Embellish Your Resume

Should You Embellish Your Resume?

You know, some articles we tend to beat around the bush, especially when we think that you need a little more explanation and introduction than we might normally give. However, when it comes to the subject of embellishing your resume, we feel the need to jump right into things.

First and foremost, you really want to make sure that you have the most honest and straightforward resume possible. You have to step back and really think about what a resume really represents. It’s the key to the interview, not the key to the job. Now, this might be the temptation that pushes you into adding those little details that you think will never be checked, but there are a few problems with this approach.

To start with, you have to realize that those little details are going to be checked eventually. Yes, you might land the interview and you might even be able to give a good enough performance to get the job that you’ve been wanting. However, is it really worth it when you know that there will come a day where you will be given a task that you should be able to handle…and you can’t handle it?

Now, the natural reaction here is to swear up and down that this day will never come. You’re right — it’s possible that the day will never come. However, these days as companies start asking more and more of current personnel instead of hiring new people faster, you will have to do things that may or may not be in your normal job description. If you put down that you’re proficient in something that the company desperately needs, you could find yourself having to take care of business — even to the point where you’re the lead person on a project!

When it’s discovered that you lied about something, even something that seems minor to you, you are essentially putting a sign on your body that says that you are someone that is not trustworthy. Every business regardless of industry needs trustworthy people.

Instead of going down this road and facing all of these potential consequences, it’s better to look at your resume strategically. Throw out the need for embellishing your resume by thinking about all of the things that you really are good at. If the list doesn’t seem as long to you as it should be, don’t stress about it. There will be a company that is going to pick you up for the skills that you really have, rather than the skills that you think you should have.

Every organization knows that there is a level of training that is to be expected. They aren’t expecting you to be perfect — just honest. If there’s a layer of honesty there, then there’s a perfect foundation for life — which is exactly what you should be aiming for in the first place!

salary history resume

Should you include your salary history on a resume

A prospective employer asking for salary history prior to an interview is about as welcome as someone on a first date asking you questions about your sexual history over a dinner. The difference between them is that you desperately want that second date – the interview. However, giving your salary history to a prospective employer opens the door to a world of assumptions over which you have no control.

Employers don’t want to waste time on an interview just to have their salary offer turned down, so they screen out resumes with high salary histories. On the other end of the scale, they might assume that a low salary history goes hand-in-hand with limited experience, so they screen those out as well—or worse, offer you a salary lower than they would offer someone with a high salary history. If asked for your salary history, acknowledge the question but tactfully avoid answering it. For example, if salary history is requested on a written application, simply write, ‘Will discuss at time of interview”.

But what do you say when asked over the phone or in person? A short, “I’m not comfortable discussing that,” will sound pretty dodgy, as if you have something to hide. Instead, try, “There’s so much more to job compensation than a dollar amount. I’d prefer that you get a full picture of what I can bring to the table as an employee before discussing salary. What I’ve received in the past doesn’t typically affect my negotiations with a new employer one way or another.” Put this in your own words so you sound natural saying it, and practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.

You can also write it in a cover letter if necessary. Never feel awkward about withholding salary history. Withholding will hurt your application far less than providing a misleading salary history out of context. If your resume and cover letter are appealing, withholding your salary history will rarely inhibit a prospective employer from offering you an interview. And once you’ve got a successful interview under your belt, salary negotiations are sure to go smoothly.

Personal Details CV

What Personal Details Should Be On Your CV?

This section is straightforward, but it’s important to start with some don’ts before we get on to the dos. Where people often get this section wrong is to put too much detail in.

Sadly, in the ageist society we live in it is not advisable to put in your date of birth if you are over 40. If you want to add any more details about yourself, why not add them to the additional information section. Using this section also allows you to get quickly to a real hook – either your education or your work experience.

There are a few options in this section. If you think it would help you get the job, you could also mention whether you have a clean driving license, for instance. Remember though, you don’t want to take up too much space with this section, and you want to make a crisp start with your CV and get onto the stuff that will get you that all-important interview.


