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CVs now a mystery to the over-40s


Older does not necessarily mean wiser when it comes to applying for jobs in the computer age: younger job-seekers are stealing a big advantage with their digital CVs.

Yet it is not difficult to build up a succinct and effective digital CV – it just takes a little thought, research and time.

“Your CV is a sales opportunity,” says Mark Moreau, commercial director at True North Human Capital. “The objective is to grab the reader’s attention at the earliest opportunity. Young people are digital savvy, they get that.”

True North, an executive search and talent and resource consultancy, finds those over 40 often let themselves down when applying for posts.

Mr Moreau says the inability to write a CV that will attract potential employers is not limited to any particular sector: many job seekers from all areas of business aged over 40 have CVs not fit for purpose and are missing out on positions. He says their CVs are too long, use too much CV jargon and are often not structured in a way that is relevant to the role for which they are applying.

Kevin Chappell, managing director of Augment group, a resource and talent management consultancy, says: “Most people over 40 put a standard CV together that would have been OK 15 years ago. However, the person making the universal assessment of the CV is probably at the start of their career and their outlook has changed.

“That CV will be competing with possibly hundreds of others and getting it to have the right impact takes planning, effort and research. Each and every job application is unique – and if you’re not going to put the effort in, then why would you expect an interview?”

Mr Chappell adds that a CV and standard covering letter no longer work and the “spray and pray” method is no longer effective either. “You need to approach each application uniquely and individually,” he advises.

“Tech-savvy youngsters are born profile builders,” according to Philip Piper, sales and business development director at recruitment consultants Badenoch & Clark. “But those over 40 tend not be as prolific when using online technologies to help their profiles.”

A CV is the advertisement that gets an applicant to the next stage of the recruitment process. It needs to be specific, personal and logical. “It’s all about the first screenshot [page one]. It has to make me want to scroll down and find out more,” explains Mr Moreau.

“I get a lot of CVs and need to sift through them quickly. If they’re too long, full of CV language, then they’re irrelevant with no value and I can’t make an informed decision.”

The experts say the first page, or “screenshot”, should consist of three sections. The first covers contact details: employers want name, email address, a link to a LinkedIn profile, details of where you are based and where you are willing to go.

“Ensure you use a professional sounding email address to apply and receive replies,” says Mr Chappell. “It sounds simple, but however good your application, if you have ‘’ or ‘’ you will probably go no further in the process.”

Section two is what Mr Moreau calls the “emotional” section, with descriptions of past positions. These need to be tailored to the role being applied for. Chief executives still need to distinguish themselves from other chief executives, so information is needed on the nature of the business – its size, whether it is a start-up etc.

“You have to talk about your achievements against the remit of the role. Use numbers: I achieved such and such, by doing such and such,” says Mr Moreau.

Mr Chappell adds that about six or eight accomplishments, with numbers, is ideal.

The third section should be a career synopsis and again relevance is key. Mr Moreau says: “Many over-40s plateau and become consultants. Subsequently, I’ll get CVs in chronological order and read about projects that are unheard of. But scroll down and there’s much more relevant experience.”

He says the danger is that people end up being judged on their more recent consultancy work rather than their more relevant earlier posts: “They’ve often got plenty more in their kitbag, which is only brought to the fore on page two, three, four or five.”

Mr Chappell adds: “Think about what will be seen on the screen when the document is opened. It needs to capture and interest the reader from the get-go, or they simply won’t scroll down.”

Job seekers also need to understand what the recruiter or HR manager is looking for. They might have a list of criteria and any CV not containing the right key words will tend not to be read in full.

Finding out what is needed is not as difficult as it might sound. Mr Chappell points out: “The job ad will tell you lots about what they are looking for, as will their website. Just as importantly, the website and other press material will inform you as to the organisation’s fit for you. It has to be a two-way fit or it won’t work for either party.”

Today, however, a digital CV is just one part of the application process: there are also online social media to consider.

“A CV is a fantastic tool when you’re looking for a new job, but it can be one-dimensional,” says Mr Piper. “Your professional profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook gives you the chance to rub digital shoulders with the sort of interesting people you’d love to work with.

“But with so many people jumping on the social media bandwagon, catching people’s attention is no mean feat – so you need to get creative. A great way to do this is by creating videos instead of CVs – by uploading them to Facebook and YouTube to get your name out there in an innovative way. You could even develop a professional site of your own to showcase your work.”

Mr Moreau says LinkedIn is used regularly in decision making, so it must be used to its full capacity. “Your profile must give a grounding of who you are and what you do. It needs to be descriptive, succinct and accurate. And avoid managementbuzzwords.”

Twitter can also be an effective tool, but users need to be clear whether they are using it for a personal or professional purpose. “If you’re talking about your company and your work it can be very useful.”

But Mr Chappell has less praise for the use of social media: “Using social media links may be more relevant in niche areas, for example, advertising, PR, marketing, and web development. Many more mainstream opportunities will be less savvy from a technology point of view. Twitter can often be used by people with a strong leaning towards personal rather than professional related content.”

He advises against includingLinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook links on a CV: “If the recruiter wants it they will ask specifically – and most candidates’ LinkedIn page is a static CV anyway, usually with a whole less thought than the actual CV for a specific application.”

Mr Piper disagrees: “One of the best things about LinkedIn is that it allows you to ask for endorsements from the people you’ve worked with, which are then displayed on your profile as a shining beacon of how great you are at your job. Some jobs are even filled through recommendations alone, as the good word of a former boss, professor or colleague makes it easier to trust you.”

Perhaps the ideal approach depends on the company, sector and role: the experts agree that tailoring is the key.

So is there still any room for old-fashioned paper CVs? Mr Piper says definitely not: “Paper CVs are pretty much unheard of these days, although, as with anything, there is an exception to the rule and it does happen – but very rarely.”CV tips

? Forget about using paper

? Keep the CV short and sweet – no more than two pages

? Never exaggerate – you will be found out

? Ask others to help check for spelling and grammatical errors

? Photographs – they are unnecessary in the UK and can look unprofessional

? List your responsibilities and achievements for each previous role

? Include numbers and statistics to back up your list

? Include your name, address, telephone number and email address – and website, if you have one

? Your CV could be split up, so add contact details to every page


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