CV/Resume Writing: How to Make Sure your CV/Resume Won’t be Rejected by a Computer

by Jacqueline Schaalje

Writing your CV (or Resume if you’re an American) can be a real pain. It’s bad enough that a CV confronts you with your own limitations and makes you realize that you wasted your time back in 2005-2008 taking a useless degree or working in a job that didn’t interest you at all. Most people that I know also wonder whether their CV takes the right format.

Because, annoyingly, the formats of CVs keep changing.

Ever wondered why you were rejected for that job that fitted you like a glove, and you didn’t even get an interview? And in the end you heard that out of 2,589 application letters, not a single candidate was deemed (= thought to be) perfect enough to get hired for the job. And that’s why the company is paying 10,000 dollars a day in losses, because their team of programmers or marketing managers or whatever is too small.

Your CV is Read by a Worm!

The reason why many suitable job candidates are rejected is presumably because something went wrong in the selection process. In his book, “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs,” Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at Wharton School University of Pennsylvania,  argues that the software that HR departments use in the selection of CVs is often incapable of pinpointing the perfect candidate for the job.

Yes, you’re reading it right! Companies use computers to read your application letter and CV.

This is where things go wrong. A computer is able to affirm that you have five years of experience in accounting, but is unable to assess that you are a quick learner or are friendly to customers. Most importantly, computer software is unable to determine that you can do the job, even if your previous job didn’t give you the exact experience that the job requires.

The problem with the software is that it reads literally. If the job vacancy demands five years of experience as a hotel desk manager, it’s not okay if you have four years of experience and two years as a marketing officer of a hotel. A human recruiter would understand immediately that the two years of being a marketing officer in a hotel is an asset, something that could be of advantage in the job of manager. But the computer, however, will put the CV of this candidate on the pile of “Unsuitable.”


How to Deal with Selection Software

Even if the computer software is inefficient at selecting the right candidates for the interview, that doesn’t mean that companies will go back to selecting the candidates by hand. With hundreds of application letters flowing into their inbox for every job, HR staffers are forced to use the computer because they simply don’t have time to read every letter themselves.

That means that software programs are here to stay. What we want to know is: how do you write a CV that the software program likes? And in the case that no computers are used, we also want to make sure that a human will approve of your CV.

Make Sure your Education and Experience Match the Requirements of the Job

As education and experience are the main things that the matching software is going to look at, don’t bother to send your CV if you don’t answer to these requirements. You won’t get through the selection.

Use the Right Keywords

If the job description says “Retail Sales Associate Bilingual,” make sure that all these four “keywords” appear somewhere in your CV. But not in the actual order that they’re in the description.

Use Conventional Reverse Order for your Previous Jobs and Education

Use reverse chronological order for your education and experience. That is: start with your current or latest job, then the job before that, then the job before that. Jobs older than ten years don’t need to be listed. Do the same with your education. If you have a degree or professional diploma, don’t list your high school.

Get into Depth about what you Know and Can Do

The computer will like buzzwords such as CPA, bilingual, Java, C++ and all that kind of stuff. Once you mention something you can do, explain your skills in detail and how long you’ve been doing it.

Carefully Apply these Format and Layout Guidelines:

–       Don’t use headers or footers in your CV.

–       Don’t use any fancy formats or special layouts.

–       The best fonts (letter shapes) to use are Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri or Courier.

–       Submit your CV in Microsoft Word.

–       Don’t use pictures or graphics. If you’d like to add a picture to your application, send it in a separate file which says “My picture.” Don’t paste it into your CV.

–       Include your postal address. CVs without postal addresses aren’t considered.


If you need help with your CV, send me an email to jackie-s@013.net. I’ve helped hundreds of people with their CVs and getting a job.

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