Expert: Skip the excess words in your CV

Do you need to put your language or IT skills, stays abroad, and marital status in your CV? Or is it irrelevant information which only irritates the employer and assures your application a spot in the “No” pile?

Your CV should give your future employer a quick and precise overview of your competencies. But it is not uncommon for the applicant to get side-tracked adding too many things to the CV and delving into details which might not be relevant.

Bitten Eskesen is a consultant at Magistrenes A-kasse. She advices members on writing CVs and stresses that the applicant has only 10-40 seconds to catch the reader’s attention.

“Your CV needs to be on point and catch the reader’s eye at a glance. A lot of CVs get too full if you put in everything, and the most important thing is your competencies. Travels around the globe and those kinds of things must appear later on. It is not catchy right away, but it might add spice later if everything else is in place” she says.

Outgoing globetrotter with mediocre Norwegian language skills

A long list of language skills is a classic, but the fact that you speak and understand Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian as well as Spanish and German at beginner’s level is not necessarily worth the lines in your CV.

“Now and then I notice this kind of information, but language skills should only appear if they are relevant for the job or if you are strong in e.g. French or Spanish. If you took it in high school 6 years ago, it is probably not worth mentioning” explains Bitten Eskesen.

However, if you speak fluent Swahili, most likely you have been away from Denmark for a longer period of time, and stays abroad are often mentioned in CVs. There is a big difference, though, between attending Harvard for two years, and backpacking 6 months through India, but the consultant believes both can be justified.

“Deviating from the safe routes of the travel agency says something about your personality. Long journeys prove that you dare to challenge yourself, and therefore they should be included in the CV if they do not take up too many lines or are from a distant past” she says.

Chess playing kitesurfing enthusiast with 4 kids

Just like the experiences in India helped shape you as a human being, family is also an important part of you, and some applicants make an effort to talk about their partner and children.

“For some people, family life is important to mention, but we recommend you limit it rather than giving details about the kids’ names and which school they go to. It can be good to briefly mention your marital status and children to give the company an indication of who you are, but you need to weigh your need as the sender of the application against the need of the recipient” says Bitten.

Furthermore, she thinks the same goes for interests and hobbies. It is ok to mention a few if they say something about you as a person, but again you should consider whether your passion for chess is an absolute must in your application or whether it is e.g. enough to mention that you are a former Olympics silver medallist in the dinghy Finn class.

Skilled Word wiz with a 3 hour course in Project Management

As for real competencies, you can also add too much. For instance, there are applicants who make long lists of courses, IT skills, student jobs and honorary offices without it necessarily doing anything other than taking up space in your CV.

“As for IT, we are starting to take it for granted that you know how to use Word, Excel, and the Internet etc. But if you have knowledge of special systems or programming languages and it is relevant for the job, then list it – even if the list grows long” says Bitten Eskesen.

The same goes for courses. Some applicants have several pages of courses but forget to look at how relevant they are to the job at hand. Maybe you have taken several short courses so why not compile them into one point in your CV called “Misc. courses: Project Management, CMS, PowerPoint presentation etc.”

Former trolley boy with a membership to the cinema club

Regarding student jobs, Bitten Eskesen stresses that it is important to be critical and bury the past if it is too distant.

“Student jobs are of course super relevant if you just graduated – even if they are not relevant professionally. They show that you can cope with the labour market, are willing to take up a position, and have a good attitude” she says.

Bitten Eskesen has been on the labour market for 15 years now, and her student jobs are no longer on her CV, but she stresses that it is not a universal rule and that there might be a very relevant student job that you would like the company to see.

She also recommends that board representation and other honorary offices should be in the CV, but some are more important than others so try to sort out the least important ones if you have a lot.

“If one of the posts is as board member of the local archery club, there might be more important posts to list, and you should only put them in the CV if you are an active member and have a concrete function – not if you are simply paying a monthly fee” she concludes.

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