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Good old A4 resume
Good old A4 resume
LAURANCE N'KAOUA

One million CVs. That is how many resumes L'Oréal receives, year in, year out, in the 130 countries where the cosmetic giant has offices.

From "job dating" on social networks to the avatars on Second Life, there have been various attempts to kill off the CV, but it keeps on being reinvented. Trends have come and gone: video CVs, anonymous CVs, the 2.0 CV. French employment agency for managers and executives, Apec, even tried "no-CV recruitment," where each candidate had to answer a questionnaire.

Each of the new methods was supposed to revolutionize recruiting. Yet "the CV is as alive as ever," says Jean-Claude Le Grand, Human Resources Director at L'Oréal.

A few months ago, the director of an IT company, whose Internet profile was completely up to date, got an unexpected surprise: "I was headhunted, and I couldn’t believe it -- the first thing they asked me was for my CV."

In the recruitment world, the medium is not the message. "A video CV doesn't interest me. It's too long, and often quite tedious! As for an anonymous CV, that goes against the very essence of a resume, and does not give a complete picture of the person. Only a traditional CV makes it possible to judge someone's career in 30 seconds. It is what makes you want to see a candidate for an interview, or not," says François Humblot, who runs Syntec, a recruiting consultancy.

Brigitte Schifano, head of HR at a French auto broker and distributor is even more categorical. "We would never make a job offer without seeing a CV first. The resume is the candidate's ID.”

Of course, few candidates still send off their CV in a stamped envelope. Recruiters also have had to deal with flourishing social networks: In France, for example, Viadeo has six million profiles, and LinkedIn four million. They can help employers uncover hard to find specialists, like mobile developers or technical sales people.

"Before, consultants had to search through the alumni books of top tier universities. Now, sourcing is faster and more interactive," says Johann Van Nieuwenhuyse, senior director at Michael Page recruitment agency.

Lying on a CV

Resumes, though, are not perfect: it’s easier to lie on a CV than on an online profile viewed by thousands of people. Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!, was fired for lying about an engineering diploma on his CV. In France, according to recruitment agency Robert Half, 46% of candidates "embellish" their resumes, especially concerning the duties of their previous job (53%), their managerial responsibility (45%), and their linguistic competence (42%).

Still, there is still nothing better than the CV. "We’re used to dealing with CVs, and they’re better for sharing in-house," says Laurent Brouat, associate director of Link Humans, a human resources strategy consultancy. Link Humans created a contest this spring when it wanted to hire an intern. Student candidates had to write a post on a dedicated website. "No CVs!" the rules insisted. "1,633 people viewed our video-advert, but only two students wrote a post. The rest sent in their CVs," says Brouat.

For recruiters, who are more afraid than ever of recruiting the wrong person – a sometimes costly mistake - traditional methods endure.

In Germany, CVs can be up to 12 pages long, but in France they should not be more than one or two pages. "It's not an absolute rule! When people have 20 years of professional experience, they have a right to several pages," says Emmanuelle Capiez, director of human resources for Assystem, an engineering and consultancy company that receives more than 10,000 CVs a year. But a CV that is several pages long for just a few years of experience can demonstrate an inability to summarize.

A CV can say a lot. "Even if young graduates' CVs are more standard, no CV is just like another one, either in format or in details," says Capiez. CVs also contain information that cannot be found elsewhere. "On a social network, to preserve confidentiality of the business where they are working, as well as to avoid their employers' notice, a candidate cannot mention numbers, sensitive data, or current projects," says Van Nieuwenhuyse.

Achievements

In this sense, resumes have evolved. "A few years ago, candidates would just describe their position. Now, a recruiter expects to see projects, practical applications, and achievements. We need to see facts and figures."

François Humblot agrees. "A CV must show off skills through achievements: a sales person who shows his results proves he knows how to sell."

Brief, targeted, stuffed with numbers; the CV must reveal a candidate's capacities, ability to fit into the employer's culture, career trajectory, and personality. Each little detail can reveal a person's strong points... and weaknesses. "In three minutes, a recruiter must be able to grasp the essentials," says Capiez.

But where does personalization stop? Syntec argues for a "Civil CV," asking its candidates to detail their work in community service. "A candidate should definitely emphasize all skills, including those acquired in volunteer work. For instanace, an IT specialist could have learned public speaking through community activism," says Humblot.

It is still true, however, that for candidates, the right balance is not always easy to find. "If you knew how many different kinds of CVs I have been asked to do! Some people want a resume organized by skills, others insist that I write a literary one, some don't care about a cover letter, others prefer a chronological CV," says a manager who is looking for work.

Considering the inevitable role of the CV, Van Nieuwenhuyse says, "It's best to use the model you feel most comfortable with."

Advice for a good CV

• Repeat "key words" found in the job advert, as site search engines often track these.

• Make sure that everything hangs together. The CV should show a developing career.

• Do not leave "holes." It is better to explain any blank spots, without lying.

• Pay attention to presentation and be sure it suits the job being advertised. A director's CV should not be on neon-colored paper!

• Illustrate each skill with an achievement.

•Take care with details and presentation. Watch out for CVs that are too long.

• Have the same up-to-date content on paper and in digital form.

• Do not show your CV more than once to the same recruiter.

• Try not to be too original or too boring. It is not useful to list your hobbies as "sport, reading and travel"!

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