I have conducted hundreds of interviews and seen thousands of CV’s, and its frustrating and wasteful looking at a poorly-written CV’s. Here are some tips to ensure your CV stands out and effectively communicates your qualifications and suitability for the role. While my focus is on IT, these principles apply to most jobs.
The 5-Minute Rule
Interview decisions are often made in just 2-5 minutes of reviewing your CV, so it’s essential to make an impact. Concentrate the most crucial information on the first two pages; anything beyond that may receive only a quick glance at best.
Honesty: Always be truthful in your CV. Embellishing or falsifying information can damage your reputation. Note that credit and qualification checks are often part of the hiring process.
Consistent Updates: Regularly update your CV. You never know when you might need it.
Realistic Goals: Aim high but be realistic. If you lack experience in a specific area, be honest about it and demonstrate your willingness to learn (eg by doing industry courses).
Brevity: Keep your CV concise and to the point.
LinkedIn: Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, including a professional photo, and have a link to it on your CV.
Customize your CV for the job you’re applying for. If applying for different roles, create variations tailored to each role.
List your previous jobs, starting with the most recent. Highlight a few key accomplishments that showcase your skills, focusing on your contributions. Be brief. You don’t need to mention every task you performed.
The first page should prominently display industry qualifications that make you stand out, such as “AWS Certified Architect/Developer,” “TOGAF,” “DAMA,” etc.
Clearly state your objective, and what you are looking for.
Keep the formatting simple and readable. Your CV should allow a quick decision about the worthiness of an interview.
Include essential contact details (email, phone, LinkedIn), but avoid overly personal information (such as your address, photo of your ID doc, ID number etc). Remember your CV can cross many desks and security is a concern.
Add a neat head and shoulders photo on the front page.
List relevant technical skills and tools you’re proficient in, emphasizing your abilities.
Share your interests and hobbies, showing a bit of your personality.
Proofread your CV for spelling and grammar, and consider having someone else review it.
Don’t mention the obvious. If you are applying as a software developer its a given that you know how to use Excel.
If you’re starting out
For recent grads or final-year university students:
Provide a brief introduction about yourself, highlighting your favourite courses and personal projects.
Share your extracurricular activities and any volunteer work or part-time work experience.
Here is a rough outline
Name, photo, phone, email & LinkedIn (add a website if available). Include links to anything relevant online (eg github profile/projects, personal blog, online portfolio etc)
Who you are.
What you’re looking for.
Your core skills.
Degrees and industry certifications.
Project Highlights/Work Experience
Notable career highlights.
Work-related awards and achievements.
Organization, title, dates.
Be honest about employment gaps.
Hobbies, Volunteer Work, Personal Projects
Include personal interests and hobbies.
List skills that may not be directly relevant, but are still interesting (Eg additional languages spoken)
Additional Awards and Achievements
Community-related awards/achievements (eg president of my chess club).
Any recommendations you have received in the past (thanks, linked in recommendations etc)
School highlights and awards.
Contactable references. You do not need to include the names, but mention that they are available on request. And check with the references beforehand.
I was asked to write a short piece as to why I have been a member of Toastmasters for over 15 years. I have shared it below.
My intention when I joined Toastmasters was to be a member for a few months – just long enough to improve my business speaking skills. More than 15 years later I am still a member, and I am asked why? Here is the answer. Toastmasters has not just improved my business speaking skills, it has played a major role in my career, from being more confident at work to being called upon to deliver presentations to fellow staff members, customers and suppliers.
I regularly chair meetings and design sessions, helping teams develop software applications for some of the largest companies in South Africa.
Without the communication and leadership skills I have developed from Toastmasters I would not be in same position as I am.
I have met some amazing people and make some great friends, not just at home in Cape Town, but quite literally all over the world. I have Toastmasters friends in every continent that I can call and say hi to.
It truly is an organization where leaders are made, and more importantly where friendships are made.
Pic: Congratulating the 2009 World Champ of Public Speaking, Mark Hunter at the Toastmasters International Convention
First of all full disclosure; Cybercellar gave me a R100 discount voucher to try out their website with the aim of writing a blog post about it “if you feel that we are worth mentioning, we believe we are!, it will be appreciated.” Well they gave me R100 to spend on wine; of course I am going to use it!
