Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The ugly CV problem

A lot of my fellows ask me to review their CVs and give suggestions for improvement, in this post I will try to put those things in one place. Most of the CVs that I come across have one thing in common: they are very ugly. There are many things that are essential for the making of an ugly CV, I want to cover the most glaring ones and how to circumvent them.

The first and foremost rule of ugly CV making is including a photo of yourself. Unless you are applying for a job as a model or news anchor or other unmentionable positions where looks equals cash, please stay away from the sin of including a photo of yourself. The exception to this rule is if the employer explicitly asks for your photograph, in which case you should include a professional looking photograph which has minimal digital touch-ups.

A CV is not a place to showcase all the funky fonts that you have collected over the years, and using something like Comic Sans in your CV is a surefire way of killing any chance you have of being taken seriously. Keep the fonts in your CV consistent and try to stick to the staples like Times New Roman, Verdana, Helvetica etc. Of course you are free to break every rule in this post if you are making a graphic designer CV.

Three things run the show of a good CV: entertainment, ... oh, I mean formatting, formatting & formatting. I cannot emphasize this point enough, a well formatted CV is a treat to the eyes, it draws your gaze to all the right sections, naturally points out all your strengths, and shouts "Hire me" without being gaudy. To find the formatting that fits your taste and coveys a sense of cultivated professionalism, you should go google shopping, look at the vast amount of material available and you will soon find something that you like.

Try at least once to make your CV in something other than Word. Try Photoshop or Indesign. By using these programs you will be able to control the overall look of your CV with much more finesse. But if you are a Word cheeta, then by all means go ahead and perform miracles there.

Do not under any circumstances lie on your CV. The world is a small place and the corporate world is an even smaller one, sooner or later someone will know that you are faking it.

No one believes in your run of the mill, a dozen a dime, objective statement, so save yourself the hassle and either try to come up with something original or avoid putting it on your CV. Something like, "to work as an electronics engineer at Rhode & Schwarz", is simple and sufficient for all practical purposes.

Do you really think that the golden star that you got in class 1, should be written in your academic achievements? Or that essay competition you won in playgroup, is a good addition to your extra-curricular activities section? Only include recent, meaningful and quantifiable achievements in your CV. Just being a member of a generic college society doesn't have any real significance, because I can bet that society had tons of other members too, so you might just as well write, "Lifetime membership of the Homo Sapiens species".

In the list of your academic qualifications, state your most recent educational qualification first, that is the point of most interest. If you have a good GPA, write it, if you have a bad GPA, you should still write it. Do you think that if you don't write your bad GPA, the employer will somehow never ask you about it?

Take a good print out of your CV and learn about adjusting print margins. A lot of average looking CVs turn into ugly looking CVs because the person was too lazy to get a good print out. Adjust the printer settings properly and only submit the best print out.

If I ask 10 people to get creative with their CVs, the first thing that most of them would do is to make the headings all colourful! A wonderful way of making the CV hideous, not to mention that the colours look like an uneven mix of greys when taken out from a conventional black and white printer. So please stay well away from making your CV a beauty parlour disaster. You may use colour on your CV, but like everything else it should be done sparsely.

"Surfing internet" as a hobby is disgusting and only brings dirty images to the mind. If you are surfing the internet for some particular thing then that thing should be your hobby, not "Surfing internet". Same goes for "Reading books", be specific about the genre that you like to read and your CV will become instantly more interesting e.g you can write "Reading biographies", "Learning about art history".

Make your project/job/experience descriptions succinct and try to include numbers/percentages to give a measure of the success or effectiveness.

Just put your references there on the CV, don't give me the idiotically self-important statement "would be given on request".

If possible, print your CV on high quality paper, better than your usual printer paper. Heavier paper, almost card type, lends a slight plus to the CV.

Last but not the least, keep your CV current at all times, or at least update it at a regular frequency. And, don't procrastinate in making a good CV, you will need it much more often than you ever dream of.