Book: Brilliant CV

Interview with Jim Bright - Author of the book 'Brilliant CV'

1. Your book is apparently a best seller. What quality do you think sets your book apart?

Firstly there are now THREE books. Brilliant CV (Pearson) in the UK, Amazing Resumes (JIST) in the USA, and Resumes that get short-listed (Allen and Unwin) in Australia. There is also a Vietnamese translation too!

All of these books differ from what is available elsewhere simply because they are based upon rigorous scientific research into what gets a resume/CV short-listed. Now when I say rigorous scientific research, I am talking about research that has been peer-reviewed by leading scientists working in the Selection field and that appears in international scholarly journals. I am also talking about Masters Psychology thesis research supervised personally by me and conducted by Postgraduate Masters students in conjunction with the recruitment industry, human resources professionals and others who make employment decisions. We have taken a lot time, trouble and money over the last 13 years doing proper research. Simply asking recruiters what they like to see on a resume is not generally very rigorous or accurate, because people say one thing and do another. We measured how they actually behaved as well as getting their opinions, and got independent judges to evaluate the correctness of our conclusions. I am unaware of any other CV book that can make this claim.

Our books are based on sound principles from psychology which are verifiable and have been rigorously evaluated ? the books advice is not just common sense dressed up as help, or the personal experience of one author. Having said all that, do not get the impression these books are abstract and academic, or written by people with no real-world experience. Both myself and co-author Jo Earl have about 40 years combined experience working in recruitment and organisational psychology with employers. Although I hold a position as Professor of Career Education and Development at a University, my major job is running my own Career Management Consultancy Bright and Associates - I put my livelihood where my mouth is so you can be sure that our advice is not only well-founded and rigorous, it is practical and effective too.

2. What is the most common mistake people make on a Cv?

There are many ? perhaps the single biggest sin is not to tailor each and every resume/CV intimately to every role applied for. This means addressing the selection criteria for the role and if the role doesn't have any, doing enough research to be able to generate your own selection criteria for the role and then addressing them? After that, the basics like pour spelling and bad formatting are key issues.

3. In your book, you help people improve an existing Cv. What is the first step?

There are three steps.

  • 1) know everything you can about the role you want to apply for;
  • 2) know everything you can about yourself, your knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes (KSAAs), as well as your weaknesses in these areas.
  • 3) tailor your KSAAs to the role when you write your resume

  • 4. Obviously, the 'list' of accomplishments isn't necessarily going to get an applicant in the door. How do you avoid that approach and polish the Cv?

    Follow the steps above. Different employers (and different roles) will demand different accomplishments, and accomplishments will vary in their impressiveness from one situation to another.

    5. What is a major put-off for a prospective employer on a Cv?

    Failing to address the employers needs. Writing about what the candidate wants to get, rather than what the candidate can offer the employer. Lack of attention to detail (see earlier about spelling, format and addressing selection criteria).

    6. Is the paper you print the Cv on important?

    Yes, but don't get to overexcited about it. 80 or 90 gsm (grams per square metre ? the weight of the paper) fine white is the best choice. Definitely not coloured or textured. We have the research to prove that is not a good idea (despite what some ill-informed commentators continue to say).

    7. What approach is the fastest way to get your Cv overlooked?

    Gimmicks, silly layout, jokes, coloured paper, failure to address selection criteria, failure to adopt an achievement emphasis, failure to present a compelling narrative, lack of attention to detail.

    8. What dates a Cv?

    My first answer is to challenge the premise of the question. A CV should always been written from fresh for each application. (sound a big deal? Well it is only your life and future that is hanging of it, so why bother. Duh!). So a CV shouldn't be allowed to age, however alas we all do age! Therefore work history that stretches back to the big bang and the start of the universe can date a person, which is why I recommend going back around 10 years, unless earlier experience dramatically increases the fit between you and the job.

    9. Can you offer one cutting edge idea for a Cv?

    Yes, see just released 3rd edition of Brilliant CV in UK (or wait till mid-year for Resumes that get short-listed) to learn how to present an impressive and memorable story on your CV.

    10. Is there anything else that you would like to offer readers of this website?

    There are no short-cuts or quick fixes with a resume/CV. If you can't be bothered putting the time, ask yourself what is this telling you about the role you are considering applying for, and reflect on whether you should be looking for something that you are truly passionate about. See my book 'Should I stay or should I go: how to make that crucial job move decision' (Pearson). Beware so-called experts, this field is full of well-meaning but sometimes ill-informed people who can give you some truly bad advice. Most of us trust our health to qualified medicos, why trust your career and future to unqualified personnel? Finally, nothing beats in-depth research into the company and role you want to apply to/for. If you can truly understand what the employer is looking for, it is a whole lot easier to highlight how you can provide what they want. For more information go to: