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Resume Tips

Walking tall and standing apart
Curriculum Vitaes are a cinch!

EVERYBODY tells you to write a fresh Curriculum Vitae every time you apply for a job and to update it every couple of months, perhaps assuming that you will whip it out the moment a likely employer heaves to on the horizon. I can think of nothing more tedious than composing paeans about oneself month in and month out! However, over the years I have managed to develop a method that is nearly painless. One essential factor needs to be fixated in your mind. To make a CV readable and interesting, it must stand out from a crowd of CVs churned out by hundreds of other applicants. I’m not one for the Mission/ Vision/ Objective statements at the beginning. Everybody does that and it sounds so incredibly fatuous that as an avid CV scanner myself I find myself zipping through the rest with a cursory glance. You need to be clear, concise, and businesslike and put all that down in an attractive format that doesn’t jar the delicate sensibilities of the hiring authorities! To do this and to ensure getting your CV to the top of the heap you need to make certain you follow these pointers:

Getting it right

There are two types of CVs. One is ideal for professional butterflies who leap about from career to career with the occasional employment break. Hirers are, at least in India, not overwhelmed with long breaks in employment and the best way to downplay such breaks is to create a functional CV. In such CVs, you describe your skills in categories [Automobile engineer, institutional manager, finance professional] and list the designations you have had lower down. This provides a clear, unequivocal overview of what you are good at and how former employers valued your services. For those of you with steadier career paths, and whose employment gaps have been insignificant or non-existent a chronological CV is the best bet. In these, you list your jobs and the designation you held in reverse chronological order. The same format can be followed when you mention your educational/training background. This is the way dyed-in-the-wool HR functionaries like to see things, as they tend to be sticklers for form and tradition.

Types

When you construct the chronological CV do make certain you describe your experience, education and skills telling the reader what it is that you have achieved thus far. Please remember that the functionaries that sift through the mounds of CVs that cross their desk like to make very light work of them. Therefore if they cannot immediately understand what you have to offer, they’ll summarily shred your CV. On the other hand if they are able to instantly see what they are looking for, the CV will make its way up the corporate ladder! You must understand that the average time for reading a CV is about a minute and a half, so if you fit the job, say so at the outset, or indicate it right upfront! While work experience precedes education, in the event you are applying for your first job, your education should be showcased first. Work experience or education; list them down in reverse order of chronology. Do not clutter a CV with details of your consuming interest in bee-keeping and the like, save it for when they ask you at the interview about your interests! I am often asked if CVs should talk about the division or class of educational qualifications. There is no hard and fast rule about this but if your scraped through, waxing eloquent about your division may not further your case too far, on the other hand, you might like to mention the fact that you received a gold medal or a merit scholarship if in fact you actually did. A top performer can usually be depended upon to be consistent and is generally a safe bet with any employer. If you haven’t been formally employed as yet, it may not be a bad idea to list down any relevant experience you may have in the functional area required. This could be in social service you may have undertaken at sometime during school or college. Computer skills are another nice thing you might like to include, and if you have written articles for a paper or anchored a TV show, do mention it. Language skills are a major draw, so you may like to mention them too.

The Look and Feel

We have talked above of the way a good CV needs to be organised to be noticed, but if it even looks tatty, the busy HR executive will not give it the time of day! Bottom line? It has to be attractive and spending time on formatting will pay dividends.

The Format: Lotus SmartSuite and MSWord have CV templates. While they are attractive and do present the material well, please remember that hordes of other applicants will have thought of that too, and in using them reduced your CV to the boring sameness that will tire the person who looks at it. It is normal human tendency to assume that a similar looking document has the same contents, so if the screening executive sees a dozen similar formats, he is likely to give yours a cursory glance instead of the attention it deserves. This does not mean that you embellish your CV with fancy fonts and colourful pictures and graphics! Simple and easy-to-read should be the effect to strive for. Do not be too lavish with bold print and avoid italics as far as possible. Bulleting is a good way to make a list but keep it simple and do not fall into the trap of having a varied series of them. Pointing fingers, graphic arrows and check marks are best avoided.

The Paper: This is important if you need hard copies of your CV. Today, despite many Indian corporations going electronic, HR departments still prefer having their records on paper. To be noticed, your CV needs to be ‘good-to-the-touch’. This does not mean that you etch your CV on beaten silver but the quality of paper matters. Go in for thickish executive bond paper (75 gauge) or, better still, royal executive bond (100 gauge) that looks great and takes computer printing excellently. Avoid writing your CV or typing it out on a manual typewriter. This is passé and will not get a second glance. Please remember that your CV, cover letter and the envelope should match, since these are often clipped together when ‘moved up’ the HR ladder. I have always felt that paper that is not pure white attracts more attention, so using ivory or cream textured paper will at least cause your CV to stand out from the motley pile. Besides, print stands out well on ivory and cream.

Fonts: If your CV needs to go in soft copy form, remember that some e-mail packages may not recognise your choice of font. They may even insist on text font CVs that will play havoc with all your careful planning. The font must necessarily be plain and easy to read. The size should not be larger than 12 points except for the header, which includes your name. These can be bold as well. The best read fonts are Arial, Tahoma or any other uncomplicated sans serif font that will come out much better if they are scanned or faxed as they are likely to be when your CV moves up to the next level. Avoid Times New Roman or Lucida Handwriting. Even sans serif fonts like Comic Sans are not recommended.

The Meat of the Matter

Having ensured that your CV looks good and is well organised we come to the meat of the matter – what to put in it so that it holds the attention of the people who will read it.

The Long and Short of it: If you are a fresher or a person with about 5-10 years of experience, keep your CV down to a single page. On the other hand, if you are a seasoned professional with 15+ years of service some of them in senior positions keep it to two pages at the outside. For one thing it is quick to read and if the salient points are clear, it is all that is required. It is not a bad idea to have a detailed CV saved on your system from which you can cut and paste as required to suit the job profile for which you are applying.

Proactive Prose: Grammar sometimes needs to be modified to suit the need. Start descriptive sentences with active verbs like ‘Advised the Managing Director’ or ‘Supervised the conduct of the session’ or ‘Trained new entrants’ etc., This gives an impression of activity and high energy. Even something like ‘Exclusively responsible’ will catch the eye. This advice may not thrill grammarians, but hey, you’ve got to get that tired HR executive to take notice, right?

Figure it right: If you need to quote numbers or percentages or statistics, do so. Nothing catches the attention like a series of figures. There seems to be a magic associated with numbers that fascinates often even if the numbers are not substantiated in the text. For some reason, people generally feel that numbers cannot lie so by association the text that accompanies the numbers must be worth reading too!

If you have managed to incorporate all the suggestions above, your CV must be really something that will aid your immediate employment! You can be reasonably certain that it will be read and with interest that may prompt them to call you for an interview. Once there, you will have the task of living upto the standard of your CV, so stick to the truth and memorise everything so that you aren’t caught off guard when they ask you about an entry in the CV. Never forget to carry an extra hard copy of the CV when you go for the interview.

S.RAMANUJACHARYA
professor1@sify.com

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