Friday, 25 May 2001

Newsletter Issue 24, May 2001

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 24, May 2001
Hi guys,
Here we are, on the downhill side of the run-up to Queen's Birthday weekend...nearly at the end of May.  I can't believe it! Where has this year gone???
This time we are finishing off the destructions for putting together your own CV, some information on computer viruses and a tip on not having your images in Word "floating over text". Check out Marketing Yourself Part 2 and Virus Types below.
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Marketing Yourself Part 2

Well - we are halfway to getting our CV complete. Our next step is to check progress thus far.

Check Progress 

Have you… 

  • Shown pride in your achievements? 
  • Used words like succeeded, successfully, achieved, demonstrated, completed, built, grew? 
  • Demonstrated computer literacy? Software? Hardware? Have you thought about including that you can touch-type, or that you are accurate with data entry? Have you mentioned that you have been an expert user in a system test? Have you mentioned that you learn new programmes quickly? 
  • Related what you CAN do, not what you can't? Don't say the glass is half empty. It is half full. Not "I was unable to complete my degree before the end of the year" but "I am working towards completing my degree"
  • Summarised information that is not relevant? Jobs such as trimming fish when you want to get an Accounting position are not relevant. Summarise them if you are creating a Chronological CV. Include them in your Work History Summary if you are creating a functional one
  • Used wording from your third party information? If your reference states that you were a great team player, mention in your CV that you really enjoy working in teams conscientious and hardworking, mention in your job description that the role was often longer than 40 hours but you were conscientious about getting the job done. 

Size & Format

  • CVs are usually 4 pages - of text - tops. For an internal CV you could go to 5 pages at a push. This does not include the cover
  • If you have three pages of relevant information, that is fine. Don't pad things out unnecessarily
  • DO provide plenty of white space so that the reader's eyes get a rest 
  • If you have 2 pages, go back and find some relevant skills. Even school leavers can find more information than that, so I am sure that all of you do too. 


  • Contact details on top of the first page as a letterhead. No Date of Birth. No marital status
  • Get your name in front of the prospective employer as many times as you can. Use the name that you are commonly called by. You don't have to include your given name in your CV
  • List your main strengths first: get the prime reasons to interview you on the first page. The employer is going to read the first page. If there is nothing here to trap them, they won't read any further. There are another 100 applications sitting waiting 
  • Next best reason to give you an interview on page 2. They will be interested by now and should read this as well. However, if you are just "in the running" they may skim this. This page may contain Work History summary at the bottom
  • Everything else on the third page. This page may not even get read, but the employer will expect it to be there, containing Qualifications,  Referees and personal interests. They'll look for this to make their calls from to verify that you are a wonderful and talented person. 

The Look 

  • Higher up the employment hierarchy, the simpler the CV. Plain Plain Plain. But lots of hard facts and information about deadlines achieved, targets met, budget surpluses
  • Your name on EVERY page. Put your name on the bottom of each page as a footer with the page number. The more times you can get your name in front of someone, the more likely they are to remember who you are
  • Make it EASY to read 
  • Font size about 10. If it is too big, you are in danger of looking school-kiddy 
  • Use one or two fonts only. Don't try to get too fancy. Aim for consistency and legibility
  • Get someone else to read it. We sometimes word things in peculiar ways common to our environment. Get someone with a pair of fresh eyes to read your CV to eliminate your gaffes
  • Take your time!!!! Don't do it in a rush on Thursday night at midnight because you have to post it on your way to work tomorrow. You'll probably put the wrong phone number in! 

