I was speaking with a hiring manager last week having sent them a number of CV’s. As we were running through feedback they mentioned something specific about the interests of one of the applicants. The applicant in question had mentioned “participating in white collar boxing” on his CV and this caused the hiring manager to enquire if this would affect his work and, more specifically, his appearance in the office and in front of clients. One of the benefits of working with a recruiter is that I can go back to you and allow you to explain the situation further to the hiring manager. However, if you apply directly to the company and they are questioning something on your CV they may simply just put you in the ‘maybe/no’ pile where you do not want to be.
It made me reflect on an issue relating to CV content and whether it’s worth limiting the risk of being overlooked by removing things which some people may view negatively. Whilst there is nothing wrong with participating in contact sports, certain sports are perceived as more violent, and as a result – there can be a risk to putting them on your CV. Where do we draw the line however and how far should an applicant go to avoid unreasonable prejudice based on content in their CV?
In my opinion, your CV should reflect your experience and personality so interests / achievements are fair content. In the current climate, where much of the country is struggling to get back into the active workforce, there is some merit in being politically sensitive where appropriate. So what topics should you avoid on your CV? I have decided to elaborate on three: Religion, Blood/Violent Sports and CV Formatting/Tables/ Photos.
This is always a difficult issue when it arises. Whilst over 80% of Ireland declared themselves as Catholic in census 2012 it is extremely rare to see any mention of religious persuasion on a CV. Internationally there is a more common trend towards highlighting religion which occasionally causes this topic to come up and although the Employment Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on religion, the reality can be different.
For the most part, it is not relevant to your job search and so most people do not mention it because of this. That said, many interests have no bearing on job suitability but people still elaborate with the notable exception of religion. Personally it would have no bearing on my decision to hire, but that feeling may not be mutual across the market and for this reason unfortunately it is worth considering whether it needs to be there.
On the flip side whilst many people declare themselves as part of a religion, the level of involvement can vary substantially and if something is on your CV – you are leaving yourself open to being asked about it. As I have witnessed in the past with CV interests, a hiring manager once asked someone what Movies they were interested in specifically, drawing a complete blank from the interviewee who had listed Cinema as an interest. If it is on your CV – make sure you can discuss it in some level of detail.
Blood / Violent Sports
Whilst many contact sports can be very aggressive and, at times, violent to watch, there is a strong distinction levelled against sports that are combat based. Regardless of your views on this, there is a risk, as indicated at the start of the blog, in associating yourself with certain activities and though you see no issue, a hiring manager or HR representative may conjure up unfair stereotypes.
Similarly with blood sports, there are a substantial number of people opposed to these activities and you can really run into trouble with applications if you openly advocate on either side of the debate, and detract from the otherwise relevant experience on your CV. This is true of any hot topics of debate.
CV Formatting / Tables / Photos
With all the functionality of modern word processing software, it is inevitable that people attempt to make their CV’s more striking or interesting for the reader. Some people opt to put a photo in and others carefully format the data into “tables” to separate the information.
Whilst formatting is a good thing, I would always advise to keep it simple and not to try anything new with your CV unless you are a designer and know what you’re doing. Any time I see graphics or tables on a CV I usually recommend that the author removes them. First and foremost, your application may look fine on your screen but if it is going into an internal database or is being viewed through older software you can find the appearance can change substantially.
I tend to advise the removal of photos from a CV – as they are either too informal or the photo quality is poor. A photo adds little if anything to your CV but a poorly imaged photo can simply look messy and draw the wrong impression from the hiring representative. Rule of thumb: unless you really know what you’re doing, keep it simple and straight forward and let your experience do the talking.
It is unfortunate that people still need to consciously avoid prejudice with CV content, but the reality is that you never know who the end viewer of your CV may be, and the type of person they are. Whilst not the ideal solution, it is always safest to minimise risk and focus your efforts on drafting a clean and comprehensive CV that raises a positive impression as opposed to questions and concerns.