• Content vs. Context: CV Edition

    by  • October 12, 2013 • Career Transition and Management • 0 Comments

    Many a war was fought between Content and Context. It is time we settled this old chestnut in the arena of CV writing. Who do we back? Both.

    Many a war was fought between Content and Context. It is time we settled this old chestnut in the arena of CV writing. Who do we back? Both.

    If you are in the process of putting your CV together (for whatever reason), you have probably encountered two types of approaches: the one that suggests you cram your CV full of content, and the one that suggests you opt for a tailored, contextual CV.

    There is a case for using either. Let’s consider using both:


    CV Content is King

    When recruiters have (quite  literally) hundreds of CVs to go through, and deep down they do want to give people a fair chance, they want to make sure that the good ones get a fair reading. But how can they fish out the ones that are most relevant?

    They run keyword searches. They are after a graduate with a First, or someone with a degree in Geography. They want someone with 3 years’ experience in Java programming, or a Microsoft Exchange guru.

    So they log on to their advanced users in LinkedIn, their recruiters’ power user in jobsites or switch on nifty bits of software (or interns that scan or type up CVs into the nifty software), and they search: “Microsoft Exchange”; “Java”; “Graduate”; “3 years”; “Geography”.

    That – in a rough nutshell – is why cramming a CV with keywords makes you more visible. It makes perfect sense.

    But what if they type “MS Exchange” and not “Microsoft Exchange”? Better put both in. What if they add the word “server”? “Cloud” is kind of a big thing– better find a place to add that in. Before you know it, your CV is a junkyard of keywords that may leave the recruiters with the same odds of finding your CV (the needle) in the proverbial keyword stack.


    CV Context is Kingdom

    This is your chance to make your needle visible through all the hay: read the job ad properly and make small (but meaningful) adaptations. What language is are recruiters using? What keywords do they have in their ad?

    Although we actively promote paperlessness, the skill of contextualising a CV is sometimes easier on paper. Print your CV and print the ad (or job description). Place them one next to each other and connect the dots: which of your skills connect to which demands in the ad? Use a highlighter to mark keywords in the ad and then re-word your skills to include the words the ad has.

    Sounds like hard work? It may be a bit tedious the first few times. But after four or five of these, what started as a 20 minutes exercise will quickly reduce to a five-minute job (per job).

    The result will be a CV that is still yours, that isn’t chock-full-of-spam, yet will crop up in the recruiters’ search, because they will be searching for the words they have in their ads. You are making the right people see your CV just when they are looking for it.

    Don’t take our word for it – the BBC’s research found that out too in their research. It is the very last bullet point on their list. Making slight adaptations to make sure that the words and terms you use are the same as those advertised will make your CV go better, farther and faster for you.


    If you want more tips or some help with you’re the content and context of your CV – please get in touch.

    Have you had experience of adapting your CV? How did it work for you? Comment below!



    Photo by Kade Schemahorn via citizenkade.com

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