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Selling Yourself (Short)

When making a CV it is important to represent yourself in the most favourable light. You need to be everything a company is looking for, and more! So that CV better look impressive.

Luckily, you can have more than one version of your own CV. You can tailor your CV to the job you are applying for, by increasingly emphasizing your skills and experience they are specifically looking for, and mentioning, but not explicitly highlighting, your other experiences/skills etc. Why would you do it like this? Because with CVs, you are working with a space limit. No one wants to receive a 5-page CV.

But here stuff tends to get a bit more complicated. Tailoring does not mean just copying the entire job description into your CV. If it’s true, and you actually fit the profile, good for you! But don’t forget to actually add some of your personality. They are looking to hire a person after all. But what if you don’t fit the profile at all? If your CV is lacking, but you really want the job, what then? Well apparently, blatant lying is the answer.

You might be thinking, why is she writing an article on lying on your CV? Well, that’s because of an article by the Limburger (Dutch newspaper). That article described a research that found that 75% of the 10.000 CVs reviewed contained things that were most definitely untrue.

Of those “untruths,” another 25% were blatant lies. I’m talking blatant as in, claiming you have an MBA education from Harvard Business School, when you’ve never studied for an MBA, nor have been to Harvard. Yes, that blatant.

Given that so many people lie on their CV, are you selling yourself short if you don’t? If you are competing against people who “have done it all,” you might come across as average at best. Looking average is not going to get you the job you want. Should you exaggerate everything you have done? Is there an argument to be made for blatantly lying?

Knowing how to Sell Yourself When setting up your CV, make sure you put in the relevant things. Your education needs to be in there for sure. So does your work experience. But what do those things actually mean?

A lot of jobs (ok fine the ones I’ve looked at), ask for some type of leadership and management experience. This is obviously something every graduate has. NOT. Where would you be able to even get this as a 20-year old?! Well, a variety of places.

Leadership experience is a super vague term to start with. As soon as your head of a group, any group, you are its leader, right? So, if you worked in a supermarket and had to lead a bunch of people, you have leadership experience. If you were the head of your study group, student association, hobby club, travel committee, sports committee etc. You have experience. Put that on the CV and make it sound nice. Give a quick description of how much responsibility you had for the “survival” of your group, et voila!

You know what else companies are always looking for? Team-players. Where does the word team come from? Sports. So, do not be afraid to put in sport achievements, or a quick heading about hobbies, if that applies to you. If you were the head/captain of the team, even better, you are a team-player and a leader. Look at you go!

Another one I really enjoy for starter jobs: work experience. What work experience will someone straight out of university have if they didn’t take a gap year to work? Practically none that is directly applicable to the job at hand. If this job application is open to graduates (or literally anyone), companies and their recruiters will expect this. If you have ever worked, in any capacity, make sure it counts. Helping out others with studying can be turned into tutoring, if you did it often and regularly enough. Again, this is not a lie. You did actually tutor; you did actually help. This did happen.

Now to be fair, it does help if you have more than “just” study. Every extracurricular ticks a box. I’m afraid that this is all it does though. It shows that you have done more than study, that you can handle high and diverse workloads. Tick. It is literally about how you sell what you have done, who you are and what you stand for. So you should really figure out how to do that. Ask yourself (or friends and family): would I hire myself? And if not, what can I change to make you hire me? And always have someone proof-read your CV!

Lying on your CV: Confidence does not signal Capacity So it is important to know how to frame what you have done. Although I am happy to brag about all the management experience, I gained from presiding a student association, there are limits to what I will put on a CV. Let’s go back to the original article that sparked the inspiration for this one: blatant lying.

The main question is: why would someone lie on their CV? Well, the answer is dirt easy: to have a higher chance of getting the job. The fear of not being good enough compared to others is eating us alive, and it shows.

When I go on my LinkedIn a lot of people my age (and sometimes younger) are founders, CEOs, managers (etc…) of some company. This might look impressive, but founding your own company isn’t hard. I could incorporate Money on the Mind if I wanted to and BOOM, I am a founder and CEO. And that my dear readers, is how a lot of CVs and careers are "edited.” It’s like a cloud: lots of fluff, no actual substance.

I remember talking to a friend of mine, who happens to be a PhD student. She was impressed by, but also made to feel bad, about how people who were in their under- and postgrad studies had already managed to accumulate years of work experience and high status in companies (she also went on LinkedIn and went to some career-fair-presentations). I remember vividly having to talk her up from that low mood. And it pisses me off.

Someone real is afraid of the cloud. We need to be able to become more critical of what others are putting out there. We know our own struggle and experience. We only know about others what they put out. Of course, it’s not a fair comparison. But if you’re up against each other, an employer won’t know either of you. Luckily, these people tend to be trained to see through the smokescreen. And honestly, if an employer can’t figure out what’s real and what’s fluff, do you really need to work for that type of company?

So, what is the actual take away message here? Know what companies are looking for. Know how to incorporate that into your CV, not neglecting your own personal flavor. But most of all: don’t lie, especially not because you’re afraid you won’t match up to others. If you’re made out of real stuff, there’s no reason to fear the clouds. That will prove itself in the long run.


Behavioural Science

Personal Finance



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