Over the last few weeks and months I’ve been asked by a lot of people about the content and layout of their CV, and, it’s still true that this couple of pages that describes your experience and skills is incredibly important, but it’s not the only way that potential employers and companies find out about you before considering you for a role. What people are finding more and more over the last couple of years is that when applying for a job online, the sites are asking for more than just this document. If you’ve applied online for anything recently you’ll have noticed that you may be asked for your LinkedIn profile, a cover letter, and even a website.
I’ve had some funny looks when I’ve said to people that they should have their own website, but this is quickly becoming the norm. More and more professionals, even those who don’t actively blog or put content online, are creating simple sites to showcase more than a LinkedIn or online work profile will show. There are many benefits to doing this, and, right now, you are still slightly ahead of the curve if you have one. It’s not just the techie people and social media gurus who have taken it upon themselves to create a site, and it’s something that I am increasingly recommending to job seekers.
Take the world of acting, which I first created a personal site for when I dabbled in it in my spare time, a CV or resumé is all well and good, but in that profession people want to see and hear you, and for a long time, budding actors have created their own sites to show their show reels, voice overs as well as their photo shoots. This is a great way of getting across more than just the black and white that appears on paper. Yes, you’ll say, but that industry relies on the visual and audio, but it’s not just this that you can get across by having you own web space.
In many roles you may be involved in projects such as product launches or sales drives or whatever your profession does, and the truth is that future employers are really interested in these. Try and remember back to the last time you had an interview and the people on the other side of the table asked you about achievements and projects. It happens all the time, but on a CV these tend to be boiled down to one or two lines, and if you’re luck the HR person reading them can grasp some of the scope or depth involved. Why not then, with whatever content and information you are allowed to make public, gather up as much content as possible and have this on a page on your own site so that people can see it before the interview, or even to get you to that interview stage.
Are employers really looking at personal sites though? The answer is ‘yes’ they really are. They are looking for the best candidate and best fit for their organisation at the end of the day, and why wouldn’t you want to give them as many reasons as possible to feel that you are that person. A 2 page CV will tell them bullet points, a well laid out website can tell them everything. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough one to get right, too much content all at once and you dilute your message, too little and they may feel that it was a waste of time going to the site. The best advice I can give is to take your CV and elaborate on the things you have achieved and what you are proud of.
Anyone who says they can’t do a website, I beg to differ. With services like WIX and SquareSpace, a simple yet elegant site can be put together in less than a day, and this, combined with you CV is more tools in your belt when approaching recruiters. Do remember to put a link to the site on your CV and LinkedIn pages though. Not much good if no one can find it.
This brings me back to the CV itself. You have probably spend a lot of agonizing time trying to get the layout and content just right on the pages, and it would be a shame if it all looked like a mess by the time it got to the relevant person in an organisation. The unfortunate truth is that for a lot of formats online, including Word .doc files the formatting can change dramatically depending on how its sent, the version they are using and half a dozen other factors, and I’ve seen, even when people send me CV’s to look over it comes out not looking the way they’d hoped. If possible try to send as a format that’s designed to look good no matter how it’s being viewed. If you can save as a PDF for example, this (for the most part) looks the same on any screen, PC or Mac as the formatting is coded into it. In general it also means that content can’t be altered, which is good to prevent accidental mistakes by saving the Word version not realizing you’ve put in extra characters.
Lastly your cover letter. This is probably the toughest aspect of all as there is so much room for personal bias and the letter is entirely subjective. I often get asked if it should be funny, bold, professional, direct or personal and the unfortunate answer is all of the above. You need this letter to stand out from the crowd and being personal yet professional is the way to go. Imagine you’re on a talk show and you’re being interviewed on who you are and you are close to what the tone should be. Factual without being boring or listing off achievements, funny while being respectful and professional and memorable without being in your face. This is a fine line to walk and may require different versions and iterations depending on the role and company you are applying to. But don’t be afraid to talk about who and what you are rather than your roles as the CV does this for you.