Common Mistakes 

  • Too long. It won't get read anyway, so you might as well keep it brief. Imagine a CV that repeats your job description word for word... and then the one before that and the one before that...
  • Undersold - important skills and achievements missed out. Do NOT assume that the employer will read between the lines and assume that you can also do "X" if you say you can do "Y"
  • Untidy
  • Illogical flow
  • Hard to read
  • Inconsistent format. Changing where the headings are, centering some parts, justifying others, changing fonts, colours, or sizes for no good reason, using too many bullet points, changing the alignment of the columns etc etc
  • Strengths buried. Don't hide your key strengths in the middle of a paragraph. Get it in at the start of the paragraph. Where it will be noticed. Make it EASY for the employer to pick you out of the bunch. Irrelevant information. Don't include that you were fourth in your regional swimming final at primary school, what primary school, intermediate or college you went to UNLESS it is relevant to you getting an interview. Perhaps if you went to the same school as they guy who is going the interview and you saved his life in that regional final, you may want to mention it; but otherwise, forget it. 

The Covering Letter 

  • Your contact details the same as your CV details setup. Include your telephone number, fax number and e:mail address if you want them to contact you these ways
  • Make your letter look like it belongs with your CV. Use the same fonts, layouts etc
  • Date of writing
  • Try to find the addressees name - Call the organisation and ask if it is not in the advertisement. It is much better to start a letter, "Dear Bert" than "Dear Sir / Madam". 
  • Get a job description wherever possible. Again, call the organisation and ask for one
  • Mention where/when/who/why you heard about the role. So "I would like to apply for the Receptionists' position advertised in the Nelson Mail on Tuesday April the 13th 2001". 
  • What you are currently doing (if relevant): "Currently I am working for Blahnicks in the Accounts Department. My main duties include..." and list those key tasks that are relevant for the job you are applying for. 
  • Use the words from their ad. If they say Debtors, change Accounts Receivable to Debtors in your letter
  • Demonstrate that you can meet all the advertiser's requirements. Underline the key skills in the ad. Tick each one off as you specifically answer it in your letter
  • Say why you want to work/study with them. This is a biggie that most people forget. They are so busy saying why they would be good for the job, that they forget to let their enthusiasm show. 
  • Put in a tiny bit about the company, if you know anything about them, saying why you would like to work for them.
  • Finish positively. "I will call you to check on progress" or "I can be contacted on the numbers above to arrange an interview. I look forward to hearing from you" sounds much better than "Can you please return my CV in the envelope provided" or "If you wish to contact me, I can be reached at..". 
  • Word Process the covering letter. Unless they specify HAND WRITTEN in the Ad, always word process it

The Finish 

  • If the ad doesn't say "No bound CVs", bind the CV. Don't use bindings that won't stay open on your prospective employer's desk (avoid irritation factor!)
  • If you are applying to a technology company, use an html CV that is emailed
  • Don't use plastic pockets. They look cheap
  • Try not to use patterned or marbled paper - it's 80s and a bit naff
  • Choose a suitable cover pitched at the role you are applying for. Usually the lower down the scale the role is, the more colour and graphics are used. Senior Management CVs are usually extremely plain
  • Include a paper copy CV stamped "file copy" for the employer to keep on file - and to photocopy if your application goes to an interview panel
  • Send in a Stamped Self-addressed envelope to return your bound CV to you. This demonstrates at a subliminal level that you will conserve the employers resources, that you are neat and you have planned for all eventualities 
  • Don't send your references or qualifications unless they are specifically asked for. You produce these at the interview (along with your old performance reviews etc to prove all the things that you have laid claim to in your CV)
  • Print the envelope label or write neatly. Use the same font that you used in your letter and CV. Think about your total presentation. This is part of a total image that should knit together seamlessly. You need to demonstrate balance, consistency, organisation, care, and neatness.

Call the organisation after a couple of days to check that they have received your application. Get your name in front of them again.
The test of success? You get an interview.

Professional Advice
If you consistently aren't getting interviews, consider getting some professional advice. I know for my own part, in putting together my CV I could very easily have been my own worst advocate. Even though we are a nation of DIY-ers, it is worth coughing up to get a professional job done.
Most organisations will provide you with an electronic copy of whatever is put together. Then you can modify and tailor your CV at home to fit a variety of applications.

Good luck!

