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Nowadays, writing a professional Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume involves so much more than just listing your experience. Crafting a professional CV is paramount to getting the most desirable jobs and goes hand in hand with a successful career. Know how to trim the fat off you CV.

By Catherine Adenle

Recruiters don’t have the time to trawl through all the CV they get so they skim through thousands of job applications every day, so having a well crafted lean and mean professional CV is the best way to get noticed, get the interview and eventually get the job.

One key thing to remember is that your CV is what a recruiter will see before they lay their eyes on you. For this reason, you should let your CV speak out to them on your behalf. The way to treat your CV is to think of it as your marketing brochure through which you should sell a commodity – and that commodity is you and your skills. The purpose of this your personal brochure also known as your CV should be to get you an interview.

Lean and Mean

Remember, applying for a new job comes with its fair share of knock backs, rejections, frustrations and lonely periods of unemployment. If you’ve already been turned down for position after position, you should shake things up a bit so that your CV can stand out from the piles of other CVs stacked up in any company’s HR department. The key is in knowing how to trim the fat off your CV. The fat in this case is any redundant information that adds no value whatsoever to the CV. However, don’t get too carried away and get too creative unnecessarily! To successfully do this, you must know the basic rules for CV etiquette that should be followed.

While the rules listed below are well-founded; they are not necessarily carved in stone. Sometimes, you may need to break the rules depending on the specific information that the recruiter requires. However, if you have to add these things purposefully to your CV, do that in a well informed way. The 25 points listed below are not listed in the order of priority; instead they are listed in the sequence in which they usually appear on a CV. These are the 25 things that you should see as your CV fat. So trim them off your CV in order to make it stand out and be lean and mean.

