What Not to Do for Cover Letters, CVs & Resumes

By Dawakhuu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Just a few frustrating things I encountered as a recruiter that I think most people should avoid. Some points will have many people disagree due to personal preferences, but see if you agree or not:

  • Don’t assume people know what you’re talking about. Organization or job roles that aren’t obviously clear for a non-specialist should have a brief explanation, and the recruiter is almost always a non-specialist (we can’t possibly know everything about everything).
  • CAR (Context-Action-Result) everything. Make it easy for the recruiter to answer the question “So what?” by showing context of why the situation was impressive, what actions you took, and what impressive results you delivered as a result
  • Quantify your results as much as possible, it’s the easiest way to make the recruiter go “Wow”.
  • Follow-up to the two points directly above this point – Make it very clear why the grades are impressive. Different universities in different countries have different grading standards, so make it easy for a non-knowledgeable recruiter know where you stand in terms of the bell curve if you’re going to list your grades.
  • Don’t show GPA if you’re not going to show your cumulative GPA. Showing GPA or course grades for only a selected few period(s) or course(s) makes it easy to think that you sucked on the other semesters and courses.
  • Cover Letters are great, but don’t assume that both Cover Letters and Resumes / CVs are read together. Make sure your Resume / CV can be read and understood independent of the Cover Letter.
  • Seriously, typos are a no no. Grammar issues are kind of okay considering not everyone in Hong Kong speaks perfect English, and many recruiters don’t have the English proficiency to note grammar issues. But typos? Just reflects laziness / lack of attention to detail
  • Don’t show your address. It’s not necessary (recruiters will ask for it if they really need it) and it could easily provide info. that could cause some recruiters to have certain biases towards you
  • Don’t show your photo, similar point to point directly above. Make it easy for recruiters to not make a biased decision on you.
  • Don’t have a summary at the top of your Resume / CV. You’re supposed to demonstrate who you are already in your Cover Letter and back it up with specifics in your Resume / CV, so a summary not only doesn’t provide any additional useful information, it’s a waste of precious Resume / CV space.
  • Make sure your Resume / CV is 1 page only, unless you have tons of job experience (we’re talking veterans, not fresh grads). Recruiters simply don’t have that much time to go through 2-3 pages of Resume / CV without feeling frustrated.
  • Don’t kiss ass too much in your Cover Letter. I know you want the job and want the recruiter to feel very positive about your enthusiasm for the company, but focus on why you are a great fit for the role rather than praising the company. Recruiters are more concerned about how much value you can bring to the table after all.
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