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Tag: resume

More Tips for a Healthier CV: Wiggle and Format

by MDY

In our last post on healthy CVs, we talked about how to keep your CV trimmed down and personal for maximum sexiness-effect. Now, let’s get to some of my pet peeves when slicing and dicing your résumé:


Be humble, but state the facts. If you won the Nobel Peace Prize but you’re applying for a bank-teller position, I don’t care if you don’t think it doesn’t matter. You won the Nobel Peace Prize. Significant achievements (and you will know instinctively which ones they are) should be put on display no matter what. On the flip side, don’t oversell yourself. This includes everything from disguising your (menial minion-esque) duties with long words to making up achievements or even entire positions. I’m not going to believe you when you say you single-handedly drove sales up by 300%. I will believe you – and think better of you – if you say you closed around 10 sales opportunities per week, and around 15 by the time you finished.

Better to emphasise your inexperience as an opportunity for you to learn, than paint a picture of someone you’re not. And any good interviewer will tear you to shreds at the slightest hint of bovine manure. Like me and your CV.


Promoted synergies within intra-organisational project management workflows with significant flow-on to KPI achievements, which included: sales growth of 500%, internal cost reductions of $200k p/a, opening of Lunar Office (Dark Side of the Moon).

Not so bad:

Managed client-provider communications. Closed around 25 sales opportunities per week and cut costs by outsourcing more jobs to freelancers. Won the Nobel Peace Prize.


Just…just make it look nice, please? I don’t know why everyone formats their CVs as haphazardly-indented lists of bullet points, but it just looks bad okay? That’s a portrait which screams amateur and hurts my eyes, and I will cut it up mercilessly in revenge. Medium font size, clear headings, none of this “oh I justified my text and now I have a line with only two words on it and they look like they got blown apart by a fragmentation mine” sort of balderdash.

Personally, I use a two-column table in a Word document: one column for position name and date, the other listing very briefly the duties and achievements for each. Some people like to have a single list, but with different font sizes and weights to make sections patently clear. Some people use Powerpoints, slideshow PDFs, or even videos. Don’t care. Just make it easy for me to get a clear overview of your career thus far.

In brief: be concise, be awesome, be well-formatted.

However, following these and last post’s tips will only get you a healthy CV, not one whose fists break through the heavens and reach for the stars in physics-defying glory. Next week, we’ll look at three ways to make your CV stand out – for better or worse. Keep read/writing,



Tips for a Healthier CV: Get Trim and Sexy

by MDY

I actually love reviewing CVs. They help me learn more about the people I know, and more often than not I emerge from my editing-cave with a new degree for the person and their accomplishments. And blood on my fingers. Sometimes plasma. There’s a reason why I lock the cave.

That’s because most of these CVs also require immediate surgery. Superficial surgery usually, not the sort where you have to play jigsaw with the patient’s internal organs. But surgery nevertheless, and rather bloody surgery too. So to avoid having to send your little collection of achievements off to my operating theatre (or at least minimise the amount of slashing and burning sutures and cauterisation involved), I’ve put together some tips to help you…perform some DIY surgery?

Let’s think about what a CV needs to do. Most basic thing: give the reader a reasonable impression of who you are, at least from a professional standpoint. A healthy CV will also reflect well on your character and demonstrate to any potential employers that you can get the job done. I think of a CV as similar to a self-portrait, albeit one with a smarmy grin and tendency to scream “KEEP LOOKING AT ME BECAUSE I MIGHT DO SOMETHING AMAZING”. And a top hat. But yours might not have one. It’s a matter of taste, really.

Now the best way to give the reader an impression of who you are is to list everything you’ve done. Except that’s not an impression, it’s a diary. Which leads me to

IMPORTANT THING #1: Only include what matters.

Rule of thumb here is to include only things which

  1. Relate (preferably directly) to the job at hand, or
  2. Describe you as a unique human being.

Try to think strategically, not rigidly. Your experience as a bartender may seem to have nothing in common with applying for a sales role, for example – but many of the underlying skills in both jobs (being able to establish rapport with strangers, identify often-unclear customer requirements, clean up vomit) are very similar. Your CV should make it clear how each position listed is relevant to how you go about the job you’re applying for: instead of just describing what you did in the role, describe what skills you used and what you learnt. Instead of

Retail assistant: Manned counter. Cleaned up the shop. Got bitched at.


Front-line retail salesperson: Earned a reputation amongst customers for friendly and informative service . Managed store logistics before and after-hours. Learnt to handle complaints with tact.

The second example says what the first does, but in a more constructive way. It highlights your achievements in the role (being known for good service) while also suggesting you have good organisational skills and can take flak without crying. All useful attributes in any role. However, the first example’s brevity and dry humour could endear you at more new-age organisations. All depends on your target, right?

And please, please don’t list your myriad schooling and extra-curricular achievements unless they’re blatantly relevant. Nobody cares that you were Basketball Vice-Captain ’08 or Secretary of the French Society – except perhaps if you’re applying to the NBA or one of the grandes écoles. The only thing from your schooling days which you might want to include is your final grade, and only if it’s impressive. Asterisks need not apply.