  1. No ‘Resume or Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of your CV. Let’s face it, if you have to inform someone that it is your CV when they see it, then, maybe it doesn’t really resemble a CV. Your name should be on top of your CV in bold followed by your address, e-mail address, your landline and mobile telephone numbers.
  2. No Photographs unless you are specifically asked to include your picture. Your ‘good looks’ isn’t what is needed for you to get an interview; your proven skills will do that for you. Unless you are applying to be a model or an actor, do not add your photo to your CV.
  3. No meaningless ‘Personal Mission Statement. Unless you can craft out a really good personal mission statement, do not include one. Generic statements which tell the recruiter that you aim to change the world, benefit the underprivileged or heal mankind whilst maintaining a healthy lifestyle have no place on a CV. The CV is about what you have done in the past, and what you can do for the potential employer, not what you aim to do for the world. You can have any statement ready for when or if you are asked during the interview.
  4. No usage of ‘I’, ‘My’, ‘She’ ‘He’. Although your CV is all about you, do not get carried away by starting each sentence with ‘I’. To be honest, it looks tacky and self-obsessed. For instance, do not write, ‘I worked as a supervisor for So&So Company’ instead use bullet points to list your experience like this, ‘Supervisor for So&So Company from 2004 – 2010’.
  5. No bad e-mail addresses. No one will call you for an interview if your e-mail address is: Itheb***
  6. No irrelevant details. Leave out the details like age, marital status, sex, passport number, NI or social security number, political affiliation and religion. These are usually irrelevant for most interviewers but at times could be used as a basis for discrimination.
  7. No physical characteristics. Just as you should never submit a photograph along with your CV, it’s also best to leave out your physical characteristics, such as your weight, hair color and height. Describing yourself as a “smoldering hot brunette” or mentioning that “you are a tad overweight” is not going to get you an interview.
  8. Don’t include your gender or ethnicity. These are not necessary unless you are specifically asked.
  9. No Date of Birth: Nowadays, that is not necessary because of discrimination.
  10. No Nationality. Unless you are specifically asked to include this, it is not necessary.
  11. No religion. Being a Christian, Atheist or Muslim should not determine your success of being called for an interview.
  12. No generic list of skills. You might have ‘great communication skills’ and the ‘ability to work as part of a performing team’. Good but so does everyone else applying for the same position. Listing these sorts of skills does nothing to make you stand out from the job seeking crowd. Instead, be sure to demonstrate your skills when you describe your achievements. Communication skills can mean so many things, which is why using this term on your CV only makes you lose your recruiter’s interest. Go further and show the communication skills as you used them to contribute something to your last employer? Did you facilitate a workshop on communication, create a presentation, a press release or lead a conference or a webinar session? State your specific achievement. Also, having the ability to work as part of a team is another of the most over-used clichés, so find a way you can show that you are a team player. Have you collaborated with someone or with a department to meet an objective? Put that on your CV instead of a vague, clichéd meaningless expression. Be specific and detailed about your achievement. Do not write, ‘I have a proven track-record’, rather be specific by quantifying your impact by writing, ‘In 2008, I brought in 15 new clients, adding £80k profit for the company.’ Putting it this way sounds far more impressive than some vague clichéd statement, and will help your CV stand out.
  13. No irrelevant job experience. Do not add any job experience that is unrelated to the position that you are applying for only if the skills are related. Any irrelevant job experience might just clutter your CV and make it longer than two pages. Ask yourself, ‘Did your DJ gig in secondary school really prepare you to be a Marketing Manager in a company?’ Trust me; there are other ways to prove your people skills, so stick with the jobs and internships that are most relevant to the position you are applying for.
  14. No gaps in your job history. Whatever you do, never leave a gap in your job history. If you took a gap year in your career or were unemployed for a few months, then make this clear on your CV. However, it is advisable to do some unpaid work one month into your job seeking period so that you can still show that you were doing some work and that you gained or utilized some skills. Leaving out gaps simply leaves the recruiter to draw their own conclusions, and they generally might not be positive.
  15. No abbreviations or acronyms. Any word that any screener will find difficult to understand should be spelled out clearly. If screeners do not understand what the abbreviations and jargon mean, they will simply ignore your CV.
  16. No boring words. Instead of writing that you are a ‘reliable, dedicated, interesting person,’ step up your vocabulary to stand out from the competition. In general, action words are best for you to use on your CV. If you’re stuck, use a thesaurus to find unique synonyms.
  17. No reasons for leaving your last job. Leave these reasons to be discussed during the interview. Avoid making any such statements in your CV because they add no value. The point is if you do get an interview call, chances are the interviewer will address the issue with you.
  18. No lies about your job experience. Do not lie about your past jobs, qualifications or on anything which might have an impact on the job. You may be able to secure a job with these lies but you may lose it too. If you have not worked in a managerial position before, do not claim that you have. You will immediately be disqualified if and when you are found out. If you feel uncomfortable about your lack of skills, then, focus on the positive and show how your other great qualities would make you a great manager.
  19. No List of O-level, GCSEs, A Level subjects or Degree modules. Only put this if you are a fresh school leaver or are applying for a graduate role, you should write the number of exams you passed like this – 8 GCSEs or 3 A Levels. Most employers won’t understand specific module titles, so only include them if they are relevant to the job requirements.
  20. No bad grammar or spelling mistakes. Whatever you do, your bad grammar absolutely does not belong on a CV. It shows that you don’t pay attention to details and you don’t care enough about the job. Proof read your CV until you are confident that it doesn’t have any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. These are big put-offs for recruiters. Even if you think you have great grammar and spelling skills, it’s best to let someone else go through your CV for you just as a precaution.
  21. No dodgy interests or hobbies. Your love of drinking down the pub or knitting with your grandmother’s friend is not relevant to share with a prospective employer. When in doubt about the interests you can put, leave them out completely.
  22. No waffling. Don’t include sentences or paragraphs that add no value and are not needed. Remove long sentences and huge paragraphs explaining the values or the corporate mission statements of your last four employers. This will often be boring to read, it is important that you get straight to the point.
  23. No messy Format. In this day and age of advanced easy-to-use computer programs, there is no excuse for a CV with messy indents, unequal spacing and other formatting errors. Just use Word for your CV. If you don’t know how to use a computer, then, maybe that is a skill you might need to learn as most jobs require the use of a computer. You can ask a friend to show you how to prepare your CV using the Word application.
  24. Don’t include having a clean Driving License. Unless you have applied to become a Driver in the organisation.
  25. No names of references required. The employer already knows that you have references. However, when going for your interview, you can take the names and addresses of your two references with you just in case you are asked.

Remember that recruiters often employ specialised software to extract critical information from your CV and converting it into a standard format. So it is important that your CV presents information in a way that gets you noticed easily. If you want your CV noticed, then, prepare it with this sort of filtering in mind. Spending hours on unnecessary formatting, fancy typefaces, and eye-catching designs is a waste of time and may even hurt your chances. A truly professional clean and clear CV focuses on key data like achievements and skills.

Let’s hear from you if there are other things that you will trim off your CV.

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Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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