How Personal Should Your CV Be?

Recruitment (particularly CV-sifting) is a time-consuming process. Interviews take front-line managers away from essential day-to-day tasks. As a result, the time available for interviewing candidates is often limited. An interview panel may want to spend no more than a day or two at most interviewing potential candidates. After all, if there is only one opening, is it really worthwhile interviewing more than half a dozen people? This is why a well-written CV is essential. Applicants must do everything they can to stand out from the crowd if they are to win a precious interview place.

When a recruiter is faced with a mountain of CVs, they need to find a way to reduce the applicants to a manageable number for interview. They will begin by sifting out those who lack essential qualifications or experience. But, after they have applied the essential and desirable criteria, they could still be left with more CVs than interview slots. This is the stage where carefully constructed information on personal traits comes in to its own.

By outlining key personal characteristics, achievements, and interests, the applicant gives the recruiter a much clearer picture of themselves. The recruiter will get a sense of whether the individual will integrate well in to the culture of the organisation and be a good fit with the existing team.

However, including key personal traits in a CV is not as straightforward as simply listing characteristics like “honest, trustworthy, and hardworking”. A recruiter will set little store by a bland list of positive qualities put forward by the applicant themselves. After all, applicants are hardly likely to describe themselves as “dishonest and lazy” if they are trying to secure employment. A better approach is to tie the personal traits, interests, and achievements to the job description and person specification. In addition, it helps to use real examples as evidence for the characteristic.

For example, if you want to describe yourself as a motivated and tenacious individual, consider including an example of a time when a project or task was going badly. Explain how you convinced yourself to work through adversity and give details of the result that was achieved. In this way, you are not simply stating that you think you are a motivated individual, you are giving a clear example of how that motivation has helped you to achieve results. The implication then is that you will work in the same manner in the future.

Your starting point for detailing personal characteristics has to be the job description and person specification issued by the company. A great deal of thought will have gone into what the company wants from its employees and these will be set out in these two important documents. Study the information provided to ensure that the characteristics you are listing match those that are valued by the company. If the company wants an individual who is prepared to follow strict procedures and apply the rules, there is little point in highlighting your preference for developing new ways of working and challenging the status quo.

In the same way, hobbies and interests should be linked to the job description and person specification. Don’t simply list everything that you do. “I enjoy reading, movies and playing sport” gives a recruiter very little insight in to your character. Instead, think about how your hobbies and interests make you the ideal candidate for the job on offer. For example, if the job description requires team working, you could explain on your CV that, as a member of a sports club, you have participated in a number of tournaments as part of a team. Draw out of this various team working qualities that you wish to highlight, such as supporting and motivating other team members, understanding and performing to your role, and taking instruction from your team leader.

Personal traits, hobbies, and interests are particularly important for graduate opportunities, where a recruiter could receive hundreds of near identical CVs. Most graduates have only their degree and a very limited amount of work experience. By constructing a well-rounded CV using additional information, such as hobbies, achievements, and personal characteristics, a graduate applicant can draw positive attention to their CV, increasing the likelihood of securing a valuable interview slot.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck when outlining your personal interests. Take care that your hobbies and interests don’t make it sound as if you are too busy to devote sufficient time and attention to the job role. Detailing hobbies which appear time-consuming or onerous may backfire. Be clear that the job for which you are applying will be a priority, if you are appointed.

You may only have a few precious minutes to grab the recruiter’s attention. Pack your CV full of high-quality information, including details of your personal characteristics, interests, and hobbies, to ensure that the recruiter forms the most positive opinion of both you, and your CV!

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