The debate is where to put your education. Maybe the simplest answer is to decide how important the person reading the CV will think it is. If you have been Managing Director of a multi-national company, maybe your seven GCE ‘O’ level passes aren’t that crucial? Traditional CV advisers have always stressed that education should come up front in a CV. However, the more experienced you are the more likely you are to relegate your education to almost the last item on your CV. Of course, if you are just leaving school or college then your education is very important and it should be at the beginning of your CV. The judgement on this is really yours. The main problems people have with putting together their education sections are:

– how much detail to put in about the education
– how to set this section out.

The detail

In this section don’t be shy to put all your qualifications at school. You don’t need to give the grades for GCSEs if you went on to do ‘A’ levels. Don’t give details of exams you failed. The key here is to put down all the qualifications you have, because it’s likely to impress. You may then want to add a separate section where you list your training. All too often people tend to downgrade the value of training, but to many employers the training you have received is every bit or even more important than your formal education. After all, the employers who trained you thought it was important enough to spend money on, so why shouldn’t other employers?

So put down here every training course you have attended and any certificates you have. Today’s modern organization values training, so use this opportunity to tell them about what courses you have done. Do try to leave out irrelevant certificates and awards like the fact you earned a fire-lighting badge in the scouts or passed your cycling proficiency test.

The layout

This section often looks messy because people are left with a large block of text with both their place of education and their qualifications. A way of counteracting this is to break the section up into easily definable chunks. So, you might have a section headed Places of education, which lists the schools or colleges you went to, and where they are. Don’t mention your primary school here. You can then have a separate section headed Qualifications. Again, contrary to normal advice, we think a good idea is to start with the most recent qualifications you have. So if you have a degree, start with it and then work backwards.

How to Write a CV

How to Write a CV for Work Experience

This is vital and it is here that your CV will either succeed or fail. There are a number of key things to bear in mind when you write this section.

Keep it relevant

Write these down on a sheet of paper or highlight them in the specs. Then for each, write down your experience and skills to match. If you find you do not have a perfect match with your work experience you may be able to match using things you have done or learned outside work. Working through the specs in this way will help you put only the relevant details into your CV. Don’t put in things that seem interesting just for the sake of it.

Show what you have done… rather than simply tell. For instance rather than telling the reader:

I am computer literate, show that you are computer literate:

I am an advanced user of Lotus 123 and have designed integrated spreadsheets. I have a good knowledge of Word for Windows and a basic knowledge of the database programme Delta 5.

But always keep it concise and to the point and keep on matching your CV with the person and job spec. If a company goes to the trouble of putting together a person spec, then they will use it. So don’t ignore it.

Don’t be put off

Be realistic but don’t be too easily put off. If the specification asks for five years senior management experience for instance and you only have three, don’t be too put off. Often companies are prepared to bend the rules. However if it asks for five years experience and you only have five months worth, then it probably isn’t worth making the application. You will need the skills of a professional magician to conjure up this job and present a convincing CV.

What’s in a name?

It is important to think through what job titles you want to use on your CV. Very often, organizations give you job titles that in no way reflect what you actually do. The following list shows some of the job titles you might want to consider:

–    Accounts Manage
–    Customer Services Manager
–    Clerical Manager
–    Carpenter
–    Managing Editor
–    Development Officer
–    Executive
–    Press Officer
–    Operations Manager
–    Printer

and the list goes on.

If you have opted for a functional CV then you might also want to spend some time thinking about the functional headings you can use to group your ideas under. The following are just some possibilities:

– Advertising
– Banking
– Budgeting
– Communications
– Entertainment
– Managing
– Problem-solving
– Team building
– Supervising

and so on.

Smoothing over the years

All the research shows that very few people list all their experience down to the last month. Often they gloss over a gap or two or the odd dreadful and short experience by adding a couple of months to the previous job and bringing forward the start date for the next one. We’re not telling you to lie, obviously, just telling you what the research says. If you have had career gaps, career changes, or are returning to work you may choose the option of going for a functional CV to help smooth over the years. However, one other way of doing it is to list your jobs in terms of years not months. This will allow you to cover up any gaps you have. The other option here is to be up front and honest about any career breaks you have had. You may well do something like this:

Career break 1991 -1993.

