If the CV/Resume is a sales document, then it surely must be OK to lie?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 - CV Writing


The hardest thing for any new or returning job applicant (also called a candidate), to recognise, is the strange world we recruitment people live in – that is both recruiters and HR professionals.

Firstly, we talk a strange language – a simple one, but a strange one. We also live in a world of words, but have cold and often formal handshakes – it’s a legislative thing, and we have to be equal in our manner to be neutral in our recommendations to the hiring manager. As a result, we are often the most liberal and open minded types, and horribly PC in our work. On the downside, we are a scheming bunch of so-and-so’s, so that when we talk to you on the phone or meet you for an interview, we regularly throw what to you seem like curved balls to annoy you and get you upset (Note: yep, that is the purpose on some occasions, but certainly not always – we are human being who are just trying to get at the real you and your potential.)

One early aspect all job seekers must pick up on, is that the CV/Resume is a sales document, and NOT a school-like list of everything you have ever done or achieved.

Now, many don’t relate sales with the truth. They think sales means that if they were a character actor, it would mean slipping on a 110% polyester suit, a pair of plastic brogues, and a silk tie; then getting in a far too flash car with chrome wheels, driving to a second hand car lot and lying their heads off.

So, here is why a CV/Resume is a sales document, and the type of sales document it is. Imagine you are a hiring manager, and you need a new member of staff. You approach the HR manager, and they ask you for a description (in the trade, that’s called a Job Description). Much as though you majored in art in college, you can’t draw to save your life – so the only way to describe the job is to create a 3D template in which the ideal candidate will fit.

Please note that I didn’t use the word mould, because moulds are like templates in many aspects but one – you pour liquids in which then set into a mould, while templates judge fit around solid shaped objects.

Hence, think of you and your skills (with evidence of delivery along a track record, we call those Competencies), as a lump of stone. You could carve that stone in many ways to many shapes, but if you just stand back a foot or two (the role of the mentor or coach), there are some clear and obvious things into which you could carve it. Now, it would be great if the employer gave you the applicant the template they were using, but they don’t – they give you an advert, which is like a pour quality paper version of a steel template. The CV/Resume hence takes the basic stone (you), and the basic paper template, and added with a few trade tricks carves the stone to fit the paper template.

In the employers mind, if you can’t fit the paper advert and its wide tolerances, you won’t fit the final steel Job Description – and if they really wanted a granite finish over an alabaster, well forget it!

You may think: well hang on, all I have to do is add a few bits and pieces here, and carve out a bit more there, and I will get an interview. Possibly is the answer. But those attached pieces and the incorrect carving of the stone will stick out like blue-tac added after thoughts to the classic Venus de Milo in interview.

What about the under qualified? Not enough stone in the right places to fill the template shape. And what about over qualified? Well, from the employers view point, they will be questioning the wasted stone lying around the carved result.

So the CV/Resume takes hard facts – the stone – and turns them into a shape which fits the adverts template. You can’t take things and add them because they will stick out; and you can’t understate competencies just to make you look like a better fit – the question will be why?

OK, so now that you know what a CV/Resume is, what is a Cover Letter? Think of the Cover Letter as a set of high lights, which with warmth light up the carved stone. They show the employer that the key issues of their requirements are met, and that they should proceed with the process of trying fit with the template. Hence, if you don’t attach a Cover Letter, then really it’s like turning the lights out on your job application.

Next, we can cover interview technique as a dance – I told you recruitment was a strange world!

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