How to write a CV

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How to write a CV

You want the job, so how best to present your amazing wealth of experience? Throw everything at the recruiter and hope they can see the gold nuggets amongst the slag? It’s so tempting in these days of email to produce a standard “one size fits all” CV and send it to everywhere you can think of.

No, don’t. Recruiters look at a CV maybe for 30 seconds the first time. That’s if they don’t use a computer program to select it automatically. So you only have a very limited moment to attract their attention and reflect the key skills they are looking for.

So help them and help yourself, make your CV simple, eye-catching and effective. Your CV should impart information efficiently. In this article I hope to give some guidance as to the pitfalls to avoid and perhaps the information on the way we recruiters look at a CV. I’m assuming of course that these days all contact is by email, and your CV would be attached. Sadly, the properly written CV on paper is a lost art. However, just because you can spam email your CV everywhere doesn’t mean you should. It is still the first point of contact with a new employer and it represents the best you can do. So take some care over it.

Here are some genuine examples of what not to do:

Firstly, try to avoid being too brief or vague….

“hoping for positive feedback” was one email I got from a candidate. My thought was “aren’t we all?” but there’s nothing further I can do for this emailer who didn’t even include a CV.

“I am relocating to the UK in the new year and looking for a position anywhere in the country as I am willing to travel….if you could put out your feelers as you know my experience in any Consulting,Management and Specialist positions. Look forward to hearing from you….”

This also almost tells me nothing and unless I can remember you from thousands of other candidates I may have spoken to that year, you will be filed…

Then there are candidates that send covering letters and ramble on. Or a general covering letter, which is worse than none at all. A long one doesn’t get read, especially if it is attached separately – we just look at your email message, and the attached CV – we honestly don’t have time to read every covering letter as we assume that you will have only reiterated what is in your CV. If we want more details once we have selected your CV then we’ll read the letter, or ask. So keep your email concise – what job you’re applying for (quote the reference is there is one), that you’ve attached a CV (in case you’ve forgotten, at least we then know and can ask you to re-send one) and why your experience fits you for the role, and your contact details by your signature. That’s it. That’s all we need, at least to start with.

If you’re applying generally or on spec, try to state – briefly – your key skills, and what you are looking for – that is, what I, as a recruiter, can help you with. Eg:

“I have 20 years experience running the finance departments of various mining companies in Africa and I am looking for a similar role with a Canadian company to start in March. Do you have any roles for a Finance Director in Canada? Do email me if my skills may suit any roles you have on your books….”

Secondly, please do not shout at me:

I RECEIVE SO MANY EMAILS FROM PEOPLE WHO WRITE ENTIRELY WITH THE CAPSLOCK ON….

Please don’t. It’s such bad form. A few candidates even write their entire CV in capitals. This gives any recruiter a headache as it’s almost impossible to see at a glance what are the key roles and companies we are interested in. It’s most annoying and you do not want to annoy the person who may be finding you your next job.

Also, please remember that we recruiters are busy. We receive very many CV’s every day and firstly we have to quickly identify whether you are the person for the job – caps throughout makes this impossible to see quickly. Also, we often need to “top and tail” a CV – that is, delete your personal details and add our logo and contact details – to send it on to an employer as quickly as possible. Writing your whole CV in capitals means we have to re-type the whole thing, which, frankly, means we may not bother, so your perhaps very relevant experience gets ignored. Not what you wanted at all.

Whilst on this subject, try to make your CV relevant and short. So if you’re applying for a Mine Manager role, it’s perhaps not worthwhile stating you were an electrician 20 years ago, or that your hobbies are ice skating and musicals or that you run the local Scouts.

Just state the last five years, and/or three most recent jobs in a little detail, then anything else that directly gives you the experience for the role, briefly. You should have a short CV of just TWO pages. Indeed, the art of CV writing is knowing what to leave OUT, not what to put in.

If requested to interview by the recruiter, or you are told that you are being selected to have your details sent to the employer, then have a much more detailed CV ready including a note in the Personal Details paragraph on salary (or salary expectation) and if married or how you will work the life/work balance (as some mining roles may not provide married accommodation), passports held or visa gained and anything else that may encourage the employer to employ you, together with three key references. This will help the recruiter place you, perhaps in front of other candidates who are less fulsome or candid.

Some pointers:

Do’s

• Be brief – no more than two pages for an initial CV.

• If you have had a stellar career that you just can’t condense to two pages, it’s OK to provide links to Linked In profiles, Facebook or company websites etc, which as a recruiter I can click on if I’m interested. A three page list of publications written, no matter how impressive, just doesn’t inspire me.