IMPORTANT THING #2: Get personal

Inject a bit of yourself into your CV. Talk a bit (but not too much) about things like:

  1. Hobbies (eg sports, crotchet, saving the universe)
  2. Interests (history, pole dancers, quantum physics)
  3. Unusual facts about yourself (owns a vintage Aston Martin, has no eyebrows, writes a blog)

One of my friends puts in his CV that his interests include singing, squash and Haruki Murakami. Mine mentions that I used to be a national percussion champion and currently work as a part-time character assassin. Keep the focus on your professional competencies, of course – but don’t forget that employers want to know who you are as a person too. Preferably one whose personal attribute mesh well with their corporate culture. That’s why they stalk your Facebook.

To summarise: make yourself sound good, both as a worker and a person. Keep your CV trim – don’t let it get morbidly obese.

Stay tuned for more healthy CV tips on Friday! Keep read/writing,


5 Tips for Sexier Cover Letters

by MDY

One of the most common requests to come my way is “can you help me draft a cover letter?” Or, more often, “OMG I NEED A JOB PLEASE HELP ME” which then rapidly evolves the aforementioned request (that, and CVs – but we’ll talk about those another day). Cover letters – which can accompany not only CVs but reports, business pitches, and submissions to media outlets – are the frontispiece of your written communication. They’re the vanguard to the army which is your CV, striking hard and softening the target (potential hirer) before the cavalry of your professional experience rolls in and tramples any resistance into the linoleum. If your cover letter’s strong enough, it can even do the trampling for you and single-handedly win you the job/deal/line of credit which you so desperately need.

A good cover letter has impact. It is succinct and convincing. But most of all, it is sexy. And this is how you write a cover letter which will make prospective employers roll over and beg for more:

1. Be succinct.

What do you feel when you see huge reams of text and multiple pages? Me, I feel my gag reflex. Cover letters – no more than 300 words. Just like a striptease, less is more.

2. Know what they want.

You remember how in school your English teacher would tell you to “answer the question”? Same deal. Figure out what the target is asking, then decide how you intend to go about answering that. For example, take this job ad I saw recently:

We are looking for highly motivated individuals to join a team of the universe’s most talented strategic specialists. Suitable candidates will have a stellar track-record in their field of specialisation and a high proficiency in at least one of the following: hand-to-hand combat, small arms, or artillery. Candidates must be have at least 500HP and Level 10 in their specialised class. Previous planet-saving experience preferred.

“Highly motivated” and “talented strategic specialists” are basically fluff. “Stellar track-record” is my burden of proof – I need to prove I’m one of these to have a chance at joining the team. Everything in my cover letter should contribute to proving this in some way. Then there are the necessities: weapons proficiency, health, and XP level. If I don’t meet all the necessities, I’m in trouble. In short, know what you have to prove with your cover letter before you start writing.

3. “It’s not me, it’s you”

When writing cover letters, most people seem to inevitably end up talking about themselves. They talk about how this opportunity will “enrich my skill set and professional experience” or that they’re applying because they “have a strong interest in the field” or a whole number of other things about how the opportunity will help them.

Nobody cares.

If I’m a hirer or venture capitalist or Commander-in-Chief, I don’t give a flying rocketship how you wish to extend your core competencies or gain invaluable industrial experience. I want to know you can do the job and do it better than any of the other mugs also flinging their CVs in my face. So fulfil your burden of proof. Show me how you can help me. Not the other way round.


I believe this opportunity to join the N7 team will help me better appreciate interplanetary relations, in which I have had an interest since Mum ran off with a giant squid thing from Saturn. I am also hopeful that I can develop a more extensive network of connections amongst fellow skilled individuals for future synergistic co-operation.


I have a decorated military record, the fastest ship in the galaxy, and a private army. Also, my guns are big. Both metaphorically and literally. When do I begin?

4. Write conversationally.

Your cover letter is usually the first communication you’ve had with the target. That means you need to demonstrate what a suave, capable and all-round-awesome individual you are within the first few moments. Imagine you’re on a first date. You don’t start off conversation by saying

Dear Sir/Madam, this conversation is to inform you that I believe myself to be a suitable candidate for the position of Life Partner commencing immediately

You say something like

Hey girl/guy. My name’s ______ and I’m a Senior Partner at <impressive-sounding company>. I like walks on the beach at sunset and have a PhD in Quantum Computing from MIT. You do too? Let’s talk about phase states while I get you a drink.

Similarly for a cover letter, try to adopt a reasonably conversational tone. Contractions like “I’d” instead of “I would” can help, as can a more direct form of addressing the “question”:

In your posting on, you mentioned candidates needed certain weapons proficiencies. I’m a career sniper who’s also trained in ju-jitsu and asskicking, and (etc etc)

This also demonstrates to your target that you know what they want, which is akin to showing your date you’re interested in their love of tea cosies and cats. It makes them feel special. The trick here is to be conversational while retaining a cool, professional tone. Think elegant with a touch of ice. People with money love that.

5. Make sure you have immaculate punctuation, grammar and syntax, along with clear formatting and the correct details (name spelling, address, company name) of your target.

See the “first date” analogy. Don’t rock up in shorts and thongs – unless your target is a surfing company.

To summarise: the more you work out, the sexier you get. Keep read/writing,