CVs (resumes) and covering letters have long been the standard format for candidates profiling their talents. However, in an age where ‘personal branding’ is coming ever further to the forefront, do these formats remain relevant or should recruiters be doing more to persuade candidates to help themselves stand out?
The CV – that bastion of self-promotion, is the established and widely accepted format for showcasing skills and experiences relevant to a role. Candidates have gone to many lengths in their attempts to make their CV stand apart from the rest of the crowd. Whilst we’ve all read about the truly creative incarnations, such as CV in cake format, more typically candidates employ unusual fonts and quirky formatting, bold use of colours and in some cases, images. Too often though, these attempts fall flat and efforts at creative CV writing for the more traditional job roles remain generally frowned upon. So, what then should recruiters be advising their candidates to do? The basic principles still apply:
- Keep it simple – from layout to font, the CV must be easy to read
- Keep it short – a maximum of two sides of A4 paper
- Tailor it to the specific job being applied for
- Backup your listed achievements with facts & figures
- Avoid using meaningless, tired phrases such as ‘works well unsupervised but enjoys being part of a team’ – evidence this instead
- Don’t leave unexplained gaps
- Use a spell-checker!
A covering letter can often go a long way to bolstering an application, if written with care and attention. Too often, covering letters simply reiterate points already highlighted on the enclosed CV. This approach rarely fails to impress, as recruiters know! Already pushed for time, recruiters don’t want to read the same information twice and neither do clients. How then should recruiters advise candidates to overcome this issue?
- Research the company and decide what you can bring to the table that other candidates will not
- Briefly explain why you are interested in this role with this company
- Use the letter to succinctly describe how you can help push their business forward
- Don’t start repeating the content of the CV – the covering letter is an appetiser, a teaser, it should make the recruiter / client want to find out more
- A cover letter is a personal introduction – a degree of creativity here may help further the application process
- Keep it waffle-free. Short and snappy, between half and one side of A4 paper
Resumes and covering letters aside, there is more candidates can do to enhance their chances of being appointed to a role. The most significant of these is the use of social media. All platforms are rolling out additional features on a regular basis: Facebook now offers a careers section and although, in the UK, this remains limited, the probability is high that the functionality of it will only improve with time. As recruiters know, Linkedin is still a main go-to platform when looking to source candidates. Recruiters should, therefore, be encouraging candidates to think of their Linkedin profile as a living CV and make the most of the various media options available. If they’ve created presentations, these should be uploaded, examples of artwork, even an introduction video that acts as a general introduction. Once the Linkedin profile is set up and fully populated, recruiters should be encouraging candidates to include a hyperlink to the profile within their CV and on their covering letter. Too few candidates are making the most of the technology available to them today – recruiters are uniquely positioned to show them the way.
There are already companies who have banned names and photos from CVs in an effort to avoid unconscious bias and making use of new media helps to deliver a more rounded introduction to a potential employee. In time, the traditional CV and covering letter format may fall by the wayside. Right now, recruiters need to be sure they’re giving their candidates valuable, actionable advice. This will not only improve their chances of making the placement but also guarantee a first class candidate experience and keep those candidate referrals coming in!