I recently agreed to have a look at a couple of CVs individuals had sent in as part of our internship programme. Before proceeding any further, let me say that I’m no HR specialist, nor have I recruited anyone before to work for an organisation and the most I would have ventured into hiring and firing is when I agreed to work (in consultation with) a designer or developer for a writing gig I’m working on. But those too, have come in through recommendations and friends and contacts I’ve known all along.
But this was entirely different and for the first time in my life, I judged books by their covers, literally. I do that in real life too, but this is for work where they get paid – eek.
I haven’t met these candidates in real life. My only connection to them is the email they had sent in attaching their CVs and covering letters / personal statements.
And trust me when I tell you that there is a lot you can learn from these little things.
Let me list my findings below. Do keep in mind the disclaimer: these are not professional findings or analyses, just innocent vocation-driven observations.
1. Talks too much
By “talk”, since I haven’t met these people, I refer to what was written on their CVs. Being a writer, I am one for words yes, but you know not words. There is a limit to which one can go on about how great they were in school or university. You see, frankly, I don’t care. I just want to know if you can get the job done and if I can work with you and vice versa.
2. Talks too little
I am one for modesty but not to the extent of submitting something with absolutely nothing in it. There weren’t too many of these in the list I scanned through, however most of the Letters of Motivation were not promising enough. (because if I were to select you to work with, I will definitely read through your Letter of Motivation to see if you are full of horse shit or sincerity.
3. Talks just enough
Because we are all about that modesty. I mean, I would hire you in a heartbeat.
4. Parents names
I’m not sure if this is a (specific) cultural practice but seriously, dafaq?
5. Prioritisation of credentials / information
This might overlap with the next point to an extent, but my non-professional HR self believes that credentials need to be prioritised based on what you are applying for. Let me give you a few examples:
a) For those who do not know, I studied music once upon a time for nearly fifteen years and have had occasional teaching gigs. If I were to migrate and apply for jobs in schools, I will definitely highlight or “pin” these information right to the top. If I have any musical compositions that were never a hit, heck I would even annex those, because I am applying for a teaching post.
b) On the other hand, if I were applying for a job as a writer, I will annex some of my writing samples, content marketing material and other links along with the experience needed for the job, which I may have received from a previous job.
c) Or if I were applying for a research scholarship or assistantship, I will list out my term papers, any research work I did on my own or contributed to in University and so on.
Getting your priorities straight will help the whole of mankind, seriously.
6. Credentials (and the extent to which it is described)
This might seem to come in conflict with the first three points, but let’s say you got your priorities checked and everything is in order. But no, I do not want to know every single detail of your life? What if we were to have a face-to-face interview? What will you have to tell me then? 😮
Also note that your CV is not a PDF version of your LinkedIn profile.
7. Personal statements
As I said, the CVs I received had requested a Letter of Motivation to be annexed. Some followed this request while the others chose to overlook it. First of all, kudos to all those who did submit them, trust me they did make a difference when it came to gauging your personality and what sort of a person you may be and to those who didn’t submit these well, . However, I think is it is always good to have a (mini) personal statement of sorts, unless specifically requested as it makes a world of a difference when trying to understand your commitment in wanting to work for the organisation.
All of the documents I “judged” were sent to us through email. See the email is your mode of communication. While it is nice to have a brief of what you want to tell us, the keyword here being “brief”, that doesn’t mean that you need to command / ctrl + v the entirety of your Letter of Motivation. I am not going into basic email etiquette because that is well, a given.
What can be more appealing than a clean, sophisticated layout and CV design? While I do agree that appearance is not everything, given that we are making decisions based on emails and documents received, it does make a difference if there is that air of sophistication. I’m not sure to what extent this affects my line of work but in the corporate world I’m sure this becomes important.
Continuing with the theme from the previous point, with sophistication comes an air of natural confidence. You seem to be sure of what you are saying (or we seem to be sure of what we are reading) and there is that light bulb that glows overhead and tells us, “Here’s your man/woman.”
In case you were wondering on why I didn’t add “language proficiency” in the list, that is because I didn’t prioritise on it. While I agree that our working-language is English and a very good or excellent proficiency in English language is needed, being a language and culture enthusiast I cannot help but look at the broader picture here. I’m not too familiar with the nature of internship to be honest, most of my judgement is based on their (seemingly) personality traits. However, if these individuals are able to communicate with us and whoever else they are to work with and also seem to have the humility to ask for help in the event of not being able to do so, I don’t really see what the fuss is all about! 🙂 If they are more comfortable speaking in their own language and still doing a fabulous job out of what they are supposed to do, seriously, what more could any organisation ask for?
How I Went About Shortlisting
Since this is for actual internships, I listed all candidates down on table and divided the columns accordingly: “Name | Country | Qualifications | Notable Feats | Score (on 10)”. There was no basis for how I calculated the score and can be completely bias, I agree. However, since I was sharing this with my line-manager, I thought it would be best to have the last two columns (especially because it would be the two of us who would at some point have to mediate with these hapless souls. haha) In the column I titled “Notable Feats”, I even put down little snippets such as,
“I’m impressed! #score – very proficient CV: not too much, not too little and fairly modest. I’m judging books by their covers, yes!”
Some of them even had comments such as “likeable” –
plainly because their CVs as well as covering letter appealed to me and there was that innate need to know more about them and actually want the said individual to be a part of our organisation!
I also secretly think that what appealed to me most was the fact that I identified with their way of engaging with a third-party reader and it being similar to the manner in which I would have tackled the situation as well! lol.
Now that I’m done throwing my five cents in the recruitment process, let’s hope those chosen prove to be as worthy as stated in their CVs. 😀