To put or not to put – what to include in a CV?
The other day in class, I was discussing with my small group of Spanish business students about the type of things which they considered relevant information for a Curriculum Vitae. I gave them two typical British CVs to compare, one written by a male university graduate, the other by a female Marketing Assistant with 10 years work experience. The comments from my students and the justifications for their remarks gave an interesting insight into some of the cultural differences that exist between Britain and Spain in relation to the working environment.
For example, in both CVs the applicants had included information about their sporting interests and achievements. The graduate mentioned he had been captain of the university rugby team and the woman stated that she was a member of the County water polo team. Neither of these things was considered to be noteworthy material for a CV in the opinion of my students. They couldn’t see how it would be relevant to a prospective employer and even when I pointed out that to be captain of a team was perhaps indication of good leadership qualities and that to be a sportsman or woman at County level demonstrated a certain degree commitment and discipline they still didn’t think it was particularly useful. In fact, they thought it might be harmful to your application because outside sporting interests could be seen as a distraction to your work commitment.
Similarly they thought it unnecessary and superfluous for the woman to mention the fact that she had undertaken volunteer work in Africa for a charity organization. They could not see how this was relevant or of any interest to an employer. I suggested that perhaps it showed that the woman was dedicated and committed and more importantly was prepared to go out of her way to help others for no personal gain. Such a selfless and co-operative type of person would surely be an asset to any team or organization. It seemed that including information additional to your academic qualifications and vocational training, related to your personal interests, is not common practice in Spanish CV writing, whereas in Britain at least, it is considered a good way to give employers an insight into what type of person you are and how you stand out from the rest.
Another thing we discussed was the personal details that were necessary to include. In both CV’s the applicants had simply included their name, address and telephone number. There was no reference to marital status or age. This was viewed as a significant oversight by my students because they believed it was information that an employer would immediately want to know. I argued that stating your age and marital status, particularly if you were a married woman between 25-35 could leave you exposed to the biased employers who do not wish to hire women who are likely to be starting a family in the near future. Or if you admitted to being close to retirement age an employer might choose not to call you in for an interview even if you were easily qualified for the post. They argued back on behalf of the employer that it was for those very reasons that it was important to declare your age and marital status on your CV. If not, employers, especially small companies, could waste valuable time and money interviewing candidates that they would have no intention of employing.
On the question of whether or not it was advisable to attach a photo to your CV the class were divided. Interestingly, but not perhaps surprisingly, the female students didn’t think it was a good idea for the same reasons that I had argued against putting your age, and the male students believed it was another necessary tool for the employers in their selection process. The female students believed that a personal photo shouldn’t be a consideration in a job application and by adding it to your CV you could actually harm your chances of getting an interview if your face didn’t fit a certain profile. It was interesting that they held this view but didn’t seem to think the same prejudice might apply to men or women of a certain age.
So what should you include in your CV if you want to maximize your chances of being invited for an interview and getting that all-important first foot in the door. Are your hobbies and interests necessary to show potential employers that you are a well-rounded person with a life outside the workplace? Do you really want to share that passport photo with anyone else other than the anonymous customs official at the airport? Probably not.
My advice would be to include anything that shows you in a good light providing it is relevant to the job you are applying for. Include anything that gives you an edge over competing candidates, anything that says to an employer that this person is not only well qualified for the job but has something different to offer from the rest.