DEEPESH DAS POINTS OUT 10 MISTAKES TO WATCH OUT FOR WHILE CRAFTING YOUR RESUME IN THESE TOUGH TIMES -- It’s important that you check out a company before signing on the dotted line --
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10 CV SINS
Write your resume right
A pink, perfumed CV and a videocassette doubling up as a cover letter that shows the applicant in a bikini. Well, only Elle Woods – Reese Witherspoon’s character in the 2001 film Legally Blonde – can get away with such a bizarre application for a Harvard Law School seat. In the real world, whacky resumes may not always be clinchers. On the contrary, they may land you in a difficult spot in these even more difficult times.
Youngsters ready to take the plunge, exercise caution. Bubbling with energy and ideas – and still a little reckless perhaps – you should take this first step towards building your career carefully. In the current scenario, it’s important that every individual knows how to present him or herself. Be it a research organization, a B-school or a corporate giant, your CV is what does the initial talking for you.
According to career experts and industry heads, there’s a fine line between being innovative and being outlandish in so far as crafting a CV is concerned. You can certainly think out of the box but if you do not watch your words you may soon find yourself boxed in by your peers whose CVs might make more sense than your.
So here is a list of 10 cardinal sins that you should avoid while drafting your resume.
According to Sanjay Roy Chowdhury, managing director of Gray Matters Consulting, Calcutta, Microsoft Word or any other word processing software is the best to compose a CV in. “I have seen CVs in Excel and Power-point. Since these packages are meant for other purposes, there is an obvious discomfort in seeing a CV in these formats,” he explains. “Even if you wish to hint about your creative talent, it would not count high on the creativity quotient. On the contrary, your CV could be dismissed as bizarre”.
Public relations expert Rita Bhimani agrees. “In one of my media studies classes – which was on how to write a good CV – the kind of inputs we got from students were funereal and tacky. You would not hire anyone with the kind of structuring and lengthy histories of marks received,” she says.
Printing your CV on glossy paper or spraying it with perfume would only earn you negative marks. Also, avoid using different colours and fonts. A CV should be as neat as possible. According to Tushar Basu, director of Analytic Consultants, the standard font style is Times New Roman and the ideal font size 12.
Reams to read
Keep you CV short and precise. Recruiters simply abhor resumes that are lengthy and contain convoluted language. “There used to be a trend, at least in the ad world, that you ought to write reams of autobiographical details in your CV. Even now, some people take great pains to accommodate each little detail of their existence,” says Suchismita Roy, associate vice-president and senior creative director of JWT, Calcutta.
“If you are aspiring to be a copywriter, you need to show your language skills. But there’s no need to expatiate on every little detail of your life. Remember, less is more,” she advises.
And this holds for all industries, creative or otherwise “Avoid unending, cumbersome paragraphs. Use short, simple sentences, preferably with bullet points,” says Swap-nil Tripathi, vice-president, operations and naukri.com.
“Today, no one has the time to read through pages and pages of credentials. If you are good, it can be conveyed in a few words only,” adds Roy Chowdhury. “An ideal CV should be of two pages. If you think it is necessary to add more content that would be relevant to the position you are seeking, do it in the form of an annexure. That way, if the recruiting manager is impressed with the first two pages, he or she may read the annexure too”.
Mind your language
Often recruiters reject resumes that are rife with spelling mistakes or are written in vague language. A recruiter in the tech field cites a CV that consistently spelt computer “program” as “progrom”. “Misspellings are to be avoided like the plague,” says Roy Chowdhury.
“Sometimes, the CVs that we receive from fresh graduates lead us nowhere because their language is vague,” says Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, business head in Calcutta at IPAN, the public relations agency. “In the ‘career objective’ section, youngsters often write that they ‘want to change the world’. Of course, this is a very noble thought, but how exactly do you plan to go about it”?
Overdose of creativity
Fresher beware. If you plan to get a footing in the creative industry, you need not go over the top trying to display your artistic abilities. Creative heads are not taken in by exhibitionism. “Once I received a resume that was fashioned like a greeting card. The moment I opened, it a photo of the applicant popped out… On another occasions, we got an application where the candidate had imagined himself a tree,” says Roy, who has been in advertising for more than a decade.
The creative section of the firm, says Roy, receives a steady stream of such weird CVs. “We often come across resumes that have doodles all over – some applicants do this just to show how creative they are. We also receive heavily scented cover letters and resumes. There is really no need for such bizarre ideas; they can put recruiters off,” warns Roy.
Citing more examples of mistakes, Chatterjee says that applicants often write in their CVs that they have “contributed significantly to the companies they have worked for”. College graduates too tend to go overboard with their participation in, say, a social service scheme or an activity club. “They would do well to remember that they should give concrete examples. Sweeping generalizations just won’t do,” he says.
Another note of caution. “Jobseekers often try to explain in their cover letters or CVs why they quit their previous job in a negative way. They criticize their former employers. This should be avoided,” says Chatterjee. “A better way of putting it would be – ‘I left my previous company because I needed a leap in my career’”.
