The global unemployment rate has been increasing in leaps and bounds and of course the catalyst for this eruption of unemployed workers is the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Millions of workers who are victims of the layoffs and the unfortunate new graduates are currently looking for a means to an end and mailing their CVs and Résumés to any and every job opening they can find. We have faced multiple recessions in the past decades, but this pandemic is very much an unprecedented situation; it exploits our weaknesses as social creatures with different views, which we might have thought were our strengths. Although millions are losing their jobs right now, in the past we have always overcome the challenges and brought about change, so we must remain hopeful.
The current job market has suddenly become a lot more competitive than it already was, and companies will be bombarded with applications for any vacancy. So, you must think that no one can afford to mess up their job application, and everyone would want to make sure their application stands out. However, being at one of those companies skimming through those applications, I am sad at how careless people can be. Out of the hundreds of applications for each vacancy, there is only a handful that are carefully curated to look professional and presentable. Therefore, let me tell you how not to mess up your application.
First things first, what's a CV? Is it different from a Resume?
CV or "Curriculum Vitae" is a Latin term meaning "the course of life". Well that translation itself should tell you that it's one detailed and comprehensive document of everything you've done in your life. Now, I mean only what is appropriate for you to mention there.
A CV can be 2-8 pages long depending on your experience, there's no rule of thumb that says it should fit an x number of pages. But you do want to make sure to only mention what is appropriate;
1. Your full name and contact details.
2. A professional title and a summary or objective.
3. Educational qualifications.
4. Work experience; both voluntary and professional.
5. Those workshops, conferences, and courses you attended.
6. Any good skills you have.
7. Certificates; both academic and non-academic, do separate both types.
8. Languages; knowing a few phrases doesn't count as basic knowledge of a language!
If you have any publications (academic papers and books), do mention those as well, including any grants and fellowships, if you are someone that's actually in academics.
A "resume" or "résumé" with its acute accent or accent aigu, gives away the fact that it is a word with French origins. Simply put, it refers to "summary". It is a short and to the point document with the sole purpose of applying to a specific job.
You'd want to make your resume as short as possible unlike a CV. Make it fit to 1 page, but if you have more than 5 years of experience and you feel like the extra information can help you land the job, you can make it fit to 2 pages max.
What to include?
1. Your full name and contact details.
2. Your professional title or the position you're applying for.
3. The resume summary or objective - here you need to highlight your notable achievements so far in 2 - 3 sentences.
4. Your work experience that is relevant to the job you are applying for!
5. Education – there’s no need to mention every little detail here unless you’re a fresher.
6. The relevant skills you possess that would help you in the specific job you’re applying for.
7. Languages and your proficiency in them.
8. And only mention certifications and interests that are relevant to the job.
What is this now? Well let's put it this way, biodata is the Indian version that replaces a CV or Resume. It's technically used for profiling an individual that can include a lot of personal information and it can be of 5 different types. But let's not divulge into all that, you'll most probably come across it as a job biodata and it would just be another name for a CV or resume. Hope you won't be startled if you come across the word now.
Which one am I supposed to use?
We’re done with the technicalities of what is what, but hey, you notice how everyone calls a resume as a CV, right? Well if so, you’re most probably not in America. Okay so this makes it trickier now right? Let me make it clear to you.
The above differences generally apply in US, yes! a bit like the way they use the imperial system while the rest of the world uses the metric system. In Europe and most other parts of the world, CV is just another word for Resume.
However, the formats do matter. The CV format should be used if you are looking to get an admission or job in academia and it may also be relevant for some government jobs. And like most people out there right now, if you are seeking a job, stick to the resume format with 1-2 pages max and content tailored to the specific job you are applying for. Just so that you don't confuse this, lets stick to the word resume from hereon, but remember, if you're not in America, CV is just another name for resume.
Mistakes to avoid in your resume
Before diving into this, here's a fun fact; employers don't read your whole resume! Feel bad that all your work would be for nothing then? That doesn't mean you shouldn't work hard on it. Most employers are flooded with applications and they can afford to take only a few seconds to go through your resume; around 5 - 7 seconds. Now if you want to impress them in less than 10 seconds, you must keep these in mind!
- Double check and triple check your contact details, you don't want your employer choosing you and at the end not being able to reach you.
- Don't include too much personal information. Only include what is relevant, your relationship status, religion and so on is not relevant. Companies should not be hiring based on such factors and if your employer asks for such info, you should consider opting to apply somewhere else.
- We all have that [email protected] or [email protected] kind of emails that we made in middle school and still not able to let it go. However, such unprofessional emails are a big let-down. A more appropriate format would be [email protected] or f[email protected], or [email protected].
