I'm just back from judging entries for the CWJobs Augmented Reality CV contest. The idea is that presenting your skills and work history using multimedia technology is more engaging than doing so with a few sheets of A4 paper. In the judging session, we looked at the best CVs from hundreds of entries, with the winners getting a professional augmented reality makeover for their jobseeking efforts.
The augmented reality bit is a neat twist, but I doubt we will see it become a mainstream technique for submitting a CV. At the same time, it seems extraordinary that we are still so reliant on traditional CVs, particularly in the IT industry. Still, given that situation, what does it take to create a CV that will impress and get you interviews?
My perspective on this is unusual because I'm a technical journalist rather than someone in the recruitment industry. That means I'm in the business of communicating technical information; and I noticed that many of the CVs we looked at were poor in this respect. In reading the CV, you had to do detective work to figure out what sort of skills the person has, and what sort of work they have done, rather than this being clearly stated. Often there was too much information, and the CV was verbose and hard to digest.
There is no harm in assuming that the person reading your CV has little time or patience, which means you have to communicate the essentials at a glance. For example, you could think of the three top reasons why someone might want to employ you and place them as bullet points in your introductory profile.
My general suggestion is to be as concise as possible, avoid jargon and meaningless management-speak, be wary of littering the CV with too many unexplained acronyms, and get a friend to check basics like good English and grammar. You might imagine that everyone does this; but judging by the CVs we saw, simply getting these easy things right will lift your CV above the crowd.
Moving beyond these essentials, the question that interests me is how individuals can make use of the internet to communicate their skills and experience. In some cases it seems obvious. If you are a web designer, for example, it seems odd if you do not include a few links to work you have done. It is harder for developers or admins whose work is less public and often confidential; but nevertheless there may be forums where you help solve technical problems, or an open source project to which you contribute. Similarly, if you are an IT consultant, there could be blog posts or online papers which demonstrate your insights.
Another idea is to create your own skills cloud - CW Jobs has made this easy with a drag-and-drop web site for this purpose.
In a tough job market, it seems to me that building an online profile is a great way to invest some time and energy. It can also lead directly to job opportunities, as potential employers come across your work.
It does seem to me inevitable that traditional CVs will become less important as we learn to make better use of the internet in this context, though I am not sure whether this means the emergence of electronic CVstandards, or more reliance on profiles at key web sites, or some other trend. The CV is resilient though, so in the meantime it still pays to make it as good as possible, but supplemented by online content that will bring it to life.
The next decade looks set to be the decade of the App Store. Apple, which has sold over five billion applications through its iPhone and iPad app store, recently announced that it was to launch a similar service as part of its desktop operating system. This means that users will be able to access a window from inside OS X that will display a set of preapproved applications for the Mac.
This joins an App Store for Google's Chrome browser and operating system, which will present users with a selection of web-based applications, effectively providing an implicit endorsement.
Google already offers an App Store for the Android operating system, of course. One of the significant characteristics of that arrangement is that it lets third parties offer their own App Stores for Android. Amazon is close to launching its own, according to rumours, and challengers like AndSpot and SlideMe are doing the same.
What does this mean for developers? It is a mixed blessing. Depending on how these app stores run, they can be an incredible marketing tool, or a barrier to market entry. Anyone can list an application on the Android store, making it easy to get your application in front of phone users. On the other hand, that can reduce the reliability of the store overall, as malware and spyware vendors creep in.
On the other hand, Apple has a reputation for a Draconian approach to its App Store. Until it opened up its development guidelines, making its criteria for applications clear (or, at least, clearer), its approvals process was a largely unknown quantity. If it liked you, you were accepted. If it didn't, you were rejected with little opportunity for complaint. Steve Jobs has gone on the record as saying that he values the chance to keep things like pornography off his iOS platform. On the other hand, the approvals process can cause unexpected problems. For example, any companies needing to fix bugs in their iOS applications can wait days or weeks to roll out, incurring reputational damage from angry users in the meantime. I have experienced this with iPhone applications that performed poorly until Apple allowed through a fix.
Right now, it appears that the Apple OS X App Store will be non-exclusive. Unlike the iOS store, It won't be the only way to get applications, which can still be downloaded directly from the Internet for the OS X platform. However, when shown a pane filled with applications that Apple has deemed appropriate for its platform, how many users will go looking elsewhere? And how much power does that put in Apple's hands?