looked at for the first time, whether in print or on a computer screen – that first 1 second is critical.

It’s a moment when no words are read. But many early judgements are already being made in the mind of the reader – who said the world was fair!!? But now you know!

So with that knowledge you can choose to play the victim or exploit it.

What does that one first glance at your CV say?

Here’s what it can say about you – that you’re:

  • Neat.
  • Professional (code for organised, trained, of high standard, adhering to good practices and codes of behaviour).
  • A clear thinker.
  • A good communicator.
  • A person who’ll easily fit into a business environment – and contribute to it immediately.
  • A person who has high standards and that when dealing with colleagues, clients and superiors you’ll be reliable, organised, clear, and you’ll be a credit to your employer.
  • Highly computer literate.

And that’s before even a word is read. Pretty good going. But wait … let’s calm down a little and see the harsh truth.

What happens often, too often, to too many people, good people, people perhaps like you, is that the first impression they create isn’t the one described above. Here’s what you may be doing and here’s what that may be saying about you:

  • It may be saying nothing – your first page may just grandly announce you – of how much interest actually is that to an employer? This kind of grandiose cover page could be judged as an unprofessional whim.
  • You may put a great big picture on your first page – of you, or it may be clip art. You may have a page border of castles, cars, or diamonds. But won’t the reader just conclude that these are just tacky (in poor taste) attempts to create a big impression to hide the fact that your skills and qualifications are just average, or below average?
  • Your paragraphs may not be aligned – or may be aligned with spaces instead of tabs – or aligned with 5 tabs instead of one (takes a little extra effort but the visual effect is worth it). The conclusion may be drawn that your computer skills are lacking or that you don’t know how to work properly with MS Word, or worse, that you just don’t care.
  • You may have crammed your CV full of detail and it’s gone to 10 pages. The glancer may conclude that you’re someone who can’t get to the point, who can’t express him/herself clearly and concisely.
  • In your long list of “duties and responsibilities” there may just be random points. Could the reader conclude that logical thinking and proper organisation aren’t strengths you possess? Absolutely.
  • In an attempt to get to the nirvana of the 2 page CV, you may have used a very small font, single (or less) line spacing, and no paragraph spacing. You may just come across as someone desperate to comply, willing to sacrifice readibility for the 2 page CV – which is really missing the point altogether.
  • You may have use a font that’s very big – and they may conclude you have eyesight problems, or that you’re very old and your sight is fading.
  • You may have used a common format – a template, or a formate copied from your school textbook. These formats shout “average” – they put you in a box, they limit expression. Use them if you have to – they’re better than nothing but just be sure, again, that your alignments and all the stuff mentioned above is done perfectly.

You get the point, right? Your CV can speak without words – just a glance can speak volumes.

And yes, these are snap judgments people may make, rightly or wrongly, after just a glance at your CV. But that glance sets the tone for any further reading of your CV. You want it to be positive.

Badly constructed, worded and word processed CVs won’t do that for you – the reader may move forward, but with an irritated, unimpressed, negative mindset. And in a competitive job market that’s not going to help any.

Get your CV checked by someone you know is ‘hot’ on designing professional documents, ‘hot’ with MS Word and word processing, ‘hot’ on knowing how to format things, how to space words and sentences and make a document look smart.

Give attention to these ideas, tip, tricks – whatever – and you’ll get much better, quicker response to your CV send-outs.

Or, of course you can get it written professionally – click here to read more on my CV writing service.

10 Quick Easy Ways to Quick Fix Your CV

Easy and quick but too long to detail here – download your free e-book of CV quick fixes AND get additional job interview and cover letter quick fixes by entering your details below. It’ll be e-mailed directly to your inbox in pdf format.



Test Your CV #1

Answer the following 20 questions regarding your CV with either a “yes” or “no”. Calculate your score according to the list at the end. You start out with 26 points. The person with the highest score at the end wins! Pass it around your office and amongst your friends.