I took a career break to look after my mother. During this time I used my time management skills, and further developed my negotiating skills with the local authority and medical agencies. Other tips for this section are not to put down why you left a job, and not to mention the salary you were receiving.

How to Start Your First CV

How to Start Your First CV

Of course, where you are starting from and what you are aiming for will have an impact on your CV. So you may be any one of the following – and more than one at different times:

– You may be a school leaver with the problem that you have very similar qualifications and education to other people. The challenge in this case is to look at ways of adding value and showing how you are different, and how your experiences inside and outside of school actually mark you apart from your peers. So in your CV you might stress the clubs you have been involved in, for instance.

– You may be moving on from one job to another job in the field. In this case your CV is an opportunity for you to show that you have the capacity to move up a gear from where you are. So your CV may well be slanted towards presenting your experience and showing why you are capable of making the leap to the next level.

– You may be out of a job, having been made redundant. In this case your CV is your opportunity to get started again. This means you will be looking to show the ways in which your work experience is still valid in the workplace today and looking at any other attributes you have built up in your life that will help you get back into the job market. Take heart, there are routes back!

– You may have taken early retirement or be an older person. In this case you will probably have a whole host of life skills that you can draw on and experience that you will be able to present in your CV. It may also be an opportunity for you to show that you’re still in touch with the job you are looking for, and to cash in on your most bankable asset – your experience.

– You may be a returner to the job market, having looked after or cared for relatives or brought up children. It’s often tempting to think you are at a great disadvantage against all those people with a clear progression to show. However, your CV is an opportunity to stress all the valuable life skills that being a carer gives you, like budgeting, time management and negotiation with benefit agencies and schools. You may also have been involved in voluntary work, helping on the PTA or working in one of the care charities, for example.

– You may decide you want to make a career change. In this case your CV is your opportunity to identify transferable skills that will allow you to move between one career and another.

So, it’s important to be aware of all these points before you start working on your CV. All too often people simply plunge in without any preparation or clear idea of the context a CV operates in. What you have done so far today will help you see how your CV is grounded within the general world of selection and recruitment.

Ask yourself:

– What do I want from a CV? Be clear about the specific results you want it to achieve.

Close up of Curriculum Vitae title page

How to Prepare and Write Your CV

Today you are going to get down to the nitty gritty of writing your CV. You might think it odd that you have waited so long before you actually start the writing process, but being prepared is important.

With the preparation you have done, the writing should come easy and you should be able to get it right first time. Of course you will want to come back and edit your CV, checking it for spelling, grammar and punctuation, but the point is that all the preparation should help you see clearly, and it is this that makes a good CV. It’s in the thinking and planning that a tip top CV is made.

So you have chosen your model, you’ve had a think about the style and some of the words you are going to use. You have also done a retrieval mapping exercise where you have dredged up the most important things in your life and career and then started to look for patterns. So now it’s time to get to it. You can’t put it off any longer.

Thinking through the sections

There are many different ways of doing this, but if s important to be clear about some of the sections which you might use in a CV. This means stopping and thinking before writing it down.

Put yourself in their place

The most powerful way of structuring the sections and the content of your CV is to pretend you are reading it for the first time. Put yourself in the position of the person you’re sending it to and make a short list of the most important factors you’d be looking for. If you can step into their shoes you will be able to really choose information that is relevant to them. You don’t want to bore them or turn them off.

It’s hard work

The manager of a large furniture department in a chain store says that she sometimes gets over 100 CVs for fairly junior management posts. The first thing she does is scan the CV and within four or five seconds makes a decision whether it goes on the ‘A’ pile (the desk) or the ‘B’ pile (the bin). It’s as tough as that and her advice is to make sure that what you write is going to seem immediately relevant to her. In other words, think it through and put yourself in their shoes – write what they want to read, not what you want to write. There are probably as many differing views on which sections and what information should come where, as there are managers reading the CV. We will look at these a little later. The important thing is to be aware of what the basic sections are likely to be in any CV. Then you can decide on the order and the emphasis to suit your situation.

Draw Up a CV

How to Draw Up a CV

The first step when drawing up your CV is to make sure you see both the wood and the trees, the detail and the big picture. This is probably the most difficult thing about putting a CV together. All of us have had experiences, all of us have lived lives. The hard part is to give an overall impression and at the same time to pick out the important bits that might get us that vital interview.

