Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bad Advice

I was inspired to start writing a blog after continually reading terrible advice for jobseekers.  In the first paragraph of my very first blog post I wrote the following:

‘One of the problems with recruitment is that most people have experienced it in some form and that objectively it is incredibly easy – and it is of course, or rather it should be – but this very simplicity causes a large number of people to 'offer' recruitment advice.  The problem is that a lot of this advice although well-intentioned is just incredibly unhelpful to the unsuspecting jobseeker.’

I was reminded of this today after reading an article by ‘Recruiter X’ suggesting  that the modern jobseeker should differentiate themselves from the masses by sending a CV by post on high quality paper.  How can anyone possibly offer this advice in 2011 when a paper CV is a complete pain for everyone concerned?  It will certainly ensure you stand out in the same way as turning up to interview in a fake leopard skin thong, ‘I’m with stupid’ T-shirt and a beret will make you memorable to the interviewer!  

Not persuaded and still think a paper CV gives you an edge?  Well, why not go a step further and do what one jobseeker did when they posted a CV to me and fill the envelope with confetti.  How I laughed whilst on my knees clearing up for twenty minutes.  Mind you, the CV did stand out as it was the only one in the bin for a couple of weeks.

Regular readers will know my thoughts on this subject.  Your CV is still important if you choose to reply to a jobboard advert and it must be clear and uncluttered like this so that when you are asked to send a CV you can represent yourself in the best light.

However, to actually stand out from people with similar levels of skills/experience it is increasingly all about effective personal branding/self-promotion or whatever else you would like to call it.  How well known are you outside your immediate Team?  Are you active on forums, relevant LinkedIn groups and Twitter?  Do you write a blog or record your thoughts on YouTube?  If you are actively looking for a new role are your Facebook settings correctly enabled to show your business details?  

If you contact somebody about a potential new role – or even send them a CV - how easy is it for them to search online to find out about you and discover what really sets you apart?   How easy is it for them to contact you and have a conversation?

Not convinced?  Well, for Christmas an elderly relative bought me some lovely notepaper and envelopes which you are more than welcome to use in your job search.  I can also recommend a great article by ‘Recruiter X’....


  1. I shudder to think what you must have made of my CV last time you saw it, but then - it was created for academic posts where the requirement is usually to show how much you have done (and how much income you can generate through research grants & publications) as opposed to showing that you fit the post properly. I find it helps to actually read the job description & person spec. properly and then try to tailor a CV for each application using the appropriate terms from the employer's own vocabulary so that it's easier for them to "tick the boxes" during shortlisting. At the very least, I do that in the covering letter.

    Meanwhile, as you suggest, using social media to market oneself can be useful - as long as the right people get to see it.

  2. Hi Angus,

    Thank you very much for your comments.

    I agree entirely that CV's should be tailored for some specific roles, such as academic posts. Also - almost unbelievably in 2011 - at many companies CV's are still initially reviewed by non-technical specialists who are looking for the correct keywords so tailoring the CV is often the difference between rejection and interview.

    However, I think that in the not so distant future a top quality generic CV will work well as the material to back it up will so clearly found online via other platforms. It will then be all about the authenticity/consistency of your personal brand supporting the message you are attempting to convey.

    I certainly take your point about enabling the right people to see your details/engage with you via social media. This is the very crux, I think, of the challenge for jobseekers going forward.

  3. After a recent unsuccessful application for a forensic job, I asked the company for feedback (always worthwhile).

    They were impressed with the content of my CV and cover letter, but suggested I use the same font on both. The fonts weren't wildly different (and there was no Comic Sans), but it was clearly something this person noticed and I make sure they match now!

    This wasn't the reason I was unsuccessful, but what if the decision came down to me and someone with matching fonts...!?

  4. Thanks for your comment, Lee.

    I think you had a lucky escape here. If that is the best feedback they can provide you wouldn't have enjoyed spending time with them! Imagine their Christmas 'party'....