These days many candidates ask me if they should even bother with a CV. Surely it’s enough just to flick an employer or recruiter an email with a link to their LinkedIn profile?

While it might be tempting to go without a CV, I’d never recommend it.

Why LinkedIn doesn’t do the same thing as a CV

Say you’re applying for a job online - maybe through LinkedIn itself. So why wouldn’t you just save time and hassle and link to what you’ve already put out there? 

Well, for starters, I don’t think your LinkedIn profile covers everything it needs to. Even Linkedin’s own job board requires you to upload a CV. In other words, LinkedIn itself doesn’t take for granted that your LinkedIn profile acts as comprehensive employer-ready document.

That brings me to my second point: LinkedIn is more than a CV. It’s an entire platform, created to enhance your work life and work self. It’s about building a personal brand, sharing knowledge, demonstrating expertise and networking.

That means while you might cover the same information in both your CV and your LinkedIn profile do it in very different ways.

Third, your LinkedIn profile is about you, your career and education history, and it’s not tailored to the particular job you might be applying for. On the other hand, your CV should always be targeted. Your LinkedIn profile is a place to find out more about you - stuff that tells a bigger story than your CV and might not fit into, or be relevant to, your CV.

So, given that you still need a CV, what should it look like?

How long should your CV be?

The most common questions I get about CVs is about how long it should be. People can have very fixed ideas on CV length - prescribing 500 words or four pages or some formula as the only way a CV should ever be presented.

The real answer is that there is no definite length. You don’t want it too brief or too lengthy. and it varies by industry and experience.

Marissa Mayer recently published her CV – a snappily designed one pager. 

The structure I personally like is a first page which acts as a stand-alone summary  (a bit like Marissa’s) but then two or three additional pages which provide a more in-depth career history.

Marissa can get away with one page because anyone can Google her achievements.

That said, early career professionals may struggle to reach the four page length I like. On the other hand, if you have 20 years of experience the skill lies in knowing what to leave out. Logically, employers will assess your suitability for any role based on your most recent positions, so emphasise these. You can always keep a longer CV for your own records and summarise earlier roles to keep the length down.

The power of constant updating

The second most asked question is how often should I update my CV? My answer: constantly. Your CV should ideally be a working document. 

Every few months you should be giving it a quick review. If you leave it two or three years you will have lost - or forgotten - some valuable content. 

When you’re doing this, I think a good rule of thumb is to treat it like your wardrobe - when you add something new take something old out, keeping it at the same length. So more recent experience replaces early career experience, and better examples of expertise replace older ones.

So… one or two CVs?

Ideally you should only have one CV (apart from the long one in storage I mentioned earlier). I think this should be a general document which summarises your skillset and gets you the initial discussion where you can highlight your specific skills. You can also tailor this for the specific jobs you’re applying for.

However, if you have distinct specialisations - for example you have moved between HR careers in Training and Recruitment - it probably is a good idea to have two separate CVS to emphasise your expertise in each of those areas. That assumes, of course, that you’ll want to apply for jobs in both fields.

What should your CV look like?

Don’t worry about including graphics or visual brands, HR professionals don’t need to be presented as a design professional. Tables can be useful, but more importantly you should always make sure the document is perfectly formatted and has no spelling errors or typos. Publish your CV to a PDF to give it a more professional look.

The golden rules for CVs

Once you’ve mastered those basics, here’s my guide to the golden rules of what a CV should - or shouldn’t - include.

1. Don’t include a career objective

Unless you want to constantly edit the document, leave this out. Besides, I receive so many CVs where a candidate has effectively ruled themselves out of the race by including a career objective that’s unrelated to the job they’re going for.

2. Don’t state the obvious

If it goes without saying, don’t say it. For example, there’s no need to write “CV” or “resume” at the top of the document, or write “references on request”, etc. It just looks overly formal and a little bit naff.

3. Highlight achievements not just duties

In each role you’ve performed highlight what you achieved and make sure these aren’t just glorified duties. Prospective employers want to know what you’ve done above and beyond the responsibilities of your role.

4. Quantify your value and achievements

HR professionals increasingly have to demonstrate what commercial acumen they can bring to the table. So include metrics that show how you’ve added value or been successful, like $ savings, or percentage engagement level improvements.

5. Include relevant links

You’ve only got a certain amount of space to work with in your CV and you don’t want it to look crowded. Gesture towards your bigger story and career history by including short links to any published work or LinkedIn recommendations that can add to your CV.

And, finally...

Although a LinkedIn profile doesn’t replace a CV you do always need to make sure that your CV matches your Linkedin profile exactly (in terms of dates etc).

After all, a curious future employer or recruiter is likely to cross-reference the two.

Matthew Mayoh is a specialist HR Recruiter operating in the Sydney market.

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