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Old November 14 2012, 01:49 PM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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CV confusion

Hello, all. I'm probably overthinking things here, but I'm finding it difficult to understand some of the logic behind CVs and the standards by which they're judged. My own CV has just been put through an assessment on one of the sites where I've registered it, and I've gotten advice on making it better. So far, so good.

However, if empolyers are often using automated tracking systems to filter CVs (as I'm told), and people can get their CVs rewritten by professionals so as to fit the criteria and get it picked up... then what's the actual point of writing CVs? If all successful CVs are going to be the same, in structure, general phrasing, style, etc, and if you're using computer systems to judge whether or not they hit the specifics, then why exactly is the CV so important?

A neighbour of mine hasn't worked since she was 20 or so (she's now 47). But she had her CV rewritten by the people who do such things and now it reads like she's had an amazing retail career. She now apparently has "a really good CV", because other people who know what the filters/employers are looking for wrote it for her. If anyone can thus have a wonderfully written and structured CV, and it's known that having one may tell you nothing about the actual person, why is a CV so essential? Or, more to the point, why is it the way the thing's written or structured that's considered important and not the actual information about your history and capabilities?

I'm considering whether or not I should take these people up on their offer and get my CV rewritten to conform entirely to these standards. If it helps get me noticed and increases my chances of getting job offers, I suppose I should. But I can't really see the logic behind such a system - it's like "writing a good CV" has become more important than the actual purpose of a CV, and what makes a "good CV" has little to do with who you are or what qualifications/personal traits you possess - instead, it's about how readily you can get someone else to rewrite it to conform to a standard pattern. In that case, it's not even a test of your own talents, is it?

Where is the logic in placing such importance on adherence to form when anyone can have their output adjusted by others to correspond perfectly to the form?
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Old November 14 2012, 02:53 PM   #2
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Re: CV confusion

Isn't CVs for those who had some years in a given career under their belt. I've heard 5-10 years would be ideal before making a CV.
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Old November 14 2012, 03:11 PM   #3
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Re: CV confusion

Finn wrote: View Post
Isn't CVs for those who had some years in a given career under their belt. I've heard 5-10 years would be ideal before making a CV.
That seems logical to me - indeed, if there's not going to be much professional history on there why make one, but apparently it's pretty much essential now that you have a CV, and fill it with any and all voluntary work experience, hobbies that give you useful skills and experiences, educational history, etc. Apparently it's not just for getting a high-placed professional job that requires a history of experience in a given field, it's needed for almost any job (and even those that ask for no CVs send you application forms that basically ask for for all the information you'd have on the CV anyway).

We're always told that drawing up a basic CV (later tailoring it for different jobs) is basically the first essential step towards employment, and you know how it is - when they give you a hoop to jump through you have to do it or you get nowhere.
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Old November 14 2012, 03:21 PM   #4
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Re: CV confusion

A CV or resume must serve two purposes: provide information about your work, educational history, and skills; and present it in an attention-getting way.

The latter is irrelevant to automated document scraping software, which virtually all job sites and many recruiters use. However, it is extremely important when you are giving it to someone directly, electronically or on paper. There are still places that sort through paper CVs/resumes, and if it doesn't catch the person's eye immediately, it goes into the garbage.

It's also obviously important that you have a lot of "key words" in it, so the automated software picks it up. Don't lie, of course, but be sure to be inclusive.

You can PM me if you'd like me to take a look. I polish up people's CVs/resumes all the time (and I interview candidates, so I can look at it from both sides.)
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Old November 14 2012, 03:28 PM   #5
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Re: CV confusion

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
You can PM me if you'd like me to take a look. I polish up people's CVs/resumes all the time (and I interview candidates, so I can look at it from both sides.)
That's very kind of you. I'd certainly be more committed to making changes if your judgement reinforces the advice I've gotten from the assessment.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; November 14 2012 at 04:57 PM.
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Old November 14 2012, 04:39 PM   #6
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Re: CV confusion

I'm usually involved in the interview process when we are hiring new developers. I never thought I would care that much about the layout of the resume... until I got one that was a gigantic wall of text that was 3 pages long. No formatting, nothing, just... every intricate detail of every job she ever had. We didn't even bring her in. Definitely the worst resume I ever saw.

