If it isn’t brief, its pants…

There are many examples of sports coaching techniques spilling over into business – not least due to the emergence of companies like Lane 4. While I’m not suggesting in any way I am in the same league as Adrian Moorhouse (the best I can claim is coaching football and rugby to primary school children) I have started to realise you can bring a lot from the training field to work. Starting with “if it isn’t brief, its pants”. A wonderful phrase I picked up on the FA Level 1 coaching course.

What a wonderful rule for all sorts of things. Blogging for a start.

Having sat through a recent presentation from a would-be supplier I am sure it is also true for presentations. “Death by Powerpoint” was demonstrated by a dreadful slideshow that lasted almost an hour.

What it also applies to is writing CVs. One I saw very recently made me realise just how awful they can still be. It was six pages long. I am sure the candidate had taken every job description they’d ever had and pasted them together. What it told me in great (and unnecessary detail) was every task they’d ever undertaken. What it didn’t do was tell me anything about what they’d actually delivered or where they’d added value to an organisation.

I was told many years ago to think about your CV as an advertisement not a brochure. What great advice. What it needs to do is scream out “hire me” and grab the attention of the recruiter – not delve into every dark nook and cranny of your career. If it doesn’t hit home in the first few paragraphs chances are a reader won’t go further…

As a “greying” member of Generation X my problem, which I suspect many others like me share, is that I have done so much I’m proud of. However it hardly seems relevant now to talk about my first job which I left in 1982. Or is it?

A friend was recently heavily criticised by a potential employer because she didn’t provide details of every single job she’d ever had on her CV or every qualification she’d ever gained. Her argument, right or wrong, was that to do so immediately gives away your age and that what she did early in her career and studied at University bears absolutely no relevance to what she does now. Who is right?

For young people the problem is often the opposite. The much lauded CV rule of submitting two pages of A4 can seem daunting when your career is just starting. It is easy to be brief when you have little work experience and are struggling to demonstrate what you can bring to your first employer.

Attending a demonstration of a new recruitment system recently highlighted another CV conundrum – including or excluding jargon. The key message I took away is that recruitment processes in some organisations are more and more akin to running Google searches. You can sift through vast databases and filter out people with key words and phrases in their CVs. Reading only those CVs that contain your magic formula. In such a world having “BlackShadow 3.1.1” in your CV, far from being inappropriate is actually essential if that is what the recruiter is using to filter applicants…No jargon, no interview. Which is not what many books on writing CVs tell you is good practice…

Why is all this relevant? In the next few months Chiumento will be running our latest CV survey amongst in-house and agency recruiters. Much has changed since the last time we did this research and we will be asking many new and different questions about the rights and wrongs of making job applications. Vital as we seek to ensure we give up-to-date advice to our outplacement delegates.

If you’d like to take part in our research please let us know. We promise to keep the survey brief!

Ian Gooden
Chief Executive Designate