There's one magical thing that can get you the job of your dreams.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn't nepotism, sycophancy or even a bribe; it's a small document called the Curriculum Vitae, or Resume.
Even though most of us recognise the importantance of a resume, we don't carve out enough time to give our resume the attention it deserves.
Often, CVs are shoddy, incomplete, irrelevant and, sometimes, downright hilarious.
Here are five mistakes you need to avoid to make sure your CV is a winner.
Mistake 1: Writing too much
"Length is the biggest problem, with most CVs often being a minimum of three pages. I once received a CV that was 11 pages long," says Purvi Seth, vice president of Shilputsi Consultants, a human resources development firm.
More often than not, literary aspirations come tend to the fore when one is writing a CV; people end up filling pages and pages of details. Those who can't find enough details to fill the pages write the same thing over and over again, in different styles, words and jargon.
A prospective employer faces two choices when he or she takes the first look at such a CV -- hit the delete button or hire a professional copyeditor to cut the chaff and find relevant matter.
BTW, even though copyeditors come cheap these days, employers prefer the former. So:
i. Keep it short; ideally, a CV should not go beyond two pages at most.
However, if your achievements are really great, one extra page is negotiable.
ii. Keep it sweet, i e relevant.
Anything more than that and your CV will make a beeline for the paper shredder.
Mistake 2: Writing too little
If it isn't one, it's the other. Consider this CV:
'Worked as product manager for HLL between July 2000 and September 2003.'
Does it indicate anything besides the fact that the person worked for HLL?
Fancy designations do little to explain the kind of work you might have done. So, in your enthusiasm to adhere to the guidelines in Mistake 1, don't forego your job responsibilities and details about the company or the department you worked for.
The above should read:
'Worked as product manager, between July 2000 and September 2003, for the colour cosmetics division of HLL, a premier FMCG company in India, with a turnover of Rs 2614.07 crore.
'Job responsibilities included overseeing the operations of the department comprising 10 sales managers, setting targets for the team, keeping track of market trends and coordinating between the production, logistics and sales functions.
'Under my supervision, the department posted an annual growth of 40 percent.'
This gives an indication about the kind of work the applicant has done and his/ her achievement. However, beware of going overboard with the details of your job responsibilities.
"One of the applicants was looking for an administrative job, and housekeeping was one of the functions. The CV mentioned 'making sure the toilet bowls remain clean', as one of the job responsibilities," laughs Seth.
Mistake 3: Irrelevant details
Does it matter to your prospective employer if your eyes are blue and if you belong to the vaishnav gotra of the Brahmin caste?
Chances are it doesn't, unless you are applying for a job that depends on your physical attributes or you are penning down a CV for matrimonial purposes.
Similarly, your star sign, details of family members, list of affiliations to hobby clubs (unless they complement your profession in some way), height, weight, colour of your hair and eyes, complexion and other details are of no consequence to the prospective employer.
Ditch these and use the space to highlight your achievements, your strengths and your qualifications. The latter needs to be to the point. For example, your latest education and degrees are the ones that matter, not your kindergarten marks. So, be stingy here -- include what matters, trash what doesn't.
"I have seen CVs that included details of grandfathers and their professions too. One person had also included his blood group in the CV. These facts make no difference to the employer at all," says Seth.
"Some of them also add their body statistics. This can be entirely done away with unless you are in the showbiz or airline industry.
"Another mistake I have noticed in many CVs is that people mention their religion. This is unnecessary unless the job is for candidates of a specific religion only," says Tushar Guha, managing director of Nrityanjali, an institute for personality development and management services.
Mistake 4: The information flow
Most people start with their birth date and list everything in chronological order. So, if they started with ABC company at the age of 18 and are now, say, 38 years old and work for XYZ, chances are they will start their career history with ABC and list XYZ last.
This is a strict no-no because, to the prospective employer, your last job profile matters more than your first one. Few employers like to spend an hour on a CV searching for the last position held by the applicant.
This applies to educational qualifications too. A CV favours reverse chronological order. Stick to it.
"Most of the time, professionals writing their CV list their qualifications and their work experience in chronological order. The order should be reversed in order to bring the crux of the CV upfront," says Guha.
Seth gives the example of a CV which started by listing work history that dated back to 1983 first and then went on to 2004. She had a tough time looking for the current job.
Hobbies should come towards the end, but shouldn't be done away with. "They provide an insight into the applicant's personality. These days, the emphasis is not only on your skills but also on your personality," says Guha.
Mistake 5: A CV-ful of jargon
Is your writing style is lucidly expressionistic, highlighting the hidden angst of an existential life?
Wow! But what the heck does that mean? Even if your to-be-employer is Salman Rushdie, he wouldn't want to spend time trying to understand what all those big words and jargon add up to.
If you think your use of jargon indicates your knowledge of the industry, think again. Most of the times, the CV goes first to the HR department. They are the ones who choose if you are fit to be called for an interview.
Out of comprehension, out of mind. It's that basic.
Raaj 23rd August 2005 From India, Bangalore