I'd also be happy to take a look if you like.
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Old November 14 2012, 05:20 PM   #7
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Re: CV confusion

I read a neat trick when submitting a cv/resume electronically. At the bottom of the CV in very small font include every keyword you can think of pertaining to your experience/training. Then set that whole block of text to white so it's not visible when the CV is printed/viewed. This will allow the electronic cv filters to catch the key words they are looking for while avoiding making your CV overly dense. Gives you a better chance of getting it to a real person in the company.
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Old November 19 2012, 04:17 AM   #8
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Re: CV confusion

But what are the key words? I'd also appreciate the help. Thanks in advance~
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Old November 19 2012, 05:28 AM   #9
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Re: CV confusion

jayrath wrote: View Post
But what are the key words? I'd also appreciate the help. Thanks in advance~
In this case, "key words" would be words or phrases that are mentioned in the job ad. For instance, if you're applying to a Web development job, they may ask for .NET, Java, PHP, MSSQL or MySQL, or any number of programming languages or platforms. Those would be the key words.

Those automated systems drive me crazy. If I've got 20 years of experience as a programmer, and I know eight of the ten things listed in the ad, my resume might not even make it past the automated filter because I'm missing two of those things - even if they're fairly minor elements which I could learn in a couple of days with a manual. (Admittedly, the same issue exists when a company has its HR department vetting the resumes manually - your average HR person will look at a resume and say, "This guy has MSSQL, not MySQL, so he's obviously not a match." Which is ludicrous.)
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Old November 19 2012, 10:37 AM   #10
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Re: CV confusion

^Which is where the cover letter comes in - you can say things like "I learned X at university, which is similar to Y required thing, so Y would be extremely easy for me to pick up inside of a few days."

Basically a CV is an advert. I always used to put that I was visually impaired to show that EVEN THOUGH I'm VI, I've done all this, managed all these accomplishments... but that's apparently a keyword that gets you immediately thrown out of most filters - companies will look for the tiniest mismatch so they can do it legitimately, of course (it's illegal in the UK to refuse an interview on grounds of disability unless that disability puts you/others at risk if you hold the job - companies are supposed to make "reasonable adaptations" to the working environment to allow an otherwise-capable disabled person to do the job they're paid for; unfortunately most companies see this as "pay through the nose just to employ a cripple".) (Can you tell I'm sore on that point?)
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Old November 19 2012, 09:19 PM   #11
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Re: CV confusion

This is all excellent advice, and I appreciate it. I never had any idea that CVs were machine-sorted. I look forward to learning more in this thread.
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Old November 21 2012, 01:35 AM   #12
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Re: CV confusion

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
Hello, all. I'm probably overthinking things here, but I'm finding it difficult to understand some of the logic behind CVs and the standards by which they're judged.
You're coming at this from the wrong perspective. Essentially, you're assuming that employers are looking for that one perfect person to fill their post and have the time to look for the special snowflake that's a perfect fit for their organisation.

The vast majority of posts are not filled in that way; only truly high level posts are filled like that. And usually, they still get those posts wrong anyway.

No, the reality is that the vast majority of posts can be filled approximately equally well by a vast number of interchangeable people. And that includes some fairly specialised professional jobs. It's not cost-efficient to spend much time differentiating between candidates (the incremental/marginal benefit derived by finding the really perfect person is outweighed by the time/effort/extra cost it would take to identify that person).

So what employers do is to rapidly filter out anybody applying with generic skills that don't fit the job at all (hence the automatic document-scraping, etc) and then from the remainder, aggressively filter out anyone with the skills but who would not be a good personal fit for the environment (and for many employers, this is simply anyone too lazy to learn about the corporate culture enough to adapt their CV to pass the remaining keyword checks on soft skills/attitudes).

