Yen and I have seen thousands of CVs during our 4 decades in Headhunting/Career Coaching, so, we are experts in this field.
During our weekly Zoom sessions, we get asked a lot of questions pertaining to Resumes and CVs. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions we receive and the honest-to-goodness answers we give..
1. How long should my resume be?
As a general rule of thumb, regardless of your age, no more than two and a half pages long.
Regardless of the age of the candidate, my ADHD-riddled brain will usually stop registering beyond the 2nd page; and don’t try to cheat by using font-size 8 – older Headhunters like me usually have bad eyesight and tiny letters tend to annoy.
I once received a CV that was 14 pages long and it was immediately dragged and dropped into the Trash Icon. We simply do not have time to pore through your document.
2. How do I write my cover letter?
With as little ink as possible.
As mentioned earlier, your CV has only 15 seconds of ‘eye-time’ with the reader and you do not want this precious window to be wasted on deciphering a six paragraph cover letter.
The cover letter’s purpose is a polite introduction of yourself, followed by a very brief summary of the three biggest reasons how your experience/expertise can help the company. Besides, most recruiters only glance briefly at the cover-letter before jumping straight into the resume, so don’t sweat too much on it.
Some even advise not having a cover letter at all. I would not disagree.
3. Should I add a photograph to the CV?
This is a very common question and many HR Practitioners are of two minds about it.
As an old headhunting saying goes, “between two equally qualified and suitable candidates, the better looking one will get the role.” Research has shown that better looking candidates do stand a higher chance than less good-looking ones. So, will adding a photograph improve or diminish your chances of getting the first interview?
My advice is to err on the side of caution, and leave the photo out. In any event, your image is already on your linkedin page.
Another reason for leaving your photograph out of your resume is, “Why subject yourself to the risk that the hiring manager thinks you remind him of his ex-wife or his childhood bully?”
There will be no marks deducted for not having a headshot of yourself, but it could work against you if you did, so why take the chance?
On a side note, your Linkedin photograph needs to be taken at a professional studio rather than using that ‘Selfie’ taken at last week’s bachelorette party. It has to be in business attire and maybe even cleaned up using photoshop a little bit, or maybe a lot.
4. How far back into my Career History should I go?
This largely depends on your age. My candidates who are in their early fifties often find difficulty in putting their entire job chronology into their resume.
My advice for them would be to include at least the most recent (and relevant) second-half of their career in the document and include, for example, a statement like “1978 to 1993 – Various Sales/Marketing roles in US Companies – details available upon request”. You do not really need to include much details.
For younger candidates, stopping at your first job will do. I have seen thirty-year old candidates list “Class Monitor” (True story). If it is irrelevant, exclude it.
5. Should I include my age or should I try to camouflage it?
In some countries like the US and Australia, it is illegal for employers to even ask for your age.
You do not have to state your age but you shouldn’t try to camouflage it either.
Experienced Headhunters can generally guess your age using hidden cues like your year of graduation or the start-date of your first job. Some older candidates try to hide that by leaving these dates out but such omissions are automatic red-flags to us that the candidate is being cheeky.
Our take on this is that if the employer is a company that discriminates against older workers, overlooking the clear value and wisdom that they can bring to the table, then that is a company that I would not want to be a part of anyway.
6. Do I include my current and expected salary?
You should never include your salary in your resume as it is highly confidential and personal piece of information. There is no guarantee that it won’t fall into the wrong hands or is properly disposed of.
Besides, an experienced recruiter would be able to accurately guess your salary package just by looking at your current company, your job title and years of experience.
I do not believe any star candidate has even been deprived of that first interview solely because his salary was not stated in his resume.
7. How about LinkedIn? How much information should I put on it?
LinkedIn is a valuable tool for increasing your exposure to the world. You should include the companies you have been with and the job titles while you were there. Inserting key-words would be a great help too.
The important thing is NOT to include too much details, especially confidential company data you could be sued for.
Some candidates innocently include information like “currently managing a US$23.6m sales portfolio” or “on track to exceed 18.4% EBIT this coming year” which could make them unwitting accessories to Insider Trading charge!
Keep the information brief and if you are comfortable with leaving your mobile or email contact there, do it so the recruiter can reach you for more details.