It is that time of the year where the first years start getting immersed into the B-School experience. After months of anticipation, it is time to live the dream for an entire new set of geniuses. The chosen few from the millions who get this opportunity. As the senior batch welcomes all of you to this new adventure of your life, you already have very little time to even breathe. I am sure most of you are already taking decisions between a morning shower v/s breakfast and between sleeping at 1:00 a.m. v/s heading to the night canteen in hope of some renewed vigour to study through the night. Amidst all of this, you are faced with the mother of all decisions; The 1-page CV! It seems quite intriguing as to how much time a person can spend behind preparing a 1-page document for Summer Placements. If you were asked this question before you came to your B-School, not more than 15-20 mins is what you would say. Worst case let us go with 2-3 hours. This sounds quite logical too. But if logic ruled the entire life, half of the courses at a B-School (especially those dealing with behaviour and psychology) would not exist!
This 1-page document which would not have taken you not more than an hour now seems like the most daunting task of your life. You can see yourself spend endless time on making your CV with very little progress. You may end up spending 5-10 hours behind just a couple of points if you actually calculate it! Sounds very ridiculous when I put it this way, but given that this 1-page will take up more than 100 hours (this is what many blogs and articles online by MBA students suggest is ideal for a killer resume), my previous statement is not quite an exaggeration. In fact, if anything, it is an understatement. You will end up spending at least half of your 1st term in preparing this 1-page. You may not realize it right now, but the biggest reason for this is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Since everyone is doing it, you definitely don’t want to be left out. After all, why would you risk you career? No matter how small or large the risk may seem, you will still end up following the herd in the hope that since everyone is doing it, it must be right! At this point of time, it is apt to remind you of the 2 large crises that the world faced in the last couple of decades. The dot.com bust and the financial crisis of 2008. Everything seemed enlightening when the herd was doing it. When it went bust, what once seemed the ideal thing to do started looking quite stupid. In a similar fashion, your 1-page is a game of psychology. We are all so enamoured by equality, that we would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom!
With all the hype and euphoria surrounding this 1-page, you will get all sorts of advice from your Placement committees as well as from as many seniors as you approach. These will range from the broad ones like how to structure your CV, which sections should come first, which are your strength areas etc. to very narrow ones like your CV should not have a full stop/comma/semi-colon in certain specific places etc. The former will hardly take 1/4th of your total 1-page time. The majority, and remind you this is 3/4th, will circle around the latter. You will go through all sorts of iterations of bold and italics. Whether you get an internship that your desire or not, one thing is for sure; your formatting skills would have scaled multiple levels!
Now the question that begs is, “how much does it really matter?” I have to break it to you, it doesn’t.
Yes you heard it right, it doesn’t matter!
Of course, the broad ones like not leaving white spaces and structuring your CV in a certain way matter in the sense that they make your CV standard. And the biggest irony is, you will be spending most of your time in trying to make your CV stand out, whereas what really matters is how standard it looks to the other 400 odd CVs!
This might seem very counter intuitive. But bear with me for now.
I am sure that all of you know the companies spend not more than 15-20 secs per CV. I am also sure that you know each type of company is looking for a specific thing in a CV. No matter how much you try to anticipate this, you have no control over it. You prospective employer will spot that one thing in your CV in a matter of 3-5 secs on an average. He knows exactly what he wants and he will look just for that. To help him do this, the best you can do is standardize your CV as much as possible so that it is easy for him to locate exactly what he wants. A very important concern to address here is the rat race for Consulting. With almost everybody wanting to land an MBB placement, people do all kinds of things to their CV to highlight their so called “Spikes”. Trust me, it doesn’t matter. If you have spike, they will see it. If you don’t, they won’t shortlist you. Nothing you can do to change this; no matter how much you try to dress your CV up. The faster you accept this fact, the easier your life will be. Be open to the plethora of jobs that are available and do not restrict your mind.
To summarize, I would advise that take care of the basic hygiene steps in making your CV according to the standards. But remember to stop at just that. At standard. You are going to stand out because of what you have achieved and you must believe that your dream company is capable and experienced enough to spot that one thing on your 1-page that they are looking for. Try to do too much and you are just wasting your time. It takes a lot of courage to stand out when your best friend is consulting 25+ seniors. It is even more difficult to filter out the noise of the crowd and hear your own voice when it comes to this 1-page. But you must think about the million other things that you can do with the time you just freed up by going for quality over quantity. If you are looking for some motivation to stand out against the herd mentality, I will leave you with the following quote –
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking!”
P.S. I have consciously referred to your CV as "1-page" because you must remember that that is what it is. Just 1 page! Also, I had tried to dress up my CV in all possible ways to get a consult shortlist but failed to get one. My so called CV which I had made in a way that "consultants want" got me all the Investment Banking shortlists because that is what my profile was suited for. I ended up interning at J.P. Morgan in the Investment Banking Division. I have written this article in a very blunt way because I want you to learn from the needless time I spent and saw others spending on preparing this "1-Page"!