All entries for Tuesday 02 October 2012

October 02, 2012

CV profiles: are they killer or filler?

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Careers profiles, career objectives, personal profile, personal statement – all permutations on a theme and one you can’t fail to have noticed if you’re pulling your CV together. The big question is: do you need one? Well, the jury is well and truly out on this one. Some people – including careers consultants, HR managers and recruiters – swear by them. Others – including including careers consultants, HR managers and recruiters – don’t! So it’s not surprising if you’re feeling a little bewildered by such conflicting and contradictory information. I’m going to try and get to the bottom of this thorny issue and help you decide if, when and how you should use one.

Personal profile or career objective

Although they occupy the same space on the page, there is an important distinction to draw between the personal profile and career objective. A personal profile highlights your current situation, skills and USP. A career objective describes the type of job you’re looking for, and where.

Career objective

Computer science graduate seeking challenging position in software development company to fully utilise my Java programming skills and confidence with concurrency and multi-threading.

Personal profile

A highly motivated computer science graduate with a first class degree, experience in Java and award winning undergraduate dissertation.

I have chosen these examples to contrast the different approaches but in practice the two often merge to create a hybrid statement, along the lines of:

Highly motivated computer science graduate, with an excellent academic credentials including first class degree and award winning undergraduate dissertation. Looking for a graduate position in a software development company, where my Java programming knowledge and strong problem solving skills can be fully utilised.

If you're applying for an advertised vacancy then think twice before you include a careers objective. The parameters of the role are already defined so an employer will be confused (or worse, irritated) by the inclusion.

How to write one

The internet is awash with examples of personal profiles, and this is something to bear in mind should you decide to include one. Recruiters are savvy folk – they spend a lot of time sifting through applications, CVs and cover letters. They have a well-honed (*insert fruity word*) detector and can sniff a fake or a liar a mile off. They’re also time poor, and don’t want to waste it reading a bland statement that reads like a laundry list of adjectives. If you're going to add a profile, try to follow these simple recommendations:

  • Avoid making bold, overblown statements. You’re a student/graduate not the CEO of Coca-Cola. If in doubt, ask someone to sense check it for you. Explosive laughter is not endorsement!
  • Say something specific or tangible. Try to find a point of difference or USP. You’ll be competing with your peers. If everyone has a 2:1, work experience and society involvement what makes you stand out?
  • Keep it factual. Yes, you need to sell yourself but not at the expense of your future reputation and integrity. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
  • Make it focussed and succinct, not vague and repetitive. Space is at a premium so aim for 2-3 lines maximum and please, please, please give buzzwords a wide berth.
  • Read your statement aloud and apply the ‘so what’ test? If your intended audience could respond with a 'so what', the chances are they will.

Do you need one?

At this stage in your career, probably not. Career profiles work best when they include demonstrable – and often quantifiable – experience or, achievements. For example, an applicant with '3 years in-house marketing experience, implementing a successful social media strategy and co-ordinating retail campaigns' is more notable than a 'recent graduate with strong communication skills and creative flair seeking a challenging role in a marketing or PR agency'. The latter may promise potential but recruiters are generally looking for cold, hard evidence.

It is really difficult for a recent graduate to offer the range of experience and knowledge that transforms a bland, generic statement into an impressive, eye catching profile. I have worked in HE careers for over six years but despite reading many careers profiles, less than a handful have made any kind of impression. A memorable example was the PhD student who used a careers profile to great effect, pre-empting concerns about her ability to transfer 'academic' experience to the workplace. She found a job in publishing soon after. Careers profiles can work well for career changes but for most graduates I would advise against. Feedback from our recruiters is lukewarm at best and a weak profile may hinder, not help, your application.

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