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Jordan Whitehouse is an opportunities tutor at Bromford and coaches people to get the skills they need to find work. In his first blog, Jordan discusses why he believes there is a problem with CV advice that people are given. 


There’s a problem with CVs.

Or rather, there’s a problem with the advice people get about CVs.

Nowadays, it seems that every man and his dog is doing some kind of employability and skills training; housing associations, churches that run work clubs, charities, and of course the more traditional groups like Jobcentre Plus (JCP) and for profit “back to work” companies. This means the market is saturated with good, bad, and really bad advice.

This is going to cause some problems. We’ve all heard the old adage “too many chefs spoil the broth” and when it comes to CVs, this is absolutely true. People who need help with CVs receive conflicting advice, sometimes being told that their CV is rubbish, and that they’ll have to start again. How frustrating would that be? The goal posts for what makes a “good” CV are constantly being changed, and if you’re a job seeker this must drive you b.a.n.a.n.a.s. (you just read that like Gwen Stefani, didn’t youQ. So what makes a good CV?

A. One that gets you a job.

It’s that simple. If your CV gets you in front of a recruiter or secures an interview, then it has done what it needs to, and is therefore a good CV. This doesn’t mean that every employer or industry will like it, just the one you’ve got the interview with.

At Bromford, we coach our customers to build interesting and engaging CVs. Through researching employment trends and looking at lots of different industries we have found that if you can engage an employer, keep their attention, and give them what they need in terms of keywords and examples, you’re more likely to get an interview.

We use stories and structure to do this; we teach customers about STAR (situation, task, action, response) as a way to plan their personal profiles, but we recognise that not every employer wants this. Some employers don’t want a story; they want to know you can do the job, hit targets, pick orders, whatever it is, and do it well. These are often smaller employers without a dedicated HR team, who maybe don’t have time to sit down and thoroughly read every CV they get sent –so it’ll be a quick scan read and if it doesn’t give them what they want, it goes in the (recycle) bin.

Conflicting advice

Recently, one of our skills coaches approached me to show me a CV that had been done by another employability group. It was written in the third person, didn’t contain any examples or explanations, and made the customer sound like a drone. The person giving this advice had spent a number of years in the army (not immersed in recruitment) so was really out of date with their information, but if that is the only support a customer receives, then they’ll think that’s the way their CV should be (it’s not.)

I was horrified when I read the personal profile; it was so vastly different to how we coach our customers to write their CVs – boring, written in the 3rd person (which is a massive no-no – it’s your CV, it’s not someone talking about you) and just a long list of adjectives. Hardworking, reliable, trustworthy, punctual blah blah blah bored.

Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes for a minute; if you had 300 CVs to read in a day, what is going to stand out more? A CV that keeps your interest and gives examples of how awesome you are, or one that lists a load of describing words that ultimately mean nothing. Don’t say you’re hardworking, show me. How are you hardworking? How are you reliable or trustworthy? Examples really are important in your CV, they demonstrate knowledge, skills and experience, which gives the recruiter faith in you as a job seeker, which means they’re more likely to pass you on for interview.

All these different groups giving advice means that naturally, there will be lots of different advice floating around. I’m not saying that the way we do CVs is the gold standard, but the employers we talk to like how we do CVs, because we’re coaching customers to give recruiters what they need, which makes their job easier, and gets our customers sustainable jobs.

Some Caveats

What recruiters want varies massively by both industry and sector. In construction, recruiters don’t want story based CVs that are “fluffy” – they want to know that you have the skills and qualifications to do the job safely and well. In this case, being very factual and example based is good, but the story component becomes less important. Likewise, with banking, a notoriously “hard” industry, employers want examples of previous success (how can you save/make them money) hard facts, qualifications and evidence. If you’re going for a job where people are the main focus, such as support providers, care companies or social services, then the employer wants to know that you’re good with people, caring, and the right sort of person. Which is something you can definitely show through a story.

So, if your CV gets you an interview, puts you in front of a recruiter, and is an accurate reflection of you and your skills, then it’s a good CV. And if it doesn’t do that, then maybe think about making some changes; you owe it to yourself!


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