Yesterday I spent half the afternoon in a meeting with a recruitment advisor, this is the new chap the private sector back to work company bought in to replace my old advisor who quit a few weeks ago over the way he was being ordered to treat his customers.
So new chap has a background in HR and recruitment and our first meeting didn’t start well but did get better once he stopped with what I considered to be his attitude and he stopped complaining about my attitude.
Anyway this week he spend over an hour going through my CV to make a number of changes, these being changes to the changes made during my last CV review which were changes to things from the CV review before that. My current CVs are called CV – 11 and CV – 12 to give you an idea of how many times I have completely rewritten the thing.
He read through my CV and declared he didn’t like it, it needed to be dumbed down and fluffed up to make it more presentable, the wording was often technical and didn’t sell me enough, the layout was annoying to him and the whole thing needed work. So we worked our way through it to reword and rewrite it. The lead section introducing me was lifted wholesale from another CV because it sounded better, the previous experiences have all been fluffed up to the point I don’t recognise the oldest stuff.
This got me thinking back to the different advice from experts and advisors and professionals I have received about CVs and interviews while being between jobs and how often they make no sense to me. I’m going to highlight them here, you may find them funny, you may find them silly, or you may find them familiar. This is all stuff I have been told by a variety of people at different times.
CVs should accurately reflect your skills and experiences, no one ever checks more than a few years back so add stuff to make it look good, fluff it out and make it more attractive, focus on your strengths not any weaknesses, only your last job needs to be honest, when you lie on your CV make sure you read it so you remember what you said in case anyone does ask.
The ongoing struggle between telling the truth and lying, is it better to get a job under false circumstances and then be sacked because you lied or to not get the job just because you don’t know anything about it. Is the risk of getting a reputation as a liar worth it? No matter what the experts say sooner or later if you have claimed something on a CV it will come up.
As for never mentioning weaknesses, is it better to turn up to an interview for a job I can’t physically do and mention medical conditions in the interview or to be honest up front and explain my limitations then be snubbed because I’m disabled (which I’m not but I sort of am). Or to mention that while I have experience in certain areas I don’t have the formal qualifications people may be looking for. I can do project management but I’m not Prince 2 qualified and people keep asking for Prince 2, do I lie and try to blag my way through on experience then risk falling over because I don’t know the Prince 2 terminology or specific procedures or do I just skip those jobs completely
You need to look experienced but not too experienced, if you look too good you will be seen as threatening the jobs of the people hiring you, if you look inexperienced they won’t want you. Don’t give answers that are too detailed as that makes you look over qualified and wordy, don’t correct the interviewer if they make a mistake as that makes them dislike you, unless it’s a trick question then you should correct it. Don’t include skills or experiences outside of the role because you will look as if you could change jobs easily, include skills and experience outside the role since well rounded staff are an asset.
I have a lot of experience in a range of companies using a variety of technology under a mixture of working environments. Is that an asset, is it a risk, is there a guide book somewhere that explains how much experience is too much or too little or just right?
Don’t seem too intelligent as that is intimidating, don’t come across as stupid, no one wants to hire an idiot, and don’t make the interviewer feel embarrassed because they don’t have your IQ. If you ask questions don’t make them too detailed or complex, during an interview ask questions about the employers to show you have an in depth knowledge of their company. Don’t use unusual words or technical or scientific words, stick to regular words, be careful when speaking during the interview, make sure you sound like you know what you are talking about.
The fine line between dragging your knuckles on the carpet as you walk in or talking as if you are a well educated, intelligent and imaginative person. I struggle here and have been told I come across as overly intelligent which intimidates people. But how stupid do I need to act and at what point does it become obvious mockery. Or do I just be myself and not end up working for someone who is intimidated by my being smarter than they are?
At an interview be yourself and try to act naturally, Jim don’t be yourself at interviews because you come across as too intelligent, don’t sit forward on the chair or lean toward the interviewer, that is threatening, focus on the person asking the questions, look directly at them and lean toward them to show interest. Don’t lean back in your chair as it looks like you are too relaxed and don’t care, try to look relaxed and at ease during the interview. Look directly at the person you are talking to, include all interviewers not just the one you are talking to at the time. Don’t fidget, it makes you look nervous, hold something or cross your arms to stop looking nervous, don’t cross your arms or legs as it makes you look shut in and uninvolved in the interview, don’t sit like a statue, move and be animated. Don’t sit too close to the interviewers as this could threaten them particularly if you are a six foot, crew cut, fat chuffer. Don’t sit too far away as it makes you look distanced and uninvolved, if it’s a criminal court style interview (three interviewers behind a desk and one chair in the middle of the room) then move the chair closer to the interviewers table.
Lean forward, don’t lean forward, look involved but don’t get too close. Don’t fidget but don’t sit still. Don’t hang back but don’t get too close. How close is threatening, how far back is too far.
When it comes to personal questions like hobbies DON’T SAY ANYTHING WEIRD, no one wants to hire weird people. If you mention interests like book reading and they ask what sort of books it’s OK to say fantasy as long as you quickly say lord of the rings. Don’t say science fiction because that makes you sound like a geek or nerd or someone overly intelligent. Don’t ever say you are a role player, D&D is for children, never ever mention Live role playing, no one wants to know about that sort of stuff, cowboys and Indians is for children and the kinky stuff belongs in the bedroom NOT the interview room. Never ever ever mention you are a writer unless you write educational stuff, fantasy writers are weird or kinky, science fiction writers are far too geeky and intelligent and really weird and no one will ever employ them. Don’t have a favourite football team in case the interviewer follows a rival team, have a favourite football team because people who don’t like football are weird.
Well that’s me stuffed then. I don’t like football and all of my hobbies and interests involve fantasy or Sci Fi or role playing or writing. Maybe I should get a nice safe hobby that I can admit to, something simple that I can blag my way through if someone asks, maybe stamp collecting, nope, stamp collectors are weird, flower arranging, not masculine enough. Problems problems.
These are the highlights and aren’t intended to be a complete list but this is the sort of thing I deal with every week. What works for one interview won’t work in another but it’s all but impossible to now before hand. Being given advice that keeps contradicting itself doesn’t help.
This looking for work stuff was far less complicated before all these experts and advisors got involved !