Career coaches and search consultants spend inordinate amounts of time encouraging job seekers to dazzle and to stand out in the candidate crowd. However there is one area when it’s OK to be the diamond in the rough, unexciting and utilitarian, and when dull is completely OK if not advantageous. That is in the context of CV formatting.
I mention this in every workshop I do, but I am pretty sure as all the sophisticated CVs flood into my inbox , that most don’t take this seriously ! Every job search tool box should include one CV in bog standard, Word format. In my whole, somewhat long career I have never heard anyone suggest that they are seeing a candidate exclusively because of a pretty looking or creatively designed resume.
Many large organisations retrieve candidates’ CVs from their data bases via A.T.S. (Applicant Tracking Systems) or H.R.I.S. (Human Resource Information Systems) which strip resumes of formatting when the information is imported into their own systems.
Some ATS systems are sophisticated enough to complete this process without difficulty. Others are not. Very often recruiters have to copy/paste information from a CV, into a client template to forward to the HR or hiring manager. I very often replicate contact details and if I have to retrieve those embedded in a header or PDF format, that only takes time. Others dealing with hundreds of CVs per day with a wide field of candidates, have the luxury of not needing to be vigilant.
Additionally, many companies have rigorous anti-virus software which are especially punitive of attachments. I had one client who failed to get any CVs I had sent in connection with a search for an International Tax Specialist position. We found out that their firewall blocked all mails and documents which included the letters “cialis” (a male drug).
In general, although very popular PDF format is not advisable because it’s quite often incompatible with some systems which require additional software to convert back to Word, or to align with their own company templates. Candidates use PDF because they fear that their CV will be modified. Honestly – no one has time and if it is tweaked it’s usually for their benefit. Other bells and whistles which may also cause your CV to slither into the ether are: graphics (tables, charts) section divides, columns and even photos.
Importantly, most CVs are now read on a screen, frequently a phone, tablet, or laptop, not even a full size desk top. It’s important that your CV, particularly the top half of Page 1 is very clear and where the punch is packed. Even then, the reader might be accessing it via a preview or cached version when complex formatting will not produce the best results.
If you do have a story to tell that requires a sexier look or illustrates a more creative side of your personality or career, fear not you still have a number of options.
- Include your LinkedIn url and use the slide share function in your profile
- Add a hyper link to your website
- Take a hard copy of your fancy CV with you to the interview
The most important goal is for your resume to be easily retrievable. This is when dull not dazzling works in your favour. Resumes don’t get you jobs – interviews do and what you need is the opportunity to shine in person.