An area that should be drafted carefully is the “extra-curricular activities” section. “While I would like to know about a candidate’s hobbies and extra-curricular activities, when I see them writing ‘watching television and email chatting’ – I cannot but be horrified,” says Bhimani. “Everyone must have one singular trait, a specialty which they could highlight – but no, they prefer to sing, dance and have ‘nice’ communication skills. Ouch! Delete the word from your vocabulary, please”.
What you really need to do is “pigeonholing”. “By this, we mean specifying your area of specialization. If you specialize in marketing, don’t make a pitch for a PR job,” says Chatterjee.
Bag of lies
Do not build your career on anything but the truth. Applicants must be honest about their skills and qualifications. Falsifying experience or educational information can be suicidal. “Be truthful about your achievements. Recruiters can easily call your bluff. If you are a fresh graduate, show the board members your willingness to learn,” says B. P. Agrawal, chairman of ABC consultants.
Agrees Tripathi of naukri.com. “Often engineering and management graduates write about strategizing. Recruiters know that at this level, one wouldn’t be able to do that,” cautions.
Remember, recruiters are trying to see the real “you” behind the CV. So be original. “Sometimes, we get copycat CVs. Youngsters just blindly follow some format which they might have accessed through the Internet. Even the language remains unaltered. This only shows the utter lack of imagination on the applicant’s part,” says Agrawal.
Do not wallow in self-importance. “The worst offenders are those who imbue themselves with over-blown praise and then cut a sorry figure when facing the interview board,” says Bhimani. If praise is what you seek, let it come from the other side.
Of course, exercising caution does not mean you cannot be imaginative while writing your CV. After all, you may be just out of college, young at heart and eager to explore options and opportunities. Give vent to your ingenuity, but do it well.
“A whacky CV worked wonders for my son, Gautam, who attached a cartoon of himself when the sent his CV for his television job,” recalls Bhimani. “The heads under which he talked about himself started with the letter E – as in Education, Excellence, Experience, Exhibitionism (the videos that the had created), Exhaustion (the games he had played) and so on. And he bagged the job”.
So be controlled in your show of talent. And remember that recruiting managers are always short of time because they have to go through hundreds of CVs. “Your resume should be like an ‘elevator speech’. The concept involves how you’d sell yourself when you meet a person in a lift, traveling from the ground floor to the 15th floor. Your speech has to be coherent, to the point and interesting, and cover all the important facets of your career. And you have 15 seconds to say all this,” says Roy Chowdhury. Get cracking, because your time starts now!
Look before you leap
“Work isn’t a place you go to, it’s a thing you do”
You wouldn’t expect people to have become choosier these days about the company they work for; conventional wisdom says that when jobs are difficult to find, people get less finicky about their employer. That’s true at one level. Shop floor workers, particularly those who have been laid off, will jump at any going opportunity.
But if you are in the market for a managerial job – one that is not the pen-pushing variety and needs more brain than brawn – it’s time to become a bit more discerning. “This is the time when employers feel they can get away with a lot of things,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shashi Rao. “You need to be extra careful”.
In India, the layoffs are really in the unorganized sector, where you work more with your hands than your head. And choices are limited there. A diamond polisher doesn’t have transferable skills; he is in no position to bargain.
But take the finance sector professional who has been shown the door or the IT type for whom there is no longer place on the bench. (The bench is a euphemism for people who have no work to do but are retained on subsistence pay). “It’s easy to get desperate and take the first thing going,” says Rao. “But the sensible take extra care”.
In the US, the job cut situation is far more serious. But research shows that people prefer to look before they leap. According to a survey by Blue Steps, an arm of the Association of Executive Search Consultants, jobseekers are doing greater checks on possible employers before joining up. “More senior executives in a range of fields pose as customers to get uncensored looks before taking on leadership roles,” says The Wall Street Journal reporting on the study.
Blue Steps polled 1145 executives who have been looking for jobs. More than half of them visited the companies they were planning to join “undercover”. They went as customers or in any other garb that allowed them a closer look. People today want to “kick the tyres” before buying the car, says the article.
What is also important these days is the question of corporate culture. No company is squeaky clean, but there are many who aspire to be. If a company has a culture of taking its customers for a ride, you can be sure it will rub off on the way it deals with its employees.
Far more important if you are joining at a senior level are issues of corporate governance. The entire top team at Satyam has been marred by the taint of fraud. True, many of the members may have been actually involved. But even the innocent – they were guilty of stupidity and incompetence anyway – will not be able to live it down. The higher up you go, the more the company’s ethics matter. Ideally, it should matter at all levels).
“There is a myth that Indians don’t have the fallback systems people in the West have,” says Rao. “Here, there is normally a supportive family. And Indians are also the world’s biggest savers. What we really lack is self-confidence,” she adds.
Abroad, there are many who are treating this period of job loss as an opportunity to get an additional academic degree. It should be the same way here. “But too many people feel that if you are out of work for a year, you will find it more difficult to get a job after that,” says Rao.
She insists that you have to be extremely discerning today. It is far better to sit out for a few months – set yourself up as a consultant, if you need to satisfy the inquisitive – than to take the first offer.
The best, of course, would be to take a break, go to the hills, and find a different fulfillment. But that may be too rocky a trail when there is fear over the city.
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