Writing your CV in colour … with pictures


For most people, writing a CV isn’t a lot of fun. It’s something we tend to put off, maybe because we don’t really like ‘pitching’ ourselves in the way it requires, or having to face where we are at career-wise and put that to paper. By the time we get through ‘education’ and ‘experience’ we feel it’s ‘job done’, and quickly tick off the hobbies and interest bit. After all, it’s not that important.

For most managers, reading a large pile of CVs isn’t a whole lot of fun either. They are mostly dull in format, prosaic in style and typically very similar. In a word, they are colourless … until you get to the hobbies and interests part. There you can get lucky – sometimes. There you can come across something that really tells you about the person behind the CV. It’s there the words can turn to pictures – someone captaining the Irish U-21 judo team, someone with a bit part in a well-known crime thriller.

So often when it comes to conferring with colleagues about the CVs, people will refer to ‘the judo guy’ or the ‘the actor”. Fact is, it is often hobbies and interests that set you apart from the crowd and deliver the ‘stand-out’ that all applicants crave – a good reason to spend as much time over this section as the ones above it.

It’s not the only reason. Ask yourself – does your education or career to date really tell us who you are? Probably not, but your interests and hobbies reveal a lot more. And with more and more employers looking beyond exam results and work experience to find the ‘real you’, this section certainly warrants being further up the CV. Hobbies and interests in the formative years give good insight into personality strengths and competencies.

Of course, not everyone can be a world-beating athlete or accomplished musician. However, you should avoid being too generic with your hobbies – terms like ‘travel’ ‘reading’ ‘music’ don’t exactly leap off the page and can sound like fillers. See how you can ‘paint pictures’ with your interests – give an unusual travel destination or exotic activity. Are you a member of a club as part of your hobby? If not, maybe join one.  Maybe you’ve played in an orchestra?

Try to make your interests appear as social as possible, and ask yourself:  how can I frame this interest to make it relevant to the role at hand? Sporting achievement says you are persistent and dedicated. Heading up a club or any organisation says you are trusted and willing to take on responsibility. Acting in a movie says you are confident, articulate and creative.

If there is a passion you are especially proud of, don’t leave it as the last line on your CV … mention it also in your cover letter, explaining how it demonstrates that you possess the qualities being sought for the role.

The ideal interview – for both candidate and employer – is one where you can truly be yourself. Investing the time to inject some colour in your CV will help, and likely make for a more engaging discussion.

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