That winnows the pool of applicants down to a set who could all perform the job reasonably well, and who are likely to be able to do so without creating chaos in the workplace. The interviews are then about checking the filtering worked OK, to try and catch anyone good enough at finessing their CV to pass the shortlisting stage but who can't maintain the illusion in person.

Also, don't think that interviews are necessarily more human(e) than shortlisting; many corporate interviews are equally constrained by marking schemes, standardised questions, etc (allegedly to be fair and equal to everyone; actually to prevent discrimination lawsuits, which isn't really the same thing).

It's just not efficient to fill most posts any other way.

When you get to the level of needing to be headhunted for a specific post, then things become more interesting. Otherwise, you're pretty disposal to most workplaces from a large employers perspective.

Obviously small scale operations can function on a more human level, but they have other downsides instead. And even here, a good CV is still very important, because when you have an actual human being reading them all, they really, really don't have the time to wade through lots of them.

If you really want to escape the games of CV-land, be self-employed, start your own business, or rise high enough to where your skills and/or experience are genuinely unique. Naturally, each of those has its own complications and isn't for everyone. And then you end up having to read other people's CVs instead, which can be just as depressing...

Last edited by Holdfast; November 21 2012 at 01:51 AM.
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Old November 21 2012, 10:48 AM   #13
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Re: CV confusion

Holdfast wrote: View Post
And then you end up having to read other people's CVs instead, which can be just as depressing...
Hah. I remember someone telling me tales of the sorts of CVs they had to read... poorly-spelled, no knowledge of simple grammar, and some even sent cover letters where they mis-spelled the name of the organisation, or addressed it to the wrong organisation entirely! I'd have blamed possible dyslexia, but I think most dyslexic individuals would know to get someone to check their documents for problems first.
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Old November 21 2012, 02:51 PM   #14
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Re: CV confusion

Jim Gamma wrote: View Post
Holdfast wrote: View Post
And then you end up having to read other people's CVs instead, which can be just as depressing...
Hah. I remember someone telling me tales of the sorts of CVs they had to read... poorly-spelled, no knowledge of simple grammar, and some even sent cover letters where they mis-spelled the name of the organisation, or addressed it to the wrong organisation entirely! I'd have blamed possible dyslexia, but I think most dyslexic individuals would know to get someone to check their documents for problems first.
I've had to go over quite a few resumes in my current position. It is shocking to me how often I encounter people with master's degrees in Computer Science who can't spell, can't form coherent sentences, and can't figure out how to effectively format a resume. Problem solving is your job, and the "resume problem" isn't all that difficult, frankly.

If I can tell someone just threw together their resume in ten minutes, guess what? It's going to get about ten seconds of review, and then it's going into the trash.

My general advice: make one good resume and a cover letter template. When applying for a specific job, tailor the resume for that job, cutting out things that aren't as relevant to it, and playing up the things that are. In the cover letter, always be sure to mention your qualifications that line up with the job requirements. This is a sales pitch. Underselling yourself just means you don't get the job. You have to put some ego into it or you will never get anywhere. Also, don't mention what you're bad at in a resume or cover letter. You will no doubt be asked during your interview what you feel your weaknesses are. Save it for that.
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Old November 21 2012, 03:49 PM   #15
Deranged Nasat
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Re: CV confusion

Holdfast wrote: View Post
You're coming at this from the wrong perspective.
That doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Anyway, thanks for the advice, all.

Unfortunately, despite all the helpful pointers, I can't limit myself to applying for jobs to which I'm specifically suited (keeping in mind your comments about discarding those who just list generic skills), because such jobs which are also within my travelling distance won't come regularly enough to please the jobseekers' people - I have to churn out applications to any and all jobs I could possibly have some sort of a shot at, which means sending CVs all over, whether they have a realistic chance of passing through the filters or not. Really, for many of these jobs, there's no way to make my CV part of that select group that actually gets anywhere, but I still have to send it.
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