The CV is often the pet peeve of those applying for Admission into Grandes Ecoles. Delphine Minchella, a Lecturer-Researcher at EM Normandie, suggests many tips to turn this chore around into a true ally.
Drafting an attractive CV for the oral admission tests for Ecoles de commerce
Year by year, an increasing number of students try to gain admission to French Ecoles de Commerce via national admission test banks. The process is in two stages: first there are written tests, and if successful, there is an oral motivation interview based on a CV which the candidates submit to the panel of examiners. The latter document is thus of paramount importance in order to succeed. The question is however how to draft it when one has but very little—or even none whatsoever—professional experience? What other talents should be put forward to convince? How to turn them into strong points? [Emplacement de l'image : file:///C:\Users\amauviet\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\clip_image001.gif]
My experience in seven business schools, (whether recruiting after a 2-year preparation course or straight out of secondary education), where every year I was a panel member during motivation interviews, helps me gauge the size of the difficulties students face when they have to draft their CVs.
At such a young age, they do not possess of course a long enough professional career to meet the challenge of this exercise fully, and to fill out a whole page of information. This CV is nevertheless of paramount importance: examiners will use it as a background to their questions. The panel members face a challenge that is quite considerable, as they must, over a limited span of time, determine the candidate's personality traits, decide whether the school's philosophy will suit him/her (and vice versa), assess his/her openness to the world, his /her general culture, and check whether the teaching input is indeed relevant to his/her ambitions.
So let's try and give directions that will help a student draft a useful CV in this respect.
As in all CVs, you must mention your First and Last Names, address, e-mail, telephone number. As to whether there should be a photo or not, this is for you to decide; however, you should go professional if you do decide to put one – no poorly framed holiday photo, no photo of you as a 12 year old, or during one of your bad moods. On this photo, you should be smiling and look serious.
No job is insignificant
Students: do not underestimate any part of your experiences, even those that you may think are negligible yourself. Have you done some baby-sitting ? This is how you could put this forward in this case: ‘responsible for X many children of XX years old. Organising games, helping with homework, preparing and supervising meals'. From the examiners' point of view, such an experience means you are trustworthy and show responsibility. Likewise, if you have worked in a fast food restaurant, be it just for a summer, will show your resistance to stress and your ability to work hard, so that you must make sure you give details of the tasks you were to perform.
Sports? Arts? Association? Citizenship activities?
If you are engaged in an activity outside school, you should also valorise this. Whether in sports, arts or community work: what is your role? For how long? What have been the memorable moments as regards victories, rankings, exhibits, or results? Even in the case of one shot events, such as fundraising exercises or a charity activity organised by your secondary school, put this forward as a professional activity (give detail of the responsibilities/ competencies required).
For those who will read your CV, this will convey an impression of extended knowledge, engagement, but also of what you could contribute concretely to the school's life, where student society life, whether it be humanitarian, social, sports or artistic, is highly encouraged.
Foreign Language study stays? Foreign culture?
Do you possess a dual cultural background thanks to parents who are foreigners, or because you have lived elsewhere in the world (even just for stays)? This is a very positive element in a business school, and you should then list all the strong points that you acquired through this, especially as regards foreign languages. For us, this is the way to measure your openness to the world, and what is unique in you.
Putting forward your individual culture
There are no sub-cultures: if you are a fan of video games and have developed some mastery in this, you should point it out (‘ knowledge of the video game market/ mastery in games such as XX'): this is indeed a very buoyant sector, which generates astronomical revenues so it is not an industry business schools ignore.
On the other hand, beware of lies or exaggerations: panel members can very easily gauge your limitation through trick questions, so that you should not list literature as one of your centres of interest if you have not read more than 10 books in your whole life!
The social network generation
Are you running a YouTube chain? Do you have many followers on Twitter ? Do you run a blog ? Do you have your own website ? Do you edit regular pieces on specialised sites? Here again, even if the topics you address on these communication channels sound trivial to you, what really matters in the end, is to show your mastery of social networks, since the latter are the biggest suppliers of professional opportunities for our students.
Show your competencies through a perfect CV!
Approximation will not do when it comes to a student's CV. Ask for someone to proofread your copy, even if you are sure of yourself. Use a refined lay-out which will graphically reveal your capabilities as regards using office software.
Finally do keep in mind that a CV is not an autobiography, but a document that should be convincing, so make sure all the odds are in your favour!
The original version of this article appeared in The Conversation.