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What not to do in your CV?

It got you your first job, and your second one. And as long as you are in the job market, it’ll be the primary weapon you use as an ice-breaker to convince a potential employer that you’ve got what it takes to be successful in the new role. Of course, there are the lucky few who can get jobs purely because of their demigod status in their professional circles. Recruiters or former bosses or business acquaintances reach out to them because their capability and skills are well-known. For the rest of us, who aren’t spending time playing golf and building business networks, it is back to our good old friend with an awkward name – the Curriculum Vitae.

But think about how you normally treat the CV. It lies hidden somewhere in your laptop folders, between the songs, the official presentations, the personal photographs and the thousands of other important official files. It comes out only when there’s a crisis and you need to quickly send across one to a few important people.

The easiest way to get a reality check is to share your resume with a friend or colleague. Reuters

When that happens, the knee-jerk reaction is to take the last version you can get your hands on, spend a few minutes making some quick updates and then hit the Send button.

While you are sitting there with bated breath for the response, for all you know, the recipient of the resume might be sharing it with his buddies, laughing his pants off because of some howlers that have crept in unintentionally.

So spend a few minutes on your resume to ensure that it is a reflection of who you are today, and you aren’t just shipping old wine in an older bottle. For starters, check out if your CV is guilty of any of the following.

Fashion Crime

The first thing the recruiter will notice about your resume before reading a single word is the format. Obvious, right? And knowing how important first impressions are, there’s a tendency to over-focus on the cosmetic elements and go just a little overboard. Fortunately, online applications have eliminated the snail-mail practice of sealing-with-a-kiss or using scented envelopes (though I hope nobody tried those stunts with job applications).

But, as the optimistic would say, when one pothole gets covered, ten more open. Technology has given us other ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. Borders, coloured titles & attention grabbing fonts are easier to insert at the click of a button. If you thought only guys aiming for junior roles do this, you’d be surprised.

Data Overload

Most applicants look at the CV as a make-or-break link between them and their dream job. Nothing wrong there, considering the role a resume plays. So they bombard the reviewer with everything they’ve done in their life, hoping at least some of it would impress the reader. Bad move! For the recruiters, this is just one additional file in their inbox and they won’t have the time or the patience to digest the data dumped on their desk.

The length of the resume doesn’t need to be proportional to the number of years you’ve spent working. A short 1-2 page resume that generates just enough interest for you to be called for an interview, is much better than a 6-page epic that lays everything on the table (including content that the reviewer probably never was interested in anyway).

Sounding like an amateur

This one is a little more difficult to catch all by yourself. What kind of a mental image is your CV conjuring up in the reader’s mind? Do you come across as a mature, seasoned professional who’s ready to take a big career leap? Or someone who has lots of years to show on paper, but sounds like an eager-to-please college kid who doesn’t know how to differentiate between data and information?

This disconnect wouldn’t be obvious if you’ve been using the same format and content since you started your career. The little incremental changes that were added over the years might create a mini identity crisis within the document.

The easiest way to get a reality check is to share your resume with a friend or colleague (someone you really trust) and ask them to be brutal with their feedback.

These are generic points and you may have perfectly legitimate reasons to break any of them. For instance, companies looking to fill up creative roles might encourage applicants to think outside the box (yup, that phrase is still available for abuse) and use innovative ideas in their applications. But most traditional industries are still extremely conservative when it comes to resumes and the recruiter will get turned off by gimmicks.

Have you seen resumes that made you go, ‘what was this guy thinking’? What was it about the resume that made you react that way? Any other tips and ideas that you’d like to share on what NOT to do in a CV?

Sameer Kamat is the author of ‘Beyond The MBA Hype’ and blogs at www.sameerkamat.com. You can connect with him on Twitter @kamatsameer