Virus Types

There are a variety of computer viruses out there. To help demystify the jargon, here are some of the terms explained;

  • Visual Basic Virus: 80% of all computer viruses are VB-based. These are files ending in ".vba" or ".vbs". These viruses infect specific programmes like Word Processing applications and cause actions to be performed automatically when the application is started... like all those email VB viruses that send themselves to everyone in your Outlook address book. Some VB viruses can run without being opened if you use preview panes in your email programme (so take note and turn those off!). VB viruses are most commonly spread via email
  • File Infector Virus: These viruses come disguised as executable files (".exe" files). You have to click on these ones to run them, then they install themselves and run their payload on your system.
  • Boot Record Infector Virus: These viruses insert themselves into part of your PC's startup routine, making sure that it starts itself up first. These viruses usually make your computer unstable or prevent it working at all. Some VB and File Infector viruses have Boot Record properties.
  • Stealth Virus: These viruses hide themselves and the changes they make to your system so that nothing appears to be wrong. Stealth Viruses can be VBs, File Infectors or Boot Record Infector viruses.
  • Polymorphic Virus: These produce various copies of themselves so that your antivirus software doesn't pick up all versions. Polymorphic Viruses come in VB, File Infector or Boot Record Infector flavours too.

New Virus Features Likely Soon

The latest features likely to be arriving in computer viruses soon are a bit scary;

  • One of the main issues will be viruses which are self-updating: which check back with their creator and update their code to evade detection by your antivirus. This will also allow the creator to reprogramme your PC undetected, and to run their code to their own ends on your machine. They could then obtain your credit card or other account information, make toll calls or take on your computer or personal identity... (very scary. At least the virus security guys are working on these issues now)
  • Viruses that are harder to detect because they use AI to hide themselves. Antivirus software companies are currently looking at including AI capabilities in new antivirus versions

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;

  • AI, Artificial Intelligence. The ability of computers to replicate creative thought with the ability to learn from their mistakes
  • AIDS, A* Infected Disk Syndrome ("A*" is an Apple glob pattern but can be present in other Operating systems). This condition usually results after unsafe intercourse and results in your PC getting a virus!

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short+Hot Keys... and now tips

I think I get more questions about this one Word feature than any other. It's easy to stick a picture in a Word document (Insert | Picture and go from there), it can be a pain in the proverbial to get the picture to STAY where you want it to. 

It all boils down to something called "Float over text". You can tell if you an object has been inserted as "Float over text" because it will have white corner tabs if you click on the object. And it doesn't seem to want to go where you want it to.

Word 97 shipped with "Float over text" enabled by default: if you put a picture in a document in the first incarnation of Word 97, it floated, unless you did something to change the situation. This was a horrible design decision (later versions of Word 97 and 2000 had the default switched over so inserted pictures did not automatically "Float over text"). 

What happens with "Float over text" is that if you are creating a procedure and want to do screen dumps of the process and drop them into a Word document using Word 97, all your screen dumps will overlie each other in a stack. Like a stack of photographs, you will only be able to see the last image that you have pasted into the document. A bit useless really. To be able to see the images, you need to "embed"  them - to fix them into place in the document text.

So, if you want to insert a picture into Word 97 as an embedded object, here's the easiest method I have found:

  1. Click with your mouse where you want the image to be pasted
  2. Go to Edit, select Paste Special (or insert the Paste Special tool into your toolbar)
  3. Select the image type that you want to paste ("Picture" will keep the document smaller) AND ensure that the "Float over text" option is UNTICKED
  4. Click OK
  5. The object will be embedded (and will have black corner tabs)

You can drag the image to a new position by clicking on it. If you copy it, it will automatically embed from now on. Much easier to work with!

And if you want to embed a picture that is currently floating in Word 97:

  1. Click with your mouse on the image
  2. Right click to get the format menu up
  3. Select Format Object
  4. Go to the Position tab. UNTICK the "Float over text" option
  5. Click OK
  6. This object too will be embedded (and will have black corner tabs)
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