The Almost Perfect CV
In the 3rd part of our The almost perfect CV series we break down the steps into bullet points so you can follow along and compare with your own. A downloadable template (.docx) is set at the end of this article should you want to rebuild it from scratch. The idea of this series is to give as much inside into the process and the whys of a great CV. The perfect stamps from the fact that it will not hinder but support your application and get you the job.
A CV only reflects
A CV is only a reflection of your history. It is not THE history of your past and it should never be that. If it would it would be boring and off the point of its purpose. The purpose of any resume is provide your job application with a prove of expertise to do exactly this job - that's it. Anything else either is a distraction or shows missing focus.
It sounds harsh but the CV is not build for personality it is there to show your selected past in a clear and structured way. Of course it can only show what exists which creates a second problem for most, especially pupils and students: Not to have enough to fill the blanks. A desperate attempt is often to put as much content as possible into it.
Working at McDonalds? Sure!
A Janitor at a local school - Better than nothing!
Of course anything can show you are a working person but applying for an accountant position where people trust you know how to handle money can create a disarray. The image of someone holding money doesn't fit with a fast food employer. Better to put in social activities instead which reflect a sense of community. The moment you can't show experience you have to show passion and skill which are best in your cover letter and portfolio.
The almost perfect CV template (s. download below)
Header and Footer
The header and footer of a CV are quite simple. You only need
- contact information: name, email, phone
- page number
The contact information are important since they appear on every page to make sure contacting you is as easy and accessible as possible. Additionally you could add at least one important link like your home or LinkedIn page if it improves your visibility. Adding the page number is just form to keep things in order.
Now it is time to introduce ourselves with a
- title: CV, Resume, ...
- more contact information
- city, (address)
- profile picture
This is our official introduction so repetition to the header can occur. Furthermore we can use this part to add additional links to our profile. Providing an address is especially on a more remote application not as important but it can play a vital role for freelancers. Living in the same country or even near by your future employer also means you can start early and don't need as much time and effort to adapt.
Update: Readers pointed out that it could have a negative effect revealing your address instead of just the city because of prejudice and negative associations with specific areas and neighborhoods. Of course if that affects you it could be wise to avoid details. In the matter of fact the address itself doesn't hold as much benefits as the city.
A must-have in every CV is a profile picture. From a psychological point of view it adds a human aspect to the argument since now you insert a face to the cold hard numbers and facts. This human aspect can lead to a better chance or at least a more thorough investigation of your application since you are a person now who deserves minimum effort.
For this your profile picture has to be decent enough to reflect a character and quality:
- profile picture (of your face)
- noise free quality
- positive lighting and colors (look healthy)
- positive/neutral expression (no sad or serious face this is not a passport)
Which means you should avoid using your
- fun profiles (from Facebook)
- passport picture (looking like a rock)
- too business (depends on your field but ...)
Our experiences are the bread and butter of our CV. They are the main reason why we are getting hired since they answer one of the two biggest questions every recruiter has:
"Can he do the job?"
The experience section (including education) shows an indication to an answer with
"Since I worked on similar tasks in the past - Yes!"
It is that simple. Focusing on answering exactly this question has the highest priority. This means it is not about what you know your experiences are but what others think your experiences are. Most of us bump into the problem eventually of not being able to reflect what we really can do with our official statements. Maybe you know your craft but how can you show and prove it when you only worked on friends or student projects while the only accountability is a company name.
The only two ways to counter that actively is either specifically search for more experiences and get hired in your aimed position in whatever circumstances or accept the fact and balance it out through the portfolio, cover letter and persistence.
The most important information you need to share with your experience are
- date & duration
- (country & city)
A short employment can also lead to questions of why during the interview. (Happened to me once.) Some companies will value you being loyal and work for longer others just want to see the years in the industry. A junior and senior status are often measured by the time you are working in your profession independently of your real skills and values. Again it is all about perception and not reality since you can not show others what is in your head you can only hint to it with every part of your application.
Experience should ALWAYS be stated before education. As long as you apply for a job it is your job experience that are relevant not your educational experiences. Someone who is hiring you want to know if you understand how it is to work under pressure, as a service and adapting to new challenges daily which is the reality of work.
Always show you newest work first and your oldest last. The simple reason is that your newest company, position or project are mostly higher valued and you want to "Wow!" the recruiter as much as possible on the first point. I mention this only because I saw it flipped occasionally.
After our work experience we add our education. Education has a different importance depending on the position and industry. A 3D artist learning everything on YouTube is mostly fine should he have a strong reel but applying as a software developer without university background can become tricky since it still reflects of having a base and background theory. Practice beats theory every time until the point of complexity is introduced. Of course this field is shifting and online courses start to replace the traditional universities. Having a degree in Animation Mentor means more for an Animator than any usual university degree. Nevertheless having a theoretical understanding of your craft will always beat raw practice and be seen as higher valued especially for promotions.
- date & duration
- country & city
- degree & grades
Some schools are more important than others while having a major with a good grade in your applied field shows intent. Also mentioning industry related projects and thesis can be a plus.
Now you have shown experience. But what do you really know? Stating to worked there, on this, in this position is powerful but still don't paint the whole picture. What is missing and especially important to "start working" is if you know what is needed at the job you are applying. Software knowledge is becoming an integral part of our work life. While ten years ago people were stating Microsoft Excel and Power Point this is given today. (After teaching people how to use Trello maybe not rightfully so.) 2019 searches for the high performing skills and specialized software packages like Maya and Houdini, it looks for the scripting and programming languages like C++ and Python and the understanding of current workflow models and everything else needed for your job.
- software: Maya, Houdini, Arnold
- scripting/programming languages: C++, Python, MEL
- workflows: waterfall model
Anything else is free for your own creativity. Adding hints to your ambition, social core or variate while still keeping the topic focused. A PR person with online publications or public speaking events or a graduated 3D artist winning The Rookies award ;) and being shown in at events are a catch.
Like with the experiences you cannot add what is not there but on the flip side you cannot win an award if you don't apply for some, publish something, work on a project or be recognized if you are not out there and show what you've got. Be creative and show background with
- Public Speaking
- Social Work
In our interview Amy (Head of Talent at Framestore) mentioned that hobbies shouldn't be understated since they 'give a sense of this person' and can lead to interesting questions during the interview. Of course only if there are interesting hobbies to ask about. Even though the CV is more of a cold sheet of facts hobbies can add personality to the mix but only if they reflect that.
In the "everyone does that" category I would put
The "more advanced category" is a taste of being more precise
- Punk Rock
- Portrait Photography
- Free Climbing
And the "what is this?" category is
- Percussion Jazz
- Surrealistic Microphotography
- Sword Art
Be creative and not too restrictive and boring on this. If you like to go to Anime Conventions - why not?! Maybe there is also a fan on the opposite side of the table. There is nothing more powerful in social relations and also in the hiring process than the feeling of coming from the same group. Use this chance to express yourself just not to a degree of being controversial.
Clear, structured and tailor made for the application is probably the best summary to avoid being over creative, just adding and being hyper protective of a specific life experience. You have to remember your CV shows someone an overview of your past experience and indicates that you possible can do the job you are applying for. There is maybe a hint of personality with publications, events and hobbies but that is mostly it. The creative and showoff part is for your portfolio and showreel while the personality and expressive part your cover letter.
Let me know your thoughts and feedback and check out the YouTube version of this article. Interested in personal coaching for your current or future applications? See here.
CV Template (.docx): Download the template form
Alexander Richter is a Technical Director for Animation and VFX and also a coach for scripting, leadership and professional growth.