- If you include a picture, include a professional photo, not a random selfie with some friends. For people who find it weird that I even said that I have seen hundreds of resumes with low quality selfies that are completely inappropriate.
- Don't use the same resume for any and all jobs! remember how I said it is tailored for a specific job? Do that for each job you are applying to. Carefully go through the Job description and use the wordings in it so that the employer can see the same qualities in you that they are looking for. This makes you stand out from the crowd.
- Too much text is too much possibility for your application being rejected. Be clear, concise and to the point.
- Don't put irrelevant social media profiles on your resume. However, if you’re applying to a creative position then feel free to show off your skills on Instagram or your music on your YouTube channel. I would recommend all professionals to have a LinkedIn account, it will act as your online CV. Always keep it updated and maybe a recruiter comes across your LinkedIn and offers you an even better opportunity.
- Never use unreadable fancy fonts, use font's that are easier for the eyes!
- Using buzzwords or forced keywords will not make your employer think highly of you. It's all lies! Talk about YOUR own skills not what google shows you. Don't make use of words like strategic thinker, problem solving skills, hardworking, detail-oriented, and thinking outside the box. Be honest!
- Always be specific in your resume, if you end up making things too ambiguous, it starts to seem made up. Use numbers and percentages to describe your achievements wherever possible.
- Spelling or grammar mistakes should not be present on your resume. Your real attention to detail and commitment is visible here.
- Since it’s your resume, the most attention will be on your work history. The biggest mistake that most candidates make is to arrange their work history in chronological order instead of reverse chronologically. Any employer would want to see your latest experience at the top, not at the bottom. And remember to only include experience that is relevant to the specific job.
- Don’t send an unformatted resume! If you’re not great at designing formats there’s tons of free formats to choose online, good enough templates on MS word as well. If you’re applying for a creative position like a graphics designer, feel free to show off your designing skills on the resume, but the emphasis should still be on the text.
- Too many colours and graphics may not look good on a resume. A resume should have a monochromatic colour scheme that is a single tint, shade, and hue, since they tend to be relaxing to the eyes.
Resumes also require a cover letter to be sent along with it. This is a one page document that is used to introduce yourself and summarise your work experience. It is typically between 250 - 400 words long. If I jump into the details of this, then this article that is already lengthy will only be lengthier. My advice would be to just google how to write one. There's tons of great guides that will help you through it.
Bonus advice / the golden tips
Now read this carefully, you may have a great resume/CV made and a remarkable cover letter written up, but you may mess up your whole job application if you do any of these mistakes. Some of them may be so annoying to the hiring managers that they won't even bother going through your resume.
- The subject line is of utmost importance here. That's the first thing a hiring manager sees on your application. Make it short and to the point! For example: Job title - application/your name. Always include the job title else find yourself in the spam folder or ignored by the manager. Applicants may double check their mails body but at the end miss that typo on their subject line. So double check everything!
- And take a few seconds to rename your documents so that the employer can easily identify what is what.
- When you mail your application include maximum 4 attachements; 1. cover letter, 2. resume, 3. certifications, 4. other - if necessary. Now, hiring managers don't have the time to open up each of your certificate one by one, just merge all of them into a PDF file. It is easy enough on any web browser Just google merge pdf files. And attach the files in the above order.
- All your attachements should be in PDF format! No hiring manager wants to open your resume on MS Word and see all those squiggly lines under the text. You make it easier for the hiring managers to see any mistakes on your resume that he may not have even noticed on a PDF version.
- Make sure that you actually did attach your documents to the mail. You may have lost your chance at landing the job if you're not careful enough. None of the big companies would get back to you asking for your missing attachements. It's your own responsibility.
- If your files are too big to be attached, compress files online to fit on the mail. It's better if you don't make the hiring manager open up a file on your cloud. If you do, make sure you make it visible, no manager is going to press that ask for permission button!
- Send the mail to a friend first. Ask your friend to go through your application and point out any mistakes that you may have missed. This way you can be sure that your application was all good.
- Don't spam the company's mail by sending your resume a few dozen times! it doesn't increase your chances of being hired, rather increases your chances of being marked as spam! Most companies would have set an automatic reply to mails, sometimes it may not work. If you want to make sure your CV was received, call and ask the company, but ask only that!
- Find the due date on the job advert! That is the day they stop accepting more applications and are working hard on shortlisting candidates! If they don't reach out to you within a week since the due, look for a new job!
- Be ready for your interview! You never know when the company may reach out to you for an interview, if you aren't able to pick up in two tries, then chances are that the company may choose another candidate!
These are hard times for all of us but we can get through this together. I know that many of you are looking to find a way to put bread on your table, and I hope with the few tips I have given here, you are able to land something that will help you recover. We can do this together. Best of luck!