Did you know that your CV sucks? Well, I’m pretty sure it does. And in this post, I am going to talk to you about the most likely reasons why your CV sucks. And how to fix these problems so your CV stands out.
As a real doctor who is also a medical HR expert, I get to see a lot of professional CVs and resumes mainly from other doctors. And inevitably most of them have some real obvious faults and problems that need to be fixed up. These are simple errors that you can fix yourself which will dramatically affect the performance of this key document.
In summary, the top errors on CVs that I generally see and which result in me concluding that a resume sucks or a cv sucks are as follows:
- Including a photo on a professional CV. This is an absolute no no.
- Not taking the time to customise your CV to the job you are applying for.
- Putting your information in the wrong order (to what the employer wants/needs).
- Too many embelishments.
- Typographical errors, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Read on further as we discuss these problems so you can find out why your CV sucks and fix it.
Does your resume really suck? Does your CV suck?
Yes. Probably at least a little bit. It doesn’t mean that what you have written is all bad. It’s just that perhaps you haven’t looked at it from a sales and marketing perspective. Once you understand that your CV or resume is a key marketing document (i.e. it’s meant to sell you!) you will start to figure out why I am saying that your CV sucks.
Most of the clients that I work with are doctors or other health professionals. Looking at it from a professional CV perspective it’s important that you try to maximise the success rate of your CV. Or what we are really talking about here is your resume.
Your CV or resume’s main job (arguably only job) is to ensure that you get an interview for the job you applied for. If it hasn’t done that, it’s failed you. And then that CV definitely does suck.
The Number One Reason Why Your CV Sucks. Including a Photograph.
The number one problem that I see with people’s CVs is photographs. As nice as you may be able to look in a photo there are so many reasons why including one on a professional CV or resume is simply a bad idea.
However, a key reason you want to avoid including a photograph is that it is not expected by the panel and therefore often seen as pretentious.
Another reason you want to avoid using a photograph is that it will introduce biases. Once the reader sees what you look like they can make all sorts of assumptions. Why not wait till they meet you in person so you can make a true first impression.
Finally, a photograph is distracting on a CV or resume and may just take up a few vital seconds that you would prefer that the reader use to examine the contents of your document.
Now, the inclusion of a photograph does depend on what sort of job you’re going for. But again, for the clients that I work with who are medical practitioners, professionals, it really is not accepted practice to put a photo on your CV. And therefore you should refrain from doing so.
Leaving the photo off actually gives you a bit more real estate on the front page to play with, which is the added bonus there.
So the solution is no photos on your CV.
The Second Reason Why Your CV Sucks. Not Customizing to the Job.
Now the number two problem that I see with people’s CVs and resumes and why you might hear me say your CV sucks is a failure to customize your document.
What do I mean by customizing? I mean tailoring it or adjusting it. This is something that you should do every time you go for a new job. You should be submitting a different resume each time.
You should be ensuring that that your cv represents you effectively in terms of how you are the best fit for that particular job.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your cv sucks. And you don’t necessarily have to go through and edit all of the sections on it. But have a think about it. What highlights, particularly in your personal summary, do you want to put across that show that you meet the specific criteria and key challenges of that job?
And of course, the solution then is to customize your cv.
Because you may be applying for a number of jobs on a regular basis or over time. What I would actually recommend that you do, is keep a master document, a proper curriculum vitae if you will, with all of the information tracking your career over the years. That is all your jobs, all your education, all your qualifications, all your professional development, et cetera…
Then each time you go for a job, reflect on that master CV and your most recent resume and put together a new resume, which is a tailored version of these 2 documents aimed at the new job.
The Third Reason Why Your CV Sucks. The Wrong Information in the Wrong Order.
The third problem that I see with CVs and resumes is information being presented to the reader in the wrong order. Especially the wrong information being presented on the first page.
Not putting the key information that employers want to see on the first page of your resume is a sure fire way to frustrate a potential boss and be overlooked for an interview.
The first page is critical. It’s like real estate. When you understand that generally, someone is only glancing at your CV for a few seconds on the first review. This brings this particular point to home.
The first page of your resume is the thing that people first look at, and it’s the thing that recruiters spend the most time glancing over. And then they will usually hop over to the end and look at your references, and will probably skip all the stuff in the middle.
So you want to optimize the first page. It’s really valuable real estate for you from a marketing perspective, you need to know the key things that need to be on that first page. And what you can leave for other pages.
