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Interesting research from Zena Everett shows that recruiters are more interested in your most recent job than your profile, and supports the idea that factual profiles are more effective than those that are full of generalised ‘fluff’.

She also says that your job title must match what the recruiter is looking for – which reinforces the idea that you should put the job title of the job you are applying for in the first part of your profile to ‘position’ you correctly.

An interesting article in The Guardian on how to be more persuasive. Looking at job applications, they say ‘one of the most effective ways to be seen as an honest and credible applicant is also one of the most surprising: admit a weakness in your application’

‘In one study, several hundred CVs were sent in response to an advertisement, together with a covering letter from the “applicant”. In fact, though, there were two versions of the covering letter. The first contained wholly positive information about why the applicant was best suited to the job. However, the second contained a small drawback about the applicant’s suitability that appeared immediately before the candidate communicated the strongest reason why they were best suited for the job (maybe they had four years’ experience rather than the desired five).

The study authors concluded that the reason the second letter generated many more invitations to attend an interview was that the covering letter had gained a credibility and trustworthiness that the first did not.’

Click here to see the full article.

The profile on your CV – the box at the top that summarises you and what you offer – can be the hardest part of a CV to write. I’ve seen profiles that are chock full of adjectives telling me how wonderful the person is, how they’re good at team work and can work well without supervision, how they have great people skills and get on with people at all levels, that they’re hard-working and loyal.

The problem is, anyone can claim those kinds of generalised statements. So how do you make your profile stand out from the crowd?

One way is to focus on dimensions and credentials before you get to your personal qualities.

The profile is normally about 30-50 words.  Any more than that and the reader is likely to skim rather than read it. That’s about three sentences. Here’s what you can put in those sentences:

The first sentence should position you.  If you are applying for a job as a finance manager, then your first sentence should include the words ‘finance manager’ in it.  I have seen profiles that say ‘an [adjective] [adjective] person’.  Everyone is a person – that is not helping to say anything about you.

In addition to your role, you should include dimensions and credentials. Dimensions are factual or measurable things that get across the size and scope of  your job.  Credentials are recognition by others of your ability and performance.

Dimensions include:

  • number of years experience
  • industry, industry sector or type of organisation you have worked for
  • financials: budget, turnover, sales, income
  • number of employees, size of team
  • types of projects, areas of responsibility
  • specialist or technical skills

Credentials include:

  • professional qualifications
  • awards (company, industry, departmental …)
  • publications

So a first sentence might be: ‘A CIMA qualified finance manager with 12 years experience running the accounts department for a £4m t/o engineering company’.

Can you see how anyone reading that would immediately get a sense of the size of job the applicant is capable of?

The second sentence should include more dimensions and credentials.  If the CV is for a specific job then use the most relevant ones.  If the CV is a general one for an agency or job board, use the dimensions and credentials that get across the size of your job at its biggest.

If you have some major achievements, you can also start to edge one in here. For instance: ‘A successful software sales manager, with more than ten years experience selling [type of software] to blue chip and large public sector organisations. Turned around an under-performing sales team and increased sales by 340% in three years, to become number two in the market.’

The third sentence is where you can bring in your personal qualities. Think about what you are good at, what you get good marks on your appraisal for, what people say about you, what your strengths are. This is where to put them.

Try and make them specific rather than general.’Gets on well with people’ is general. ‘Gets on well with people at all levels from directors to shop floor’ is more specific.

Health warning: don’t make unsubstantiated claims.

You can either give evidence for your claim in the profile or in the rest of your CV.

‘Excellent customer relationship skills’ is an unsubstantiated claim. If you add a credential it becomes a fact: ‘Excellent customer relationship skills – won company-wide customer service award three times in 18 months’.

If you have made claims in your profile, you must provide evidence of them in the rest of your CV. If you claim ‘excellent people skills’, and don’t have any examples of people-skill related achievements in the body of your CV, then not only will your reader be less inclined to believe in your people skills, they may also discount the rest of your profile.

Some of my clients take some time off between jobs and travel. It’s a great idea – it gives you a break, time to heal yourself of the emotional impact of leaving a job and space to start re-imagining the future.

My sister Liz has taken it one step further. She wanted a change so she applied to emigrate to Canada. Not sure of where she wants to live, and wanting to get to know her adopted country better, she decided to cycle across Canada.

Yes, that’s right. She started in St John’s Newfoundland, and will be cycling across to the West Coast, taking a few detours through the Rockies (she is a keen skier and wants to live in a ski resort).

Liz has talked about moving to Canada for years.  She has done some big cycle tours before, but none quite as big as this one.  The difference between Liz and many people is that she decided what she wanted to do and she made it happen.

What is your dream project?  What would you need to do to make it a reality?

Why don’t you start with a little research: how can you find out more? What would it involve?