• Include a couple of lines of “keywords” – as many agencies have software that looks for these specifically to select from the thousands of CV’s they have on file. I suggest you put at the very end of your CV a list of such words that are the essence of your experience, eg; Manager, mining, geologist, copper, gold, exploration, Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, English, French etc etc. Small font is great for this as it’s not part of your CV but makes use of the word scans we recruiters may use.

• Provide a brief summary of your experience at the top of your CV as a “Personal Details” or “Summary” paragraph – but avoid platitudes and subjective comments.

• Do keep it simple, legible and easy to read, preferably in good English – all word programs have a spell checker in them, so use it! There’s something sad but very funny about a candidate saying they have “atention to detail” – or worse, they have not read their CV back to themselves but have trusted the spellchecker – and again, I could write a book on candidates that quote one of their key skills as “attention to dental” .

• Do get a friend to check over your CV before sending it. Especially if English is not your first language (see point above). We at Westminster Mining are always happy to provide a few brief pointers if asked but not all agencies have the time or the inclination.

• Do state last / present job FIRST, we really don’t appreciate having to scroll down ten pages to find what you now do.

• Do lay out your CV neatly and with lots of breaks and paragraphs.

• Do include your age in your CV. If you don’t wish to state your age, that’s OK but it may reduce your chances of being considered for a role as some Agencies age-filter and some employers will set parameters such as “unlikely to be under 35”. Read the advert carefully if there is one and don’t bother applying if you’re well over the stated age. However, check local laws as sometimes agencies may not discriminate on age, so no need to state it.

• Do include your full contact details in your CV.

• Do include your Skype ID. If you don’t have one, get one.

• It’s worthwhile including a professional looking and attractive picture of yourself – but don’t bother if all you have is a selfie that looks like you’re top of the Interpol Wanted List. This is your career we’re talking about, so take a little time and get a good picture. This is also a good way to show if you look a lot fitter than your date of birth may suggest.

• Do use shortened phrases, eg: “Led US$40m copper mine, weekly Board reports.” rather than “Led a US$40m copper mining operation and reported to the Board weekly.”

• Do use paragraphs, bold, underline or capitals to draw attention to key roles / companies / dates etc….eg:

XYZ MINING Co. – Mine Manager August 2014 to date
Undertook all duties of a mine manager in US$240m copper mine in Algeria. Managed team of 112, daily reports to Project Director, monthly Board reports ….etc etc…..

Dont’s

• Do NOT refer to yourself all the way through the CV. A comment in the Summary paragraph such as “I led a US$250m takeover of XYZ Gold in Toronto” is fine, but peppering your CV with “I did this” “I did that” looks both egotistical and makes it very hard for us to top and tail a CV for the client (see above). Use the third person. “Undertook a US$250m takeover….”

• Do NOT mix all your information together in one stream of consciousness, without paragraphs or punctuation – if we want to give ourselves this headache we’ll read James Joyce.

• Do not use tired and “marketing speak” phrases such as “a good team worker” “thinks outside the box” “profit-led” etc. Of much more use to us recruiters are phrases such as “took a £20m gold exploration company to £120m and to market in 2014” – that is, tell us what you actually did that we can quantify to a client.

• Avoid wholly or blindingly obvious phrases that are just padding, such as “led the operation of the mine” which is the least we’d expect a Mine Manager to do! Only explain your duties if it is unclear from your Job Title. Remember, you’re not explaining to a dinner party guest what you do for a living, but to fellow professionals that probably already know the difference between an Operations Director and a Mine Manager. It’s surprising how many words you can save if you try.

• Please DON’T wrap your text in pretty coloured boxes or anything that makes it hard to edit your text or uses up our bandwidth. Remember we may need to put your CV into a standard format to send to the employer, and we can’t do this if you’re using all the effects in the Microsoft paint box. Result – you don’t get sent.

• Don’t attach hundreds of Certificates no matter how relevant and copies of your passport, at least not in the initial email. A CV is all you need. If we’re interested, we’ll ask for the rest UNLESS we asked for it in the original advert. Too many attachments and you may end up in the spam folder without the recruiter even knowing you’ve sent a CV.

Finally, whatever your CV looks like when you send it, always always give a current email address that you can pick up messages from quickly. There’s really no excuse for not being contactable these days, even if you’re down a mine or in wildest deepest Peru. We recruiters may only have a few hours to contact you to find out if you’re still available. If we don’t hear back from you we may submit the shortlist without you. So be available for us to ask questions. If you really are often down a mine in Peru, then let us know when is a good time to contact you every day.

If you help us as recruiters, then we can do our best to fit you to a role that will truly suit you, ensure you fit into the team and can do a great job for your new employer – and not waste your time or ours.