And I am going to mention my experience because in some ways it was amazing, and in some ways about the worst I have ever experienced. But whatever happened, there are lessons here.
The story in brief.
The downhill experience…
I ordered 6 bottles of wine on the evening of 9 April, and according to the website I would get next day delivery.
On the late afternoon of the 10th, I received an email that the order had been shipped and I was given the tracking number.
Nothing arrived on the 10th or the 11th.
On the 12th I got a call from the courier saying that they were running late and would deliver to my home in the evening (a Friday).
Later that day I got another call from the courier saying they would not make Friday, but would deliver by 10am on Saturday (by which time I thought “yeah right”).
And of course nothing arrived on Saturday.
Rescuing a bad situation…
On Saturday afternoon I sent a complaint email to Cybercellar, expecting a response on Monday.
That afternoon the CEO (Johann) called me and offered to personally deliver my order on Sunday (they are in Paarl – 76km away to my house)
On Sunday morning Johann arrived with my 6 bottles of wine, and a bottle of Springfield Sav Blanc (yummy), and told me that when the courier eventually delivered my actual order it was mine to keep as well.
In summary the courier messed up my delivery (it eventually arrived on Monday – almost a week late), and Cybercellar gave me 7 bottles of wine as an apology personally delivered by the CEO on a Sunday.
And finally the lessons.
As Johann and I agreed it was the courier that messed up (and not Cyberceller themselves), but we also agreed that as a customer it was not my problem who messed up. He took ownership and fixed the problem.
You can turn a customer around by turning a negative experience into a positive one.
Sh*t happens, but it is what you do about it that makes a difference. Service excellence is shown at its best when things go wrong.
Will I purchase from them again? Yes; not because of the order experience, but because of the amazing way they fixed the problem.
Two of my interests are photography and public speaking, which is why I follow the blogs of Both Darren LaCroix, who won the world champion of public speaking in 2001, and Jared Polin (aka the Fro), who is the most amazing photographer and teacher out of Philadelphia. They both have a lot in common:
Both are passionate about their respective professions
Both have excelled in their profession
Both give out there knowledge freely
And they both believe that the best way to improve is to immerse yourself and practise what you want to get better at!
In the case of Darren:
The more you work on your ‘talent,’ the more talent you’ll be given. What you have now is more than enough. Do you bury your talents or invest them? Want to speak in front of an audience of one thousand? Knock ‘em dead at a local service club and more will be given. In my early days of comedy, I had to perform better than those around me at the open mic nights to deserve the right to perform at a professional comedy show.
Darren is well known in the speaking circles for his mantra “stage time stage time stage time “.
And now from the Fro:
Do we ever reach a point where we can be satisfied with our work and don’t need to keep pushing ourselves to learn?…there’s always something more we can learn and I believe that deep down we all know that we should keep learning, studying and progressing as photographers and as people. It’s our own work that teaches us the most. “First, KEEP SHOOTING. If you don’t shoot, you will have a tougher time learning.
There is a clear message here. Stop thinking about getting better, take action! If you want to be a better speaker, speak at every opportunity. Record yourself, evaluate and improve on your speeches. It you want to be a great photographer, take photos. Examine them with a critical eye. See what really works, and what doesn’t.
What are your passions, and what are you doing to get better? Are you sitting at home, or getting out there?
I am working with a large company in Cape Town on some web development. The total value of the project is in the millions of Rands.
Recently I contacted a potential vendor to set-up a meeting to discuss how they could assist and work on the project. They never responded to my requests. So we are not going to be working with them, and they have lost a potential huge customer and a lot of business.
I contacted three people to fix some damp in my house. One never got back to me, another quoted over 5 times the going rate for the job, and the other is finishing off the job today. This is while businesses are complaining about the “tough economy”.
Do you return messages? How much business have you lost because you did not get around to answering an email?
Here is something a little unusual. On Saturday. a song that I wrote using Garage Band on my IPAD was broadcast live as the opening song on Geek Speak, a radio show from KUSP (Central Coast Public Radio, Santa Cruz). It is syndicatd via the US National Public Radio podcasts. You can listen to the show here (but you have to wait until the end to hear the credits).