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Thinking about Thinking

Thoughts on thinking about thinking from the Raising Thinkers Series


Filtering by Tag: Career Coaching

Your CV May Be Holding You Back - Here's How To Fix It

Tremaine du Preez

CV's Are On Their Way Out, Faster Than You Think

In February 2015, French cosmetics giant L’Oreal was faced with 33, 000 applications for the 70 places available in their Chinese graduate recruitment scheme. At the thought of combing through 33, 000 CV’s their recruiters decided that it was time do things differently. Don’t send us your CV, they announced, we won’t read it. Instead they directed candidates to 3 online questions to complete instead. Here’s one of those questions compliments of the BBC and L’Oreal: "If you had one month and a 25,000RMB budget ($4,000; £2,570) to tackle any project your little heart desired, what would you do?" 

There was no call for the name of the school applicants graduated from, their chemistry scores, language proficiency or greatest hopes and biggest failures. The answers to three of these questions in 75 words or more, where analysed by artificial intelligence and suitable candidates were ranked in terms of the qualities most desired by L’Oreal. Only 500 of the initial applicants were invited for Skype interviews thereafter. L’Oreal’s recruitment director confessed that CV’s don’t give insight into what they are really after in students – raw talent.

Your CV Is A Hard Place To Prove Soft Skills?

Raw talent is top of the hiring agenda for forward thinking employers the world over. I’m guessing you didn’t have Raw Talent classes along with Corporate Finance and Mergers and Acquisitions sessions back at your B-School? So what is raw talent? Is it really that important and how can you prove to the employer of your dreams that you have it?

The latest Bloomberg Recruiter Report helps us understand what raw talent is and gets specific on the skills recruiters want but find hardest to get from newly minted MBA’s. Strategic thinking, creative problem solving, communication and leadership skills are on the top of their hit list. Not only are thesethe hardest qualities to come by but also the hardest qualities to convey in a two-dimensional CV. These are all high-level thinking and behavioural skills that aren’t function specific at all - this is raw ability. 

A further flip around online job sites tells us exactly what high-level thinking and behavioural skills mean to some of the world’s most successful and best companies to work for. 

In 2014 Accounting firm Ernst and Young were looking to fill approximately 16500 positions. Apart from technical skills and fit with company ethos, what were they after? Their recruiters were honing in on individuals with a passion for problem solving and the ability to tackle complex issues and generate insights. A global mindset is also essential to work across borders in their connected organisation. 

Intel is looking for innovative talent. Recruits that can spark new thinking that will lead to new ideas. KPMG wants to see candidates that are able to use social media to their advantage. In Australia, National Managing Partner, Susan Ferrier confessed that soft skills were now valued more than technical ability. Soft skills are the new hard skills, she said. In a world where knowledge is constantly changing and ever easier to access technical skills are losing their value. She feels that the ability to collaborate, solve problems creatively and authentically lead people already matters more. This is particularly important ant if you don’t have years of experience.

How Multidimensional is Your CV?  

A traditional CV is a hard place to showcase soft skills. Submitting nothing but a standard document to a recruiter is also not going to help you stand out from the ever growing, globally mobile, well-educated crowd. Here are some tips that will help you create a multidimensional, cross platform CV.

Firstly, decide on the soft skills that you can legitimately lay claim too. If you have a hair-trigger temper or feel invisible in meetings then you can’t claim emotional intelligence or the ability to influence others - you’ll soon be found out by a web savvy, beady-eyed recruiter. The key here is to highlight skills that you can easily demonstrate.

Start with your online presence because this is where a recruiter will go first. Do you have an digital footprint that backs up your soft skills claims? 

KPMG recommends that you post comments on twitter to show your expertise, have appropriate recommendations on your LinkedIn profile and participate in chat forums of professional interest. Use these forums to showcase your ability to solve problems or influence others - be the voice of reason in a heated debate or bring new insights to old ideas. Then be sure to mention this participation on your CV. Why? Because a recruiter will go straight there. You are saving them time.

Secondly, when you ask for recommendations on LinkedIn be sure to outline what skills you’d like the recommender to mention. For example: “Eileen, it would be great if you could mention how I was able to keep a cool head under pressure and rally the individual strengths of our team members on our last project together.” 

I get dozens of requests for recommendations from students and clients but most of them are bland and generic. It is much easier for me if you tell me exactly what you’d like me to mention - better yet, write something up that I can copy and paste into your recommendation!

Lastly, remember that recruiters see hundreds, if not thousands, of CV’s. Always ask yourself: “How can I make mine stand out?” Do you have a good idea for a new product for the company looking to hire? Do you think you can improve on a service they are offering or raise revenue in a smart way? 

Can You Prove Yourself Even Before A Job Interview?

Your ideas may not be fantastic or even feasible but they don't have to be. The fact that you already have ideas and can communicate them effectively tells a recruiter a great deal about your ability to solve problems creatively and communicate solutions. A coaching client of mine had an interesting and novel product idea for a financial company. She was looking to change jobs but preferred not to work through recruiters. She researched which companies had a gap in their product line up that could benefit from her idea. She then sent hardcopy letters introducing herself and explaining why her idea would work for each of the companies she had identified. There were 7 in total – all addressed to the CEO and sent to the company address listed on their website. Within 3 months, 2 product development specialists had contacted her and one made her a fantastic offer that she simply couldn’t refuse. Yes, it was a lot of work, but she completely removed herself from the slush pile of faceless, generic CV’s that HR departments face everyday. She really stood out and it paid off.


Stand Out - Let Your CV Work For You

If soft skills are the new hard skills, think about how you can communicate your talents in this area. Create a new category on your CV right under ‘Tertiary Education’ or ‘Employment History.’ Show what soft skill programs you have attended or discuss what soft skills you ‘are known for’ and how you use these skills in your life. Why you feel they are important and how you intend to develop them further. 

If an employer calls for the ability to take risks, show them you can do this by making your CV different or creating an accompanying online video showcasing your greatest failures! If they call for the ability to influence others, use the language of influence blatantly in your wording.

The traditional CV is a relic of the pre-electronic age, it seems to be going the way of big hair and platform shoes as it retreats into the ever lengthening shadows of the digital world.

You can no longer afford to be a subject matter expert and nothing more. You are a business and your career is the product of how you position yourself across different platforms as well as the risks that you take. Your CV should reflect this in a way that is as unique as you are.

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Tremaine du Preez is a behavioural economist, Huffington Post Blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from Amazon. Her next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon. For more Thoughts On Thinking see her blog at where this post first appeared.