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.
While there was a time when job seekers could afford to be choosy about the roles they took on, which company they worked for and the hours they worked, unfortunately, there's no doubt recession and large-scale redundancies have had an impact on the IT industry, turning the job-scene very much into a buyer's market. As candidates find themselves competing with many others for fewer roles, flexibility will be a key factor on deciding who gets the job.
Although there are definitely jobs available in the market, especially for those with specialist skills and relevant experience, candidates who are willing to show flexibility in their requirements do give themselves an added advantage. Whether it involves taking on a different role than you're used to, working different hours than usual or considering short term rather than longer term contract work, a willingness to adapt to the changing needs of the market could be the one key skill that propels you to the top of a potential employer's list.
Nor does flexibility necessarily involve making sacrifices; one very positive effect of the new jobs market is that it has removed some of the barriers that have stopped candidates putting themselves forward for certain roles in the past. Perceptions about the kind of roles and responsibilities they could get or take on have often caused candidates to take a cautious approach to job-seeking in the past. Now, however, as employers demonstrably place more value on specific skills (rather than generic 'IT skills') and a willingness to understand the wider business context, candidates are in a position to explore avenues that they may not once have considered, whether that involves applying for a different type of role, considering a change in sector or approaching a different kind of organisation.
As long as they remain realistic and willing to negotiate, there are still many opportunities for IT workers in today's market; while knowledge and skills are always important, a change in mindset can be the key factor that makes the difference between finding or keeping a job and not.