  1. Is it longer than 3 pages? …….. (It’s a “fast food” market – be quick, be sharp, not long winded or verbose – no-one’s going to read it all.)
  2. Do you have a front page with only “CV of Your Name” in large letters on it? …….. (Leave grand entrances for Diva’s. It’s a waste of space and time.)
  3. Have you named your CV – that you send as an e-mail attachment – something like CV2003.doc? …….. (Imagine instead something like this, mine – “G le Roux – WOW! CV Writer.doc”. More compelling? You bet.)
  4. Have you included comments about your health, or family? …….. (Is this info really going to help the reader make a decision to hire you? No. In most cases it’s just not relevant. It shouldn’t occupy prime space on your CV.)
  5. Do you write your CV anew for each application? …….. (Edit it. Adapt it. Tailor it to meet the needs of the potential employer/position.)
  6. Have you included an “Objective” section which clearly states what job you’re looking for? …….. (Show you have some focus, energy and determination to take a particular direction OR you otherwise may come across weak and directionless.)
  7. Is your “Objective” section longer than 3 or 4 lines? …….. (Make it snappy. It stands more chance of being read and absorbed.)
  8. Have you given your Matric as much space on the page as your Degree/Diploma? …….. (Does it deserve as much space? NO! Give more prominence to your more relevant, recent, and heavy-weight qualifications.)
  9. Do you have more than 5 points in your “Duties” section? …….. (There’s actually no rule here but just don’t go on and on and on. Spend some time summarising what you did. More than a few points won’t be ready by many.)
  10. Have you listed any of your achievements anywhere? …….. (Achievements give the reader reason to think you’re not just a “bum on a seat”, but that you actually make a difference.)
  11. Have you listed fewer achievements than you have duties? …….. (They shouldn’t get lost in the crowd.)
  12. Have you placed your “Achievements” section toward the end of your CV? …….. (Like on the last page? Forget it. If you’ve accomplished good things, then say so. Employers want you to be a success for them too.)
  13. Are there any paragraphs longer than 4 lines anywhere in your CV? …….. (They simply won’t be read.)
  14. Have you stated specifically, anywhere in your CV how you benefit an employer? …….. (Or do you leave it to them to figure it out? Say it. State it. Make a personal commitment. Make your intentions clear. Say what benefit you’re likely to be.)
  15. Have you included positive quotes from referees regarding your past work performance? …….. (If you haven’t, why not? It’ll make your story more credible – unless you have lousy references, of course.)
  16. Have you had your CV format and spelling checked by someone other than yourself? …….. (Don’t assume you’re a word processing wizard – get someone who knows business documents, MS Word, or whatever package you use, and how to correctly align things.)
  17. Have you given more than 1/2 a page of space to jobs you did more than 10 years ago? …….. (Summarise! Older experience will rarely help you land your next job. If they want details they can ask.)
  18. Have you used industry buzzwords and jargon to impress the reader? …….. (Don’t. Keep it simple, easy to read. Don’t assume the reader knows all your technical jargon.)
  19. Have you made any spelling mistakes? …….. (They can make you look foolish.)
  20. Does your covering letter basically say “Here’s my CV for the position you advertised?” …….. (There’s so much more you can do to make the reader turn EAGERLY to you CV.)

Calculate your score – if you answered:

1. Yes. Minus 1 point for every page more than 3
2. Yes. Minus 1 point
3. Yes. Minus 1 point
4. Yes. Minus 1 point
5. No. Minus 2 points
6. No. Minus 1 point
7. Yes. Minus 1 point
8. Yes. Minus 1 point
9. Yes. Minus 2 points
10. No. Minus 2 points
11. Yes. Minus 1 point
12. Yes. Minus 1 point
13. Yes. Minus 1 point for each
14. No. Minus 2 points
15. No. Minus 1 point
16. No. Minus 1 point
17. Yes. Minus 1 point
18. Yes. Minus 1 point
19. Yes. Minus 1 point for each
20. Yes. Minus 2 points

So how did you do?

26 points – WOW!

20-25 points – Your CV is above average but there could be some crucial errors.

15-19 points – You’ve definitely made some crucial errors that could really set you back.

10-14 points – Unless you have very special, in-demand expertise you are unlikely to get response.

5-9 points – Your CV is hurting your chances of getting a job badly.

0-4 points – Don’t send your CV out!

Less than 0 – Look on the bright side – things can only get better!

[Copyright 2003 © Gerard le Roux, The Job-Search Clinic and]

Please note: This test is a general guide, not a rule-book! It’s also just a list of some of the ways on which your CV will be judged by employers.


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