You’ve written your CV in the hopes that it will sell your skills to employers. But without knowing it, your CV is transmitting certain messages to recruiters – messages that will unintentionally make you an ‘open book’ for them to read!
Experienced recruiters know how to read between the lines of a CV to pick up the hidden messages that lie below the surface of your words. Here are four examples of revelations that may reveal themselves during the recruiting process with a skilled recruiter.
1- Conformity is your greatest strength
You’ve applied for a director position based on your experience and your stated “leadership abilities”. Unfortunately, your CV doesn’t support your assertions – but why?
When looking over your CV, a recruiter notices peculiarities in the way you describe your work experience. You’ve been employed as a director for five years, but the verbs you use to describe your achievements are passive in nature: You “responded according to regulations…” “drafted verbal processes…” “transmitted information…” “participated in strategy development…”
See the problem? There are very few verbs used that reflect the qualities expected from a true leader, such as “directed”, “influenced”, “designed” or “mobilized”.
Pay close attention to the terms you use in your CV to describe tasks and achievements. Keep in mind that because you’re applying for leadership positions, each descriptor you use must reveal a capacity for leadership and showcase that capacity for an organization. It’s recommended to put rare achievements front and center to ensure that you benefit from the value these experiences have brought you.
As well, emphasize the achievements that demonstrate what you, as an individual, brought to the organization, and talk about projects that couldn’t have been achieved without your involvement.
2- You’ve done a lot of searching but haven’t found yourself
You’ve had a wide variety of professional experiences; you’ve worked in several different sectors, but with no apparent link between them. The majority of your work experiences have been for brief periods of time and your education and training reflect a similar pattern. For a recruiter, this can make it difficult to identify the guiding thread of your professional journey.
Treat your CV as a story that you are telling in logical sequence. Of course, you can’t change what you’ve done, but the way you present your story will allow you to provide a sense of continuity to your experiences.
For example, organizing your CV by skills you’ve acquired is a good way to showcase your strengths and to make connections between your different experiences, rather than focusing solely on the chronological order of your work history.
3- You aren’t sensitive to others
You describe at length the knowledge you have and the skills you possess, but when it comes to talking about the human dimension of a position you held, you only mention it in passing at the end: “Supervising personnel.” This works against you because you don’t mention how you supervised these people, or if your approach netted positive results.
Recruiters can deduce your strengths (what you decide to showcase in detail) and your weaknesses (areas where you are lacking, i.e. areas you only mention briefly) by how you present your experiences. The skimming over of the human dimension above is a clear example of a weakness, but the same principle also applies to how you present your other skills.
Be aware of the picture that emerges from your CV based on the different aspects of your experience you highlight. Keep in mind that there are three major aspects of any CV – head, heart and legs – and that you should evaluate your CV based on these aspects.
- Head: Everything related to your ability to analyze, to envision, to innovate, as well as your knowledge and real-world experience;
- Heart: Everything that relates to interpersonal relations, communication, and your ability to persuade;
- Legs: Everything that relates to your capacity to get things done, whether through organization, prioritization, making decisions and following up to see a project through to completion.
4- Your current job isn’t at the top of your CV
You’ve been in a job for two or three years, but it’s not allowing you to realize your full potential (after all, there’s a reason you’re currently updating your CV). The risk is that a recruiter will identify your disinterest for your current job in your CV and get the impression that you’re stagnating. How can you avoid giving a recruiter this impression?
It’s easy: Remember that the recruiter can get this impression if the description of your current job on your CV is less attractive and presented with fewer details than your previous jobs. If this is what you’ve done on your CV, this is what needs to change!
Make an effort to present your most recent experiences in a positive light by emphasizing the precise elements of your current job that will bring the most value to the position and organization where you want to work. Do this even if you’ve achieved less in your current job than in previous positions.
When you prepare your CV, you may not have the objectivity needed to see the hidden messages that an impartial observer might. If your CV isn’t getting you many interviews, maybe you should take a step back and look at it with new eyes – the eyes of a recruiter.
By: Mathieu Guénette