We were a little amused this morning by a story and its reaction on the BBC News website, which implies that some graduates in Scotland may have been advised to “dumb down” their CVs in some instances.
Now before you go spitting your tea out, or having a little rant about how ridiculous that advice seems – the advice that is allegedly being given out isn’t as daft as it might seem: people are bing told that – if they’re applying for jobs that don’t require a degree (the article refers to them somewhat disparagingly as “survival jobs”) – then a CV focussed on academic achievement is going to put the employer off. This is just another way of giving out what is actually very good advice: focus your CV on the specific requirements of the job you’re applying for and don’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to your CV.
The article did raise something of a murmur in the office though, because – as it happens – one of our chief bugbears in graduate CVs is the exact opposite: too many graduates don’t promote their academic achievements strongly enough.
Off the back of this, we thought it was worth reminding graduates of the basics of putting together a really winning CV.
Before you take up any of this advice, please remember that we deal with skilled jobs which always require a degree. We don’t get involved in hiring for unskilled or temporary positions as described in the BBC article.
1 Your CV isn’t a static, finished document
Probably the most common mistake made by people of all levels is to write a CV, finish it and then use it to apply for every job they like the look of. This is a big no-no. You need to get used to the concept of a CV being a tool to convince someone of your suitability for a particular job, and not just a description of who you are.
For graduates, this means that – if you’re applying for a job which requires a very specific area of knowledge – you need to make sure that you demonstrate where and how you have acquired that knowledge. Likewise, if you’re applying for a “survival job” as the BBC put it, you need to demonstrate that you have the requirements that most of these will require – flexibility, loyalty, a strong work ethic and some previous experience of doing that sort of work.
Use the wrong CV for the wrong job, and it just won’t work.
2 Don’t dumb down your RELEVANT experience
So let’s imagine there’s a graduate job that requires a graduate with some C++ programming experience. Now let’s say that your CV mentions that you’ve recently completed a degree in Computer Science, but doesn’t offer any further information.
How is the person who is reading your CV supposed to know that most of your degree was focussed on programming in C++? Or that your final year project was directly related to the company’s products/specialty?
Never dumb down relevant technical or professional experience, in fact – do quite the opposite.
3 You’re graduate-first, “survival job” second
We know what the BBC are on about when they refer to a “survival job”. We’ve all had them. You come out of University and need some money, so you go and get a job locally doing something unrelated to your longer-term career plans. That’s normal.
However, when you’re applying for the job you actually want in the long-term, you must remember that you’re a graduate first and foremost, and that your recent experience is merely a footnote. Use your CV to describe yourself as the motivated high-achieving academic who happens to be doing some local temporary work rather than as someone who works locally doing an unrelated job and who happens to have a degree.
There’s a world of difference.
For a little bit more advice on CV construction, check out our post about the Mistakes You’re Probably Making With Your CV.
I am always happy to take a look at a CV of yours and give you some constructive criticism (or praise). Just send the CV and the job description/advert for the position you’re applying for to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.