For many people the effort and discipline needed to pick out the key points makes them put their CV to the very bottom of their list of priorities. The best way to counter this is to have a more structured approach to take the pain out of it. The first step is to come up with the answers to some very simple questions. Try these for starters:

– What three things you have done are you most proud of?
– What three things are you good at?
– What three things are you not so good at?
– What are three personal and professional landmarks in your life?

When you have written the answers to these big questions, think about other things that are important to you, like:

– What kind of job do you really want?
– What kind of things wouldn’t you do (for instance, relocate)?
– What kind of work environment do you like best?
– Are you the kind of person who likes responsibility?
– Where and why were you most productive over the last five or ten years?
– If you are meeting a total stranger, how would you describe yourself to them?

You can go on and make other questions up. The aim of this is to start unblocking your thinking and start seeing yourself in a positive way. It should also help you to start sifting through what is important to you and some of your achievements. Unfortunately, a lot of people find answering some of these questions extremely hard.

Be realistic

If s a characteristic of many people that they hate boasting. They’re much happier telling other people what they are bad at than what they feel they are really good at.

Go away and boast

A consultant running a seminar on stress management told the twenty participants to go off in pairs and to tell each other what they did better than most (or all) other people. They had to honestly believe their claims and be able to demonstrate their validity through some sort of evidence.

After five minutes, six of the pairs came back. They said they simply couldn’t do it. It was embarrassing and wrong to say good things about themselves. However, as the consultant pointed out, if the individuals didn’t explain their strengths to other people, who else would? Who else knew more about them than they did themselves?

In other words, being honest about yourself is not the same as being boastful. If a succession of bosses and people reporting to you have told you you’re a brilliant communicator, why not share this with the world?.. Suitably phrased, of course.

The best CVs have only the most crucial and relevant details selected. By asking yourself some straightforward questions like these, and giving honest answers, you can:

– Start the process of sifting out what is likely to be important
– Clarify the kind of things you are likely to want on your CV
– Get down on paper some ideas about yourself.

In many ways this should have helped you break the ice and start the process of more structurally putting a CV together.


Getting your CV Right

Before you start putting detailed information together, if s worth looking at what makes a successful CV in most people’s eyes. Then you can put your details into a framework you know is a good one. There are a number of basic things to get right for your CV to pass the acid test. There’s no point in beating about the bush with these. They really are as simple as they seem. Anyone who has ever advertised a job will have come across CVs that include either all or some of the basic faults we talk about today. They crop up with depressing regularity – ask anyone who has read a lot of CVs.

Before we look at this guide if s important to remember that you are trying to make an impact with your CV. You are trying to show that you are worth interviewing. First impressions count, so you need to make your CV stand out, and not for the wrong reasons. If you don’t do the basics right then it is a case of Do Not Pass Go. Your CV will be filed in the bin. So what should you do?

Be yourself

One of the things people often do wrong with CVs is try to invent a persona for themselves that doesn’t really ring true. Obviously you want to stress the good things that you have done and stress your skills. But you want to ensure that you can talk about everything you write about. Don’t use long words or phrases that, when you are questioned, show you can’t really explain them. Try to use language you would normally use and feel comfortable with.

An example

A manager, talking about a CV he had received, said the person had written:

I enjoy working in a synergistic environment.

‘None of us knew what she was talking about and we suspected it was a case of using a word she felt would impress without understanding it herself. The phrase clashed with every other sentence in the CV and made me feel uncomfortable with the applicant. On almost that one sentence alone, I chose not to interview.’

Sometimes the CV agencies, who draw up a CV for individuals, write them in a language that doesn’t feel comfortable for the person concerned. This sticks out a mile, and if s well worth taking the time to write your own CV. It may not be as standard as the kind of thing an agency churns out, but because of that you have all the more chance of getting an interview. And anyway, if s unlikely that the company will actually believe you are a part-time brain surgeon or heavyweight boxing champion. And one final thing, try never to copy or adapt someone else’s CV, even one you see in a book on How to write a CV. Be yourself!