15 November 2013
In my 30+ years as a lawyer I have seen a number of fads regarding the preparation of CVs.
Just as people look back at thirty-year-old photos of themselves and laugh about their clothes or hair styles, we look back with equal bewilderment on notions of how people thought a CV should be prepared.
Perhaps the silliest fad occurred in the mid-1980s when people got it into their heads that employers were interested in handwriting analysis as a measure of a candidate’s suitability for a job! As a measure of candidate character or suitability, handwriting analysis is probably right on par with phrenology or tarot readings. Nonetheless, young lawyers (who definitely should have known better) were submitting handwritten CVs on ruled paper (the kind of paper you find in a spiral notebook). I am not kidding!
Although (thankfully!) that silliness did not last long, other fashions have popped up through the years that have prevented candidates from presenting themselves in the best possible light. One recent trend that we are seeing more and more involves using a broad range of dates for employment or education history. Thus, for example, we might see something like this:
So, we ask, was this job for two years or . . . two weeks?
Another variation we occasionally see is this:
A bit better, perhaps, but not really helpful.
Sometimes candidates do this because there may be a gap or two in their education or employment; they think it better to gloss over these gaps than try to explain them. They’re wrong! We think that this is misleading, and it should be avoided in favor of an honest and forthcoming presentation (e.g., April 2011 – September 2012). The fact is that almost everyone has life events (deaths, illnesses) that may require taking a break from employment or education; unfortunate circumstances are not uncommon and, rather than trying to hide them, candidates should instead present them in an honest and forthright manner.
We will provide other helpful CV tips in future blog posts, but the bottom line is this: do not play games with your CV. If there are gaps, address them head on; don’t try to hide them by using misleading information. While it may not be your intention, it can appear that you are trying to deceive potential employers.
Remember that employers will research your background. Even if you receive an offer of employment, it is almost always contingent on satisfactory completion of a background check; if your CV is anything less than wholly honest and forthcoming, it could be grounds for termination. Losing a job is bad enough, but losing one because of misrepresentations on a CV is something to avoid at all costs.