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Overlong CV a sorry saga

By Jim Bright
The Bright Side - MyCareer

Telling your life story is not the most effective way to land a great job, writes Jim Bright.

David from Melbourne writes: "I went about putting together a CV that told my story. I felt the urge to look past today's 'short and sharp' brief, even though I am aware that some people will see my CV as long. Along with highlighting my working skills, knowledge and experience, I wanted to make prospective employers aware of some of the emotional qualities I feel I possess, especially my loyalty, empathay [sic] and tolerance. I have tried my best to potrait [sic] the whole me."

Well, David, your CV is not long - in the way that War and Peace is not long. There are probably longer reads out there, it is just that none spring immediately to mind.

David's aims are sensible - he wants to tell a winning story of his career and next steps. However, his flouting of the brevity conventions of CVs comes at the expense of clarity. Put simply, he is not telling a convincing story and it undermines his application.

It is difficult to know where to start when considering areas for improvement, because every section of his seven-page document needs work. Perhaps we should start at the end. The final couple of pages are a copy of a psychological test report prepared by a major recruiter. This tells us, among other things, that he performed well on intelligence testing - in 2006.

It also includes the statements: "Approach is exceptionally single-minded", "somewhat irritable", "prefer to defer taking action", "quite strong-minded" and "[not] overly sociable from the beginning".

Compare those statements with this from his "employability goal": "I am an individual who can happily work within a team environment." It doesn't quite gel. In fact, it is contradictory. Maybe the psychologist who wrote the report could contextualise and explain her interpretation but it is more likely this will be read by someone not skilled in profile interpretation who will be confused by the mixed messages.

The psychology report is also out of date and was clearly written for a different purpose. Anyone in the know would appreciate you cannot rely on six-year-old reports and I would be surprised and disappointed if the company that did the report was prepared to stand by it now.

David wants to take on a role as part of an "organisations management" (sic). Aside from the grammatical errors in his opening paragraph, he includes a photograph of himself, complete with sunglasses resting on his head, in a casual pose that hardly reinforces a management image.

He includes his date of birth. Why? He mentions he enjoys alcohol but is a non-smoker? Why? In his email to me, David made the link between this process of putting a CV together and dating websites - and it shows in the inclusion of details that do not belong on management CVs.

He describes in detail a lot of his work history in a way that mostly fails to build any bridges into management and simply does not present a picture of himself as a manager. He has not specified anywhere what kind of management role he is looking for or in what kind of company. He needs to be more specific with his objectives, then make explicit links between his experience and the tasks he is likely to be obliged to undertake in a management role.

He includes details of his primary school. Why? He lists that psychology report as his first referee. Why? He rarely describes any achievements at work but lists duties that reinforce the view he has no management experience and makes no effort, in the main, to help the reader understand how these duties increase his suitability for management.

David is clearly intelligent and motivated, with some good ideas, in theory, about how to present a career-change CV. But he is let down in the execution. The good news is there is plenty of material for David to work with and make his case. Telling his life story is not the most effective way to do this.

Jim Bright is professor of career education and development at ACU and a partner at Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy. Email marked clearly "FOR PUBLICATION" to Follow him on Twitter @TheFactoryPod.

Published: 25 February 2012

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