By Liam Horan, MD & Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers (Ballinrobe)
Employers are keen to figure out exactly what your CV says about you. When you say you were “directly involved in the installation of the companywide IT system”, what does that actually mean?
Did you give the courier a hand carrying the stuff in?
Were you fifth in line behind four others who really did all the heavy-duty work?
Or were you the person who made it happen?
Just as language in a CV can sell a candidate, it can confuse in employer if not properly deployed. Human nature being what it is, many employers are suspicious of what they read in CVs, and will use the interview to probe – often very gently, often unnoticed by the candidate – to either confirm or defeat an impression they have formed of the candidate from the CV.
Employers like candidates to “stack up”. They are wary of uncertainty and doubt. Almost invariably, they prefer to back short-priced runners.
It is imperative that your CV does not create a false impression of unwarranted brilliance or, indeed, of unjustified mediocrity. You should not leave it to the employer to find out where exactly your skills and attributes are pitched.
The employer’s need to find the exact nature of the candidate inspires many of the questions asked during an interview. A seemingly innocuous question can reveal a great deal. For example, if you randomly claim to be an expert in a certain area, but failed to use the language or argot of that area in the interview, the employer will see through you. It might be just one randomly used phrase that betrays you.
If their answer fails to talk about is esoteric items such as by-line styles, pull quotes, headline decks, and the like, the interviewer might well conclude that their CV has been dramatically enhanced and, indeed, might even be a work of fiction.
Your CV should act as the precursor to the interview. The interview should enhance or complement what you have said in your CV. Your CV should represent a summary of what you know: the interview should offer the opportunity to reveal in greater depth your knowledge of your chosen field.
In interviews, people tend to undersell themselves. However, CVs can err on the other side – they can sometimes make claims that the candidate is unable to substantiate either in an interview or on the job itself.
Take a fresh look at your CV today. Can you stand over everything in it? Can you elaborate on everything in it? Would you be happy to be probed on all the claims you have included? Have you left out important items that the employer should know about you?
Getting your CV right is the first, and perhaps most important, part of the job-seeking process. Not alone does it get you the interview, but it can also set the tone for the interview. There should be a seamless link between your CV and what you talk about in the interview.
If such a link exists, the employer will quickly realise during the interview that you “stack up”. From that point on the interview should go better for you: having satisfied themselves that you are not bluffing, the interviewer would be more favourably disposed towards your candidature.