So what are the key components for the first page of your CV?
Firstly, obviously, you should have your name. And your name should be in the biggest font size on the page. Because it should be the hero of your page. And it is the thing you want them to remember.
So rather than having a photo, have your name in the biggest font size that you can comfortably fit it into on one line at the top of the document.
Next. You will obviously need some contact details. These days that really only has to be a mobile phone number and a professional email address. You can skip the postal address. They are probably not going to mail you anything.
Next. Is “key information”.
What do I mean by key information?
So again, my example here is medicine. Key information in medicine would be things like your short qualifications, i.e. MB BS or similar. Things that you must have to do the job. In some cases, this will also be specialty qualifications, like FRANZCP.
Other key information might include medical registration information (which is generally also essential for most medical jobs), as well as things like English language tests and visa status.
Put down all the key things that you know the employer is wanting to see very quickly that will help them determine whether you’re actually eligible and meet the key eligibility criteria.
After this, you should have enough room on the first page for the other two key components.
The first of these is a personal summary, which should take up around a third of the page and maybe one to two paragraphs. which is your executive summary, presenting your career your way (rather than them interpreting it from looking through the rest of the document).
And finally, but importantly, work history.
Employers want to see what you’ve been doing in your job. Remember, you’re going for a job, so they want to see what the current job is that you’re doing.
What are you achieving currently in that job? And maybe, if you’ve only been in the present job for a little while, what did you achieve in the job before that.
This is the key thing that employers want to know. What are you doing now? Who are you working for? How well are you performing currently (not 10 years ago)?
So what can I leave till the next page of my CV?
Some of the things you can leave for the next page or the one after that include things like education history, courses, professional development, and research. These are not as essential as the things I have listed above.
Sadly, sometimes I see candidates list lots of other things, such as a detailed education section, courses and certifications before we get to the work history, buried on the 2nd or 3rd page. This is really putting you at a disadvantage. And in this case, I can definitively say that your CV sucks.
So the first page is crucial to have the right information in the right order.
The Fourth Reason Why Your CV May Suck. Too Many Things Happening!
Now, the fourth and the second last tip I’m going to give you about how to fix your CV. Is to watch out for too much going on or too much happening on your CV.
Now, what do I mean by this?
This could mean many things. But common issues I see are things like:
- having too many different fonts,
- having too many styles,
- having different bullet points,
- indents not aligning,
- text cramped up,
- too many colours being used,
- not enough use of white space,
- images and icons
Things that just kind of make the document jar on you.
For a professional CV. Try to keep your CV as simple as possible.
It should look sober and fairly conservative, but be readable and still pleasant to look at.
Of course, you can still put a bit of your own sort of style into it. But less is more.
You don’t want to be overloading the reader. You want them to see the critical information that you’ve got.
What’s my solution for that?
Well, you can spend a lot of time trying to work with Word documents and templates or Google Docs. I’ve seen people recommend going into Canva, for goodness sake!
I don’t know why you would do that. Canva is good for graphic design. But very slow for long documents.
Don’t do any of these things.
Use something that’s developed to help make a very professional polished. CV easily and cheaply, which is an online CV builder.
Online CV Builders A Great Hack for How to Fix Your CV
Online CV Builders have lots of advantages:
- Different templates available
- They automatically lay out content nicely for you
- You can focus on the content and not the style.
- You can make multiple copies and versions so you can go
And they usually don’t cost very much for an annual license, maybe less than $100.
The one that I recommend is VisualCV.
The Fifth Reason Why Your CV Sucks. Spelling Mistakes and Typos.
You’ll be amazed how easy it is for one or two spelling mistakes and typographical errors to creep into your document. These errors can just really bring it down.
Again. If we are talking about professional or professional people going for jobs where attention to detail is critical, particularly in medicine. Errors on your CV can leave a significant negative impression.
So it’s important that your resume, or your CV, be absolutely perfect. That there not be any sort of missing dots or commas or spelling mistakes. Things that make the reader think, well this person really didn’t check this document properly, did they?
So what’s the solution to this problem?
Well, you have spent all this time putting this document together, and you have probably gone through it several times. So you are probably missing things now because you’re skimming over them.
So get someone else to check your CV or resume.
Make sure that they identify any of those spelling errors and typographical mistakes.
In addition, use the inbuilt functions of things like Microsoft Word. Or if you’ve got Grammarly for the internet use something like that if you’re working online. These programs are built to show you your errors and may even help improve the tone of your document.