Hair-raising CVs

5 don'ts for a CV

Guest article by Walter Feichtner – Karrierecoach München

At Karrierecoach München, we deal with the optimization and creation of CVs on a daily basis. The documents find their way to us from all sectors and industries. However, it is not uncommon for us to be really amazed at the hair-raising documents that are supposed to be sent to personnel managers who are often very critical. It's a good thing that there are career consultants in the world who can avert disaster and uncover and eliminate unnecessary blunders in your CV.

If you don’t want to widen the current gap in your resume even further through continued unemployment, then bear the following error traps in mind:

1st don't – no professional photo

In Germany, the application photo is part of a standard application and is expected. But: Personnel departments are not allowed to ask for a photo! There would be the risk that the company management would be influenced too much by the photo and thus not make objective decisions. If a portrait photo is used, it should always be a professional photo. The photo underlines the first impression and that one sticks. Happy are those applicants who add a convincing picture to their CV. In any case, go to a photographer and pay particular attention to the following points:

Try to look "straight" into the camera and don't tilt your head. Part of the shoulders should still be visible. A casual smile is, of course, allowed, but don't overdo it. You should make a confident and competent impression. When choosing the background, which is always monochrome, the photographer should choose one that provides a good contrast to your clothing. Also make sure that no shadows are cast anywhere.

About the dress code: In general, the motto is - find out beforehand about the standards in your industry. In the application picture you should wear what your boss would expect from you on the first working day.

2nd don't – a poorly structured CV

When we get our hands on applicants' CV drafts, we are always amazed at how different opinions are about what a professionally designed CV should look like. There are certain standards in this area, too, that should be adhered to.

Of course, there is room for individual scope. This also depends on the industry you apply to. Graphic artists are allowed to put more "art" in their CVs than a chemist with a doctorate. But here, too, it's important to be sensitive when dealing with leeway.

Often, "more" is simply overzealous. Just because WordArt exists, you shouldn’t be tempted to use it. Simplicity and clarity should be the first criteria. Always use the same font for all documents, including cover letters. This font should be easy to read. A font size of 12 pt or 11 pt is the norm, mostly with the font Arial. Other fonts for your application documents are, for example, Calibri, Garamond, Georgia and Verdana.

When listing your professional career you should always start with the current position you’re holding and then continue in descending order (thus anti-chronological). The focus should be on those stages that highlight the experience and skills according to the job advertisement and the potential employer. At these stages, we focus more on tasks and successes when optimizing the documents. When describing these, short enumerations are very helpful to ensure a good overview.

If you send your application by e-mail or via an online form, you should only use documents in PDF format. In this way, you ensure that the selected fonts are always displayed correctly. For example, a document that is available as a Word file might look different when opened in another or older (or newer) program because, for example, the font you have selected is not installed.

3rd don't – a pure listing of stages

In listings of professional careers in CVs we experience time and again that career stages are only listed indifferently. Here, too, a standard has been established which ensures that a CV remains clear and can also be understood:

Each date specification should be listed with month and year, e.g. 04/2001 - 06/2002. This way, it's clearly recognizable when exactly the change took place. To the right, preferably structured in a table, the first line shows the employer with specified location, the second line the position and then, if possible in list form, the tasks and successes with corresponding responsibilities. In this way, the CV gets a nice look and can be quickly grasped by the personnel manager.

4th don't - a CV without a cover page

In any case, the CV should have a cover page on which the application photo, contact details, trained profession, marital status possibly also the nationality of non-Germans and, above all, a short profile listing the most important skills and experiences immediately catch the eye. This saves time for personnel managers. They can quickly decide on the candidate’s suitability and decide whether they want to continue reading.

5th don't - missing skills

Often we find out with CVs that applicants apparently haven't yet or hardly ever dealt with their skills. Some of those necessary to perform a job are already listed in the job posting. Do you have a "professional appearance"? Are you "customer-oriented"? How about your language and PC skills or your willingness to travel? Do you have a "quick grasp," "organizational skills" or a "structured, independent and goal-oriented way of working"? Here you can score numerous points that other applicants may neglect. Here, an impression of the applicant's personal side is created, which should also match the corporate culture and philosophy.

An inadequate application is always one that is not meaningful. That’s why we read the sentence "Please send your meaningful application promptly to ..." again and again in job postings because personnel managers are tired of solving puzzles or receiving badly prepared applications, which do not do justice to their purpose or convey no information on the suitability of the candidate.

If you remove all five don'ts from your CV, your chances for the next step, the invitation to an interview or assessment center, are already very good. If you feel insecure, you are always well-advised to have a professional at your side in order to quickly reach your goal - employment.