Every week Jesse speaks to a wordsmith about their craft and how to write in a certain way.
This week he was joined by Jo Hampton to talk about the art of writing a CV.
Jo is the director of Successful Resumes in Auckland and shares her tips for writing a strong and successful CV.
She tells Jesse Mulligan one of the most important things to do when applying for a job is getting the cover letter right.
A cover letter can be tricky and catch people out. Hampton says a badly-written letter is worse than not including one at all, so getting it right is essential.
Having a template is useful, but Hampton says what is more crucial is taking time to study what it is the company is after. If the firm specifies what it wants you to address in the cover letter and you fail to do so, you simply won’t get short-listed, she says.
The content of the CV of course is pivotal when making that decision.
“A CV is a summary of some of the skills you have, your work experience and some of the personal attributes you have, like communication skills for example, and it’s how it’s targeted for the sort of roles you’re going for,” she says.
The technology today demands a CV as these are being uploaded onto websites, she says. The best format for a CV is still subjective, according to the job market its tailored to and the tastes of the person writing it.
“We’ve gone out and asked recruiters and they’ve sort of compiled a list. So, the format generally is, if you’ve got a reasonable level of work experience, two-and-a-half to three pages, you don’t want to go any longer than that. The first page you’d talk about your actual skills and attributes. It’s a little bit like an advertisement…
“The second page is about the things you’ve achieved. It’s like the evidence for the first page… and then at the end you’re summarising your qualifications or any courses that you’ve done, and perhaps any volunteering work that you’ve done relevant to the role you’re going for.”
CVs for school leavers should include extracurricular activities like sports, which could show teamwork skills and a propensity to compete or co-operate within a group. Coaching shows leadership capability too.
“There are things you can put in to show the breadth of different skills and interests,” she says.
Having a part-time job, even a paper round, shows initiative and a level of maturity and responsible and will look good on a CV.
The most common mistake made on a CV is not being specific enough when describing skills or qualification.
“Really spell out what you actually did, as I tend to see a lot of CVs where they just say ‘training’ or communication’, so they put down one-word answers. You need to just drag that out a bit.”
Going back five years into employment history is best as it gives potential employers a good indicator of what you can offer them.
Spelling and grammar mistakes are common enough too and take away from the CV’s content, so that getting a third party to glance over it to pick these up pays off.
Hampton is sold on the benefits up of uploading the CV to LinkedIn so that potential employers can find you.
“It looks like recruiters are starting to use it a lot more. It’s an easy platform for them because if you have your CV on there, they can use the platform to search through the key words.”
Signing up to classes and completing skills courses is another golden star on your CV, suggesting initiative, drive and a willingness to adapt and improve your skills base.
“What that’s triggering to people in recruitment is ‘oh look, he’s still learning’. Again, that’s what they want to know – what are you going to do in the next five years for me,” she says.