The CV’s silent signals

Fascinating documents CVs. They’re supposed to project efficiency and confidence. Yet they can so easily project a candidate’s insecurities – screaming “don’t employ me” rather than “I’m your man/woman”.

Many reveal insecurities, desperation or low confidence, while others reveal pomposity or even hubris – with the difference between the two revelations hardly discernible to the untrained eye.

Certainly, for both recruiters and candidates, CVs can be a minefield to be navigated, although my preferred metaphor is the CV as a high-wire act – where a sure footing is required with a light touch. They should reveal confidence but not arrogance, and competence rather than bravado.

Of course, one’s view of a CV is personal to those assessing it (as well as to the role and industry being applied for) – making it impossible to forge the universally-correct CV. Even recruiters struggle to describe the perfect CV, although there are some obvious – and less obvious – errors to avoid.

As an employer I certainly know what I’m looking for, and have developed an eye for the tell-tale signs that someone may be over-egging themselves, or are perhaps masking deeply-held insecurities.

Here are my observations.

1.    Beware the “interests” minefield. State “socializing” and we look too shallow, so we’re keen to project ourselves as well-rounded and interesting individuals – someone with a “hinterland”. Yet this is an area ripe for self-sabotage. For instance, several times I’ve seen DJing as an interest, which suggests to me late nights and illegal substances. And I once put “politics” on my CV, which would have potentially had me down as a troublemaker. Even innocuous hobbies can say potentially discriminatory things about us – for instance horse riding (“Sloane”), or following Millwall/Chelsea/City (“Chav”). So why include interests at all? Why not replace it with a personal motto? Mine’s KBO (“keep buggering on”): it was Churchill’s during the war and offers an insight into my dogged determination. It also says far more about me than the fact I like cycling or going to the cinema. ……

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