The only thing worse than having a job is not having a job. And the process of searching for the right job -- not just one that pays the bills and puts meat -- or tofu -- on the table, but one that is enriching and fulfilling -- is long, arduous, tedious and frequently frustrating. "Why don't the bastards hire me?!" is a perfectly good complaint from many of the talented and experienced women and men who are my career coaching clients.
And the answer to this lament is: because HR officers and managers are simply too over-worked and overwhelmed by the day-to-day processes of their jobs; occasionally they are breathtakingly incompetent or shockingly indifferent to the hiring process. As a job seeker, the only thing you can do is to do your very best. In a globalized economy, however, your very best is not good enough. Not only do you have to be good or even damn good or even super mega hot damn good, but you also have to be unique.
Because of the essential silliness of the job-finding procedure, the only way you can showcase your uniqueness -- your special skills, talents, experience, wisdom and know-how -- is on the two or three pages of your CV -- resume, as it is called in the USA -- and cover letter. Sadly, many of us don't know how to do this because we've never learned how to think of ourselves as special and talented. But that's another topic.
My objective here is to focus on some of the elements of effective CVs. Ineffective CVs were covered in my last blog [link]. Because of human beings' linear way of thinking and reading a text, what appears at the top of your CV -- after the dull fundamentals of your name and contact information -- is of greater impact than what appears two to three pages later at the bottom of your CV. Thus, if one of your hobbies/interests is "Neutralizing Flesh-Melting Silicon-Based Anti-Humanoids from the Moon Io," and if you are not applying for a position at the U.S. Postal Services, move this to the top of your CV, where it will attract weary eyes, alien or Earthling. If you are applying for a job at the US Postal Services, leave this at the bottom of page three.
Another point is, don't have just a generic, one-size-fits-all plug-and-play CV that you send out to every position imaginable from Dish Washer to Lecturer, Medieval Arabic Poetry because you're desperate to have a job. Customize your CV to the positions and the jobs you're applying for. Your CV should be as fine and seductive as a silken ribbon, designed to feel soothing and reassuring in the blistered hands of managers and HR officers. Create seven to ten versions of your CV, depending upon the job and the career area, and store them on your computer under folders entitled, "Education", "Import-Export" or "Barnacle Cleaner, Maritime Industry."
Practically, this means that your CV is not written in stone, it is written in the computer font which you love; if you don't love Times New Roman, don't use it. The font you chose is as unique as your own character. Live it.
Your CV should be fluid, flexible and changeable to highlight those aspects of your experience and skills that the job for which you are applying to demands. If the job announcement says, "International Business Experience Appreciated," mention at the top of your CV your two months in France picking grapes, or that extended working adventure in Canada as an intern.
Those who don't mention these special and unique aspects of their working lives won't be called in for an interview. If you sell yourself as unremarkable, only the unremarkable will respond -- with a yawn. It's that simple, it's that silly, it's that brutal. Sell yourself as possessing the perfect skills for the hungry, slightly annoyed, over-worked and stressed-out buyer looking for those skills. If you don't show them, they'll overlook them -- and they'll overlook you.