Why Your CV Might NOT Get Read

Why Your CV Might NOT Get Read


They say it takes just 3 seconds to make a first impression.

That’s about the amount of time it takes for someone to make their mind up about YOU from your CV or application. A couple of sentences. You have just seconds of ‘reading time’ to make the right impression, just like meeting someone for the first time.

After speaking at the Student Radio Conference in Bradford I was sent a bunch of CVs and drafts of applications, and I’ve noticed something common to the way everyone writes about themselves.

Buzzwords. Linked in differing ways, sure. But buzzwords that anyone could use about themselves.


Now, I am not singling anyone out here. But if you recognise any of the following phrases then that’s probably a bad thing, because so do plenty of other readers!

– I’m ambitious and passionate – I’m an enthusiastic work harder – I have good communication skills – I am driven to succeed – I have a creative personality – I work well under pressure

I’ve read CVs and applications with these buzzwords strung together slightly differently so many times that no one really stands out any more. It feels like there’s these stock phrases that we’ve all latched onto as being the key things employers want to hear, and we’re just trying to string them together and cram them all in, like if we miss one out the reader might not think we’re ‘easy to work with’ because ooops we forgot to mention it!

Who wouldn’t say that about themselves?! This is all fluff to employers. They want to hear about the real you based on your experience.

If we met face to face for the first time, you’d be saying something about yourself with your handshake and a smile, and by saying “hello, my name’s Crazy Dave, I do X, Y & Z at ABCfm.” (Shout out to anyone reading actually called Crazy Dave from ABCfm). In the same way, your CV or application letter must say something about you personally.


Here’s a good principle: Some of the best biogs I’ve seen have been on people’s Twitter profiles! They’re to the point, personal and often raise a smile. So why not try keeping your biog to just 140 characters and see what you can say about you and what you do?! Two personal sentences are better than two paragraphs of generic waffle.

So have a look right now. What does your biog/ CV/ application say about YOU? What can you say about yourself that the last person hasn’t already said? I don’t doubt that you really are ‘creative’ and ‘passionate’, but how can you prove that? Give some evidence.


Use examples from your experience to back up what you’re saying about yourself. “I am driven towards improved performance”. Well give an example of when you’ve increased a statistic or coached a presenter. “I have a strong ability on air”. Great, but what kind of shows have you presented, and how long for?

Examples, examples, examples. I can’t stress that enough.

If you’re ever in a position to be filling out one of the BBC’s over-ambiguous application forms, it probably won’t get read past your first answer if you haven’t given a solid example from your experience. And it’s not worth turning up to an interview without an arsenal of examples to call upon in answer to a badly phrased question…


And by the way, I’m your Number 1 culprit. My first CV started with the words “I just love radio and want to be involved in making it.” Brilliant, well done Graham, why else would you be sending in your CV?!

So y’know what I did? I completely ditched the precious ‘About Me’ section of my CV. Now, I’m sure there’s plenty of reasons why it’s definitely a good idea to include this section, and please please do come back to me with your argument for them! But I decided to just let the experience on my CV speak for itself, making sure I highlighted key parts of the job and the achievements which demonstrated all that stuff about being ‘creative’ and ‘passionate about new technology’ and whatever else…

I did a bunch of research into making a strong media CV whilst I was a Uni. If you’d like to see it please feel free to get in touch, I’m on Twitter @grahamalbans and would love to carry on the conversation!

One Comment on "Why Your CV Might NOT Get Read"

  1. Sam says:

    Hi Graham! Great article – it got me thinking:

    I’ve been in and out of CV workshops and Careers meetings this week and the last trying to refine and fine-tune my CV to make the most of what I have. I can’t say that it was an enjoyable experience, which was frustrating as normally I’d revel in any opportunity of self-development. After reading this article it has become clear why: See, I was anxious throughout all of these ‘workshops’ that the edits I was being asked to make were entirely generic. These Careers services don’t sit you down and ask ‘So, who are you looking to send your CV to?’. Instead, we are almost forced to drop in these cliched buzzwords. I’m going to be honest – I felt regressive and dirty. What you come out with is a CV equal to everybody else’s. A standardised format full of tired expressions that may work fine for other industries but simply doesn’t apply in media.

    I don’t want to be ‘a creative, passionate candidate’ anymore. Dammit, surely I’ve already demonstrated that when I applied for a job in radio? What I need to do now is totally scrap the ‘personal profile’ I was almost convinced was necessary and, instead, really start to communicate my experiences. Thank God I had read article this now!

    It’s not always entirely our fault (cue violin). It’s a good thing we have the SRA and Radio Academy and people like you to battle the bland, reversing the, quite frankly, laziness of some Careers Services. It’s no surprise that students are so confused.