CV-writing trends: The “bikeshed effect” and your CV

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What do writing a CV and building a bike shed have in common? That in both cases, it’s often far too easy to focus on trivial details while missing out on the big picture. Read ahead for our latest take on CV-writing trends.

Parkinson’s law of triviality states that disproportionate weight is often given to trivial issues. As building a bike shed is relatively simple, he argues, an organisation is likely to spend a large amount of time arguing about this and not, say, the nuclear reactor that has yet to be built. CV writing can often be a similar case: it’s often far easier to worry about small details while forgetting to check you’re actually qualified for the job.

Writing your CV – the big picture


There is one key point you should always keep in mind when writing your CV. Sounds completely obvious, but it’s amazing how many people forget this one:

Are you qualified for the job? Look at the job description of the offer you’re applying for. Now look at the CV you’re writing. Can you, hand on heart, state that you’ve honestly ticked off all (or the majority) of the boxes in the “requirements” list? At the end of the day, this is the be-all and end-all when it comes to CV success: do you have the experience and skills necessary for the position in hand?

A few corollaries include the following:

list_okIs your CV too long? Yes, we’ve all heard it before, but it’s amazing how many people forget that, according to current CV-writing trends, a CV should (with a few rare exceptions) be no longer than two sides of A4 maximum. This may even be shorter in other countries.

list_okHave you included a cover letter? Your cover letter is your chance to truly tailor your CV to the position you’re applying for and grab recruiter interest, thus underlining that, as before, you possess the “skills that pay the bills”.

list_okCan you write? Agonising for hours over each word in your CV may have a disproportionately small effect on your final job application, however proving your claim to a decent grasp of the English language (complete with correct spellings, punctuation and appropriate register) is a no-brainer. If you need help, ask for it.

 

Writing your CV – the fine details

The following are some examples of the kind of details we often spend far too long worrying about (when really we should be paying more attention to tailoring our cover letters exactly to the job in hand):

list_wrongShould I include an executive summary? (summary sentence about the beginning of your CV) Some say you should, some say you shouldn’t. If you’re thinking about it too hard, we say there is a chance you’re wasting your time.

list_wrongShould I use a serif or sans-serif font? Is it legible? Does it look more or less ok? Good. Now stop procrastinating, and get on with actually writing your CV.

list_wrongShould I take out the ‘I’s in my CV? It’s argued that doing so saves space and word count and makes your CV more streamlined. While we would agree, you’d be better off prioritising you efforts focusing on the content of what you’re saying

list_wrongShould I include information about my hobbies and interests? There are a few cases where this is evident (personal interests are directly relevant to the post you are applying for, or perhaps are obviously unsuitable to include on a CV). If not, however, we suggest that you don’t worry too much about whether you include information about hobbies. Some recruiters might find it interesting, but others might not. As you don’t know who will be on the other end of your CV, it’s not worth agonising about decisions like these. And remember that if recruiters would like more information, they can always ask.

list_wrongShould I include that sentence about references? Current CV-writing trends dictate not to include a sentence at the end of your CV saying “happy to provide references on request” (the logic being that this should already be obvious). If you are in all other respects a perfect candidate for the job, however, we reckon including this sentence is unlikely to harm your chances too much.

Got that? Time to start looking and applying for jobs. Good luck!

Image: “Bike 10″ thanks to Ekkehard Streit

Penelope for JobisJob

One thought on “CV-writing trends: The “bikeshed effect” and your CV

  1. Social Beat

    Thank you so much for covering this topic. It is definitely going to help me. Writing a resume or CV can be a tricky affair as we often get confused about what to add and what to ignore. I have been reading a lot about this topic.

    Reply
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