Crossing Canada by bike sounds like an awfully long way, but it is made up of small distances each day. The important thing is starting the journey and keep moving forward. What is the first step on your journey?

You can read more about Liz’s adventure on her blog: http://cyclingcanadacoast2coast.wordpress.com/

She’s planning on camping most of the time, though if you live on the route I’m sure she’d be very grateful for a bed for the night (or even a garden to camp in).

She is an inspirational example of a woman in her 40s who enjoys taking on a challenge. And she’s an ordinary human being. If she can do it, so can you.

Picture this: you’re out of work and you get up and go to your computer. You look on the job boards and you find a job that is absolutely made for you. You get an email saying that you’ve got an interview for a job you applied for last week. How do you feel? Elated? Optimistic? Full of the joys of spring?

Replay, a couple of weeks later. There’s nothing on the job boards that is even worth applying for. You’ve just had a ‘thanks but no thanks email’ from that interview. You haven’t got any other interviews lined up.  How do you feel? Deflated? Hopeless? Down in the dumps?

This boom and bust cycle is a common experience for full-time job hunters, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s the secret – it all depends on how you measure success.

Most people in this situation measure success by results – did I find some good leads,  get an interview, second interview, job?  The problem with these is that you don’t really have control over them, and they may be in short supply.

The alternative?  Measure success based on what you do have control over. Set yourself ‘input targets’.  For instance, this week I will:

  • contact three old colleagues
  • search  job sites for two hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • send off at least one application on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – the best of the bunch if nothing is perfect
  • attend one networking event
  • identify five companies in my field/area who I could approach directly
  • Find one new agency and set up a meeting/call with them
  • Approach five companies directly
  • go for a run three times a week
  • meet a contact or old colleague for lunch

These are just examples – you can come up with your own list. Check that it is doable – no point in setting yourself unachievable targets. Make sure that they are all things that you have control over.

Having set yourself some achievable targets, measure success by whether you do them. Keep a log. Tick them off. Give yourself gold stars.

At the end of the day, you can feel good because you have done everything you set out to do.

You are also making consistent progress towards getting a job. You put in the work regardless of the number of interviews you have lined up or rejection emails you have received. You will get there!

PS If you like this approach, you might like C J Hayden’s book ‘Get Hired Now

When I started coaching people being made redundant, I was surprised to find out how many people saw redundancy as a positive opportunity. Many of them had become stuck in a job that didn’t give them what they really wanted, and redundancy gave them the push in the backside they needed (plus the finanical cushion) to get a better job.

It is really easy to stay in a job because it is secure, safe, easy, pays the mortgage. It is hard to leave all of that and take a step into the unknown, the big scary world out there. Sometimes you need a push.

What messages have you been ignoring? Maybe it’s being passed over for a promotion yet again. Maybe it’s a big birthday. Maybe it’s seeing your friends doing really well in their career while you are stagnating in yours. Maybe it’s just a growing sense of low-grade unhappiness.

Are these signals getting louder?  Are you getting to the point when these niggles and doubts are big enough to push you into doing something about it? Then do something about it!

Start with small steps. Maybe you want to read some books on changing career (there are some recommendations here: books ), read some blogs and websites, do some exercises (there are some links here: exercises ). Maybe you just want to start talking about it with your partner or friends.

More than any of these ‘doing’ things, make a ‘being’ change. Make a commitment to yourself – this is not good enough, you want a job you love. You have loads to offer. You and the world are missing out if you are not fulfilling your potential. Somewhere out there is a job with your name on it. Commit to finding it.

Alternatively, you could wait until you are made redundant.

Should you put references on a CV? Or leisure activities or ‘clean driving license’ or age or marital status or what school you went to or … well, whatever you can think of.

My answer is always simple. The purpose of most CVs is to get you an interview. So here’s the question: if you include references/leisure activities/driving license etc, will it help you to get an interview?

If the answer is ‘no’, then leave it out. If you leave it in, it distracts from the stuff that will help you get an interview.

References I have never come across a situation where references will help you to get an interview (if you have, comment below, I would love to know about it).

Leisure and social interests can be helpful, but only if they are the right ones.  Think about the key messages you are trying to get across in your CV. Do your social activities add to them?  If one of your key messages is your public speaking and presentation skills and you are president of your local Toastmasters or Rotary club, that adds evidence to support your message so may be worth including.

If you do include leisure interests, they should differentiate you. Avoid general or common interests – like going to the pub, chess, running, golf. Instead, phrase them as achievements and quantify them. Maybe your pub had a charity fundraising event that you were involved in – list how much money you raised. If you are on the golf club management committee, list your achievments. What kind of chess champion are you? How many marathons or half marathons have you run?

Driving license – is it essential for the job? Will it help you get an interview? If not, leave it out.

Age/marital status etc – my view is not to include things that give the CV reader an excuse to sift you out. Let them ask you that in the interview.

What do you think? What else would you include or leave out?