How to stand out from the growing pile of CVs

Don’t even think of embellishing your curriculum vitae, there are lots of other and better ways to get noticed

Online networking giant LinkedIn recently published a list of the most overused buzzwords used by Irish users in their profiles, with worn-out attributes such as “motivated”, “passionate”, “creative” and “driven” all ranking highly.

Online networking giant LinkedIn recently published a list of the most overused buzzwords used by Irish users in their profiles, with worn-out attributes such as “motivated”, “passionate”, “creative” and “driven” all ranking highly.

 

With the economy getting back on track, more employees are considering their options. The promise of higher wages and better benefits is leading many to dust down old CVs, update LinkedIn profiles and practise their smiles. According to many recruiters, though, most are wasting their time.

Recent studies show that the average recruiter looks at a CV for between five and seven seconds before deciding whether to put a candidate forward for a job. As many CVs sent in are badly laid out, contain basic grammar mistakes and often include outright lies, it is not surprising that many jobseekers don’t get called for interview.

Telling porkies seems to be a particular problem. A survey carried out by the international recruitment website CareerBuilder last October revealed that 58 per cent of hiring managers say they have caught a lie on a CV. Furthermore, half the recruiters surveyed for that study said they would automatically dismiss any candidate found to have lied. Some of the lies told by jobseekers are more than a little obvious.

One applicant claimed to have 25 years of professional experience despite being only 32 years old. Another professed to having once been the assistant to the prime minister of a foreign country that doesn’t have a prime minster, while yet another said they were an Olympic medallist. They weren’t. The Irish are as guilty as anyone. A study by the Irish recruitment firm CPL last year showed that two-thirds of employers here said they had been sent CVs that contained untruths.

Peter Cosgrove, a director at CPL, says Irish people are more likely to add minor accomplishments to their CVs rather than tell outright lies. “Most people bend the truth on CVs, so we see a huge amount of class captains, school prefects, treasurers of the local club and other such accolades, which are usually quite easy to prevaricate about,” he says.

Cosgrove has even had experience of his own friends borrowing accomplishments from him for their own purposes. “I know a friend who asked me what time I did in a triathlon and then not only put it down as a hobby of his, but took 10 minutes off my finishing time to make him look better.”

Big lies

Cosgrove adds that while most lies are minor, he has caught more than his share of whoppers. “We’ve come across people who have never actually worked in a role, but spoke to someone they live with who did the role and feel they can get away with it in an interview,” he says. “There are also people who say they have worked in a company for two years, when maybe it was only six months and, of course, applicants putting their friends down as referees and giving a mobile number so that recruiters won’t call the company itself.”

He warns that even if applicants get an interview, they will inevitably get caught. “Anyone who has a strong interviewer will fail if they have lied. It is very difficult to continue to be credible with something of which you have no real experience.” Recruiters warn that lying is getting trickier to pull off these days as most employers cross check CVs with LinkedIn profiles and other sources.

“There is never a reason to lie on a CV. If an employer finds you out on even the smallest of white lies, it discredits you in their eyes and casts doubt on all the truths on your CV, so it is not worth it,” said Trayc Keevans of Morgan McKinlay, which specialises in recruiting finance professionals for senior roles.

“I have seen candidates lie about the grade of their final degree to get to interview for a job that had a minimum entry 2.1 degree requirement, getting the job after a lengthy interview process and then failing the pre-employment checks on their qualifications, which resulted in their job offers being retracted,” Keevans says. “We are in a period of acute awareness on risk prevention in the workplace and pre-employment checks are becoming much more rigorous as a result.”

She adds that the financial services sector is leading the way with robust pre-employment screening in place since the introduction of the Fitness and Probity regime in December 2011.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to lie and get away with it. We have seen individuals inadvertently lie through getting dates wrong on their CV when accounting for gap periods or time out and this has had adverse effects on their application. Facts are friendly, so stick to them when writing up your CV to avoid deviating from the truth.”

Minor errors

Managing director at Executive Connections Hilarie Geary says candidates often fall at the first hurdle because of minor errors in their CVs. “The most common mistake is an application addressed to the wrong person and for the wrong job,” she says. “The second most common is a cover letter saying you believe you will be wonderful for the job with no justification or experience to prove it.”

Cosgrove is also surprised at how often minor mistakes appear in CVs. “We still see spelling, grammar and formatting errors in about eight out of 10 CVs, which is amazing given that this document is 100 per cent in the candidate’s control,” he says.

Another key issue highlighted by Geary is the overuse of popular buzzwords and jargon. “Buzzwords are empty lines on a CV and prospective employers will see right through them. Instead, use keywords that are ‘searchable’ for employers and recruiters on job boards, such as awards you may have, educational bodies you may sit on, systems you may have used and so on,” she suggests.

Online networking giant LinkedIn recently published a list of the most overused buzzwords used by Irish users in their profiles, with worn-out attributes such as “motivated”, “passionate”, “creative” and “driven” all ranking highly.

As Sharon McCooey, senior director of international operations at LinkedIn, tells The Irish Times, the list was published to inspire jobseekers to be a little more creative. “Those terms are important and we’re not suggesting that people stop using them but if they can show something more, then they’ll be much more likely to be spotted by recruiters.

“If you’re an architect, for example, instead of just saying you’re great at creating innovative buildings, you can show people photos or videos of the work you’ve done. If you’re a writer, link to blog posts you’ve written,” she says.

These days, recruiters and employers rely more and more on LinkedIn for finding employees and for cross-referencing claims on CVs. McCooey says users have to go that extra mile when putting their profile together.

“Recruiters the world over are looking at millions of profiles so you have to be creative and understand what gets you noticed,” she adds. “Having a photograph on your profile means you are 14 per cent more likely to get viewed. Volunteering is also increasingly important, with a recent survey we did showing that 42 per cent of hiring managers consider it equivalent to full-time work experience and 20 per cent saying they’d hired someone based on their volunteer work.”

Taking time to write a CV or profile makes all the difference. Once you have looked at it, get others to review it to make sure there are no glaring errors. Start with those close to home.“Give your CV to your mum,” Cosgrave advises. “If she cannot understand it, then it is too full of jargon.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.