Posted on Thursday 19 September 2013 by Ulster Business


By Amanda Ferguson

When it comes to your Curriculum Vitae it's clear that honesty is always the best policy.

It can be tempting to jazz up the work experience, qualifications and skills sections of your CV, but as The Apprentice candidate Jordan Poulton's experience revealed, any exaggerated claim is a definite no.

Viewers of the BBC show cringed as the young businessman failed miserably when one of Lord Sugar's aides presented him with a Rubik's cube to solve in under three minutes.

It was on his CV, but he couldn't do it. Awkward.

At the time of publication Jordan hadn't replied to Ulster Business' request for a chat about what he had learned from the Rubik's cube experience, but in an earlier interview he said nerves had got the better of him on the day and he was still waiting for "the chance to show them I can do it".

The thing is Jordan won't have another chance, that's not how job interviews work. You've got one shot to make a good impression and that starts with your CV.

HR and recruitment experts told Ulster Business inaccurate claims and omissions will catch people out in the end and it's best to leave any outrageous and/or irrelevant skills out.

Maria Curran, head of Employability at the University of Ulster, says graduates should use a CV to explain to recruiters what they can do and what they have done.

"Their CV should present their knowledge, learning, skills and competencies in a positive, honest way," she said.

"The information should be accurate and truthful. Graduates are expected to put a positive spin on their CV, to play up their experiences by using positive, strong language, but they are advised not to include anything which is blatantly untrue as they will be found out."

UU provides students with PACE, a custom built interactive tool to help them develop and record employability skills and build CVs from specialised templates. Maria said it is important to tailor a CV to the needs of the recruiter and the particular job.

"It's best to show how they are a good fit by giving examples of how their experience, knowledge and skills fits the requirements of the job, paying particular attention to the ones marked 'essential'," Maria said.

"Demonstrate all relevant skills, both transferable and subject related. The three most commonly requested skills across a broad section of graduate jobs are currently teamwork, communication skills and organisational skills," she added.

"Spelling and grammar is important and a CV should fit on two pages, making sure it's clear, easy to read and pleasing to the eye.

"The language used by graduates in their CV will determine how easily their message is conveyed to the reader, so it's important to avoid jargon, flowery language and text speak."

Beth McMaw, divisional manager at Grafton Recruitment, said middle managers overselling soft skills can be a turn off for prospective employers and arriving late for an interview must be avoided at all costs.

"Other turn offs include casual dress and not knowing anything about the job or company because they haven't read the job description or person specification," she added.

Beth said detailing achievements on a CV is important but stressed they "must be specific, tangible and true".

"If you are a Production Manager you should be in a position to say you have reduced wastage by a certain percentage. If you are an HR Manager you might say you have reduced attrition from 15% to 2%," she said.

"Achievements should be in bullet point format and if there aren't lots of them they should sit underneath your profile in your CV or broken down under each job before responsibilities."

Beth also said with the ever increasing development of technology and social media it is vital job candidates ensure their public profiles are accurate, up to date and easy to find.

Grafton has recently updated their CV & Interview Guidance booklet and insist on one to one interview preparation for specific jobs.

In her 16 years in the recruitment business Beth has seen and heard it all, including candidates attempting to interview the interviewers and people turning up wearing jeans, to eyes wandering around the room and on occasion being winked at.

"Something people should be mindful of is the appropriateness of photographs, so posing – unless you are applying for a modelling job – is out," she said.

"Poor grammar and spelling also makes me cringe and people shouldn't be tempted to imply they have a degree when they did a year or two years but never completed it," she added.

"Saying you like to socialise as a hobby should be avoided. If you feel you must put something down under hobbies make it something real like playing sport or being a member of a drama society."

Meanwhile, Gerry Gilpin, of Gilpin Executive Recruitment said chief executives are one of the hardest sort of candidates to advise on how to fill in a CV.

"They regard a lot of achievements as 'just their job' so it can be hard for them to articulate what their real achievements are," Gerry said.

"Lots of people think they can write a CV in half an hour and send off a cover letter, but if it's generic and not tailored that is a problem in today's market."

Gerry said conveying your experience, skills, knowledge and attributes is vital and that hesitation and failure to prepare adequately for interviews trips people up.

"Nowadays lead questions are followed up with Who, What, When, Where and How questions and that's when people get caught out," Gerry said.

"An example is saying 'I increased profit by 20% in three months' but then not having all the answers when probed further on the who, what, when, where and how.

"Give specific examples of X,Y and Z. These have to be thought of in advance, there's no point trying to fool a professional panel."

Gerry said another trap people fall into is stating the obvious, as employers will not be interested in what an executive does, but rather, what they have achieved.

"I'm an accountant, so a group accountant doesn't have to tell me they do monthly and yearly accounts," he said.

"It's in the title. It's about getting into achievements, that's what employers are interested in, how you've improved efficiency. I find the more senior you are the harder it is to get a really good and succinct CV. I spend a lot of time getting senior executives to explain achievements."

Gerry says he "discourages lies" as "you'll get caught out sooner or later".

"If a lie is serious enough you are liable to be dismissed," he said. "I encourage people to be totally honest."

It might only be a television show, but in this case The Apprentice experience is relevant in the real world. If you can't solve a Rubik's Cube, don't say you can!


Follow us

Subscribe to Ulster Business Magazine

View Our Digital Library

A L Top 100 2019 button