Countless professionals tweak and re-tweak their CV's in the hope that they'll achieve the winning formula to get someone, anyone, to acknowledge their application for any given role.

We're repeatedly asked for advice on elements such as:

  • how many pages should the CV be?
  • how much detail should be listed for each historical job?
  • what order should the contents be in (current job first or last, education top or bottom, etc)?
  •  should age and marital status be included?
  • should personal interests and career objectives be included?
  • why does it seem like there's a set of hidden rules for getting a job application noticed?
  • why is there no consistency of advice on what a resume should contain?

The reality is this: 

Getting a job is not fully dependent on having the all time perfect CV. It is merely a tool to get a shot at an interview conversation. In a market where there are too many jobs and not enough qualified people, you can have a rubbish resume, and still get work. Some people actually go through their careers, successfully securing new jobs, without ever needing a CV. The document is only one of many tools needed in the job search process.

That said you still will want to make sure the document works hard to "open doors" for you, rather than exposing you immediately to the many discriminatory practices that exist in hiring.  Ageism is a common problem to need to overcome.  And so are ethnic assumptions.  I have for instance an Anglo-Saxon connection who got no traction for her CV despite a very, very impressive career history and a "hot" market for jobs. When I advised her to revert to her maiden name, instead of using her husband's Asian surname, she magically started getting opportunities for discussions about her applications.  You'll need to figure out what the risks are for you. 

Local placement and career counselling and job seeking services are no doubt attuned to local company cultures and plan their support courses accordingly with comprehensive guidelines on the perfect CV format. But don't miss out on the option to work for the many international companies who have bases in your home country as well. As a norm they have very different hiring criteria and likely different views on resume formats as well.  Additionally, when those very service agencies are supporting hundreds of people in the same job seeking boat, you'd better start thinking about how you'll really "get noticed" within the production line of same looking cookie cutter styled CV's!

Oh, and a reality check - in a market where recruiters/HR/hiring managers are swamped with applicants, they will not usually read every CV. They will sift through until they find the handful they're happy with (based on experience, age, qualifications/whatever takes their fancy at the time). And then they stop. One of my corporations had a vacancy recently with very specific detail to the requirements they needed from candidates. They received over 3,500 applications. They did not have the time/energy/resource/whatever, to read them all. So too bad if the 100% perfect person was applicant number 3500. The company made a successful hire regardless.

You should also be aware that many corporations now have "sophisticated" software that seeks out keywords in your resume, and depending on what criteria have been set, you could well be the perfect candidate who will remain undiscovered because those keywords are not contained on your document.

And even if you've finally nailed the "magic formula" for the perfect resume, the rules of hiring change constantly.

Business requirements change even whilst a hire is happening. Hiring leaders refine their thinking whilst a hire is happening. New candidates get introduced even at the late stages of a hire. Sometimes the market favours the job seeker. Sometimes it doesn't. Different sectors and seniority levels and specialisms all have their own "rules" as well. For instance some employers prefer a 2 page CV, others expect 10. Some want a photo and some don't.  Some companies are wanting a diversity hire so even if you've got all the skills and experience needed, you'll never be a serious contender. And none of these things are discussed openly. 

You need to ask a lot of questions to know "the rules" for the types of jobs you're applying for (and realistically will be considered for). You may be one of those people who gets the very first job they apply for. You may have to apply for hundreds before you even get a shot at interview let alone job offer. There is no precise formula for success. Networking, focus, graft, resilience, persistence, targeting the "right" employer companies and not allowing the frustrations to impact on your head, health and heart - this all plays a part.  Sometimes, job searching, (unless you happen to have the right skills and experience in a market where there are too many jobs and not enough candidates) is too often simply a "numbers game".