How to Kill Your CV: The Egyptian Guide

Originally published on LinkedIn.

The one common task since joining this industry has been scouting the right talent. Exactly like an agent, I am always looking for the next undiscovered star, in terms of journalism of course. This always comes at a price, scanning thousands (not exaggerating!) of resumes per year.

I am still learning to look past the many ways candidates undermine their chances on their resumes, but I thought of sharing a few common mistakes to avoid.

This may be viewed as a funny post, but it really isn’t. So here are some obvious no-nos.

1- The name you assign your personal email

Getting an application from an “El Shakhlou3” negates the statement “attention to detail,” which is mentioned as an asset in his resume (if you’re an Arabic speaker there’s a joke here that I shouldn’t point on this platform).

Another example would be receiving an application from “Love Beast”, no sweetheart! Hell No!

2- Your email address is part of the message

The email you choose to send your resume from is part of your resume as well. Sending your CV from your email “layaly_el_hob@xyz” will automatically set a pre-assumption despite your qualifications. And yes, love is the theme in so many emails, oh so many!

See the point isn’t what’s written on your resume, hiring managers want candidates who— despite their limited experience—automatically pay attention to the small details that form the whole image. That’s something we can only enhance but if it isn’t there from the beginning, it isn’t going to be.

Another faux pas is sending your CV from your current work email. What a hiring manager sees here is someone using his current company’s internet, time, and resources to find another job. Would you hire that person?

It’s simple, have a personal email that has your regular name.

3- Your pretty photo

So I recently received a very heavy email that has six headshots, five attached to the email and a sixth glamor photo inside her CV. She was applying for a newsroom translator.

While I may sound a bit mean, the point here is to point out obscenely obvious mistakes that, as normal humans, are automatically part of how we evaluate and, yes, judge a candidate.

It’s perfectly fine to attach a photo to your resume but make sure it isn’t working against you. Frowning, looking angry, wearing an obscene amount of make-up, or wearing a glittery veil in the photo you are choosing to send to the people who should see you as an added-value is very risky, to say the least.

4- The nonchalant applicant

For the past month our HR has been posting vacancy announcements everywhere for about 10 new positions in our team. Can you guess the percentage of applicants who cared enough to state which job they are applying for? Now can you guess how many were passed on to the right hiring manager? Or forwarded at all?

Nonetheless, I always check resumes that aren’t applying for a specific job just to give them the benefit of the doubt. Do you know the question 90 percent of those I called didn’t have a specific answer to? which position they were applying for.

I got several whatever is available in the editorial team. I also got “what company are you calling from again?”

Another hiring manager in our team went to the office last weekend to meet a candidate who he brought an external consultant to interview, and guess what, the candidate didn’t show up nor apologize. When he called, her exact answer was “yes, I know I didn’t come. Where’s your question?”

The business community is small, we keep changing jobs and receiving the same set of resumes. Chances are this will come-back and hunt this candidate.

Speaking of Egypt’s small business community…

5. Little black lies (pun intended)

This week alone, I received two different CVs with incorrect titles. The first was someone claiming to be the “managing editor” of a famous news agency in Egypt, funny thing the managing editor is actually a good friend of mine. Turns out the candidate was never promoted beyond a team leader.

The second example was an applicant who used to work with one of our editors, who also lied about being an editor and instead was a translator. Funny thing is, we were looking for a senior translator, his actual title matched more our needs.

A third, very eye-opening, example was a call I received from a foreign company I had interviewed for a few months back. The hiring manager noticed an overlap between when I lead a former publication and when a candidate they are planning to interview claims to have had the same title. Turned out that this candidate didn’t see the need to mention her progression from Managing Editor to Editor-in-Chief during her time at the company. They took the GM’s phone number to confirm my statement.

Given her current occupation, I am almost 100 percent sure she would have gotten the job if she didn’t stretch the facts a bit.

Did you ever expect a company calling people in other countries to double-check your resume? Now, can you imagine how easy it is to find out that you are lying inside your own country and industry?

6- The one-size-fits-all application

No matter how bad your resume is, if I notice that you customized your resume to fit the position or spent time writing an email specifically to us as a company, I will always call you to see if we can fit you in somehow.

The opposite goes for a generic resume that not only is it obvious you didn’t invest time in customizing it, but you have already applied to all our vacancies using the same version with the same mistake on the first page.

Shoutout to the imaginative gentleman who stated his objective as to “apply for this job.”

7- I can work under pressure

No, Dina, your former manager told me you often hide in the bathroom to cope with pressure (true story, name changed).

Point is, avoid all cliches such as “team player”or “can-do attitude” they don’t impact your value and may backfire if your manager-to-be wants to save money and decides to hire one employee for a two-person job.

8- Focus on accomplishments 

Most CVs neglect to mention what they added to the companies that invested in them. For example, if I am hiring editors almost all resumes I receive will include some or all of a standard set of duties. What will make you stand-out is the extra mile, learning videography to launch a series of engaging content, your articles have the highest engagement rate in publication, being part of a project launch, etc.

If you were to take one point from this post it should be that that the business community is tiny, even on a global scale. We all eventually bump into each other. Put in the effort, don’t lie, and trust that you are good enough to land the job of your dreams.