Step 4 – Getting a Job when your Autistic: How to write a Good Curriculum Vitae CV/Resume

What is a CV

A CV is an abbreviation of Curriculum Vitae which means “course of life.”  Which basically means what you have achieved in your life up until this point.  In the US it’s called a resume.

A CV is a document used for applying for a job, where you write about your: qualifications, experience, skills, qualities, references and personal details.  Once it’s completed you send it to a potential employer.  They will quickly scan over it, to see if you’re suitable.  If you make the grade they’ll give you an interview.

Not all jobs require a CV.  Some companies prefer you to send an application form instead (written about here).

Tailored and Targeted CV

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only updating your CV once every few years.  Then sending the same CV for every job that you apply for.  If you’re applying for a specific advertised job, it’s much better to tailor your CV.  Ensuring it’s targeted for each job you apply for.  You can do this by:

  • Writing a unique personal statement. Showing how you’re the best person for that individual job you’re applying for.
  • Writing about your experience in a way that matches the type of person they request in their advertisement (or personal specification).
  • Ensuring, where possible, all other information relates to that particular job.

A tailored CV really stands out from the general ones.  Plus, an employer can quickly identify if you’re a good match for the job they have available.  Giving you a much higher chance of success.

Speculative CV

As well as sending out a targeted CV, for a specific advertised job, you can send a speculative CV.  This type of CV is sent out to lots of different companies, even when they’re not currently hiring.  In a hope they will consider you for a future job.

Instead of tailoring your CV for each company, you can send a more general CV.  If you’re going for different types of jobs, it’s worth having a different CV for each type.  Such as one CV for an admin type role and another for a sales job.  It’s always a good idea to send a cover letter with your speculative CV (advice for writing one is here).

Success Rate and Improving Your Chances of Success

You may send out a vast quantity of CVs, and not get a single reply.  This can be so upsetting and disheartening.  Especially if you’re autistic/Asperger’s as: you may not realise the reasons why, and you may take it personally.  I know it is easy for me to say; but don’t let this affect you.  Certainly don’t let it prevent you from continuing to try.  The more you try in life the higher your chance of success.  Keep believing in yourself and you will win, I am certain of it.

There have been a great number of studies that show the reply rate of CVs is very low.  Even when applying for specific advertised jobs.  For example, on the University of Kent (2018) website it shows that most graduates send out 70 CVs and only get 7 replies.  Out of those 7 replies, 3 or 4 of them are kind rejections.  It also shows that out of 25 applications you are likely to only get one that leads to an interview.

If you have sent out a large number of CVs, and have not had any interviews, never give in.  You can ask yourself what you can do to improve your chances.  Some things that you could change are below:

  • Tweaking or completely changing your CV or application form.
  • Get more experience:
    • Such as volunteering in your spare time (evenings or weekends)
    • Making a smaller job change, so that it lines up more with the job you want to do in the future.
    • Take on more responsibility in your current job, which will give you more skills for a future role.
    • If you are studying, get involved in extra-curricular activities (which I know is hard for someone with autism/Asperger’s, but it’s worth the discomfort sometimes).
    • Get a part time job alongside studying (or if your working part time, have two part time jobs).
  • Getting higher or more relevant qualifications.
  • Taking on an agency, temporary or lower paid job. For a short time, to build up more relevant experience.
  • Help from careers advisors.

Why Companies Don’t Reply to Every Applicant

When a company advertises for a job they could easily get 100 people applying for each position.  This means they will need to look at 100 CVs.

They quickly scan each CV for relevant information.  If they looked at each CV closely, a job that takes a couple of hours, could turn into a job that could take a day or two.  They put the good CVs in one pile (which might be 10 out of the 100) and then discard the rest.

They might be kind and reply to the 90 unsuccessful applicants.  But most of the time they don’t want to spend the time it takes to write the letters, put them in envelopes and the cost of posting them out.  So for the most part, if you are unsuccessful, you don’t hear from them again.

Good Tips to Follow

Although there are no particular formal rules to writing a CV, there’s lots of information about good practise.  Of course these are general rules, and there are occasionally exceptions.  These rules are below:

  • Fit the CV on a maximum of two pages.
  • Use a font that is large enough to read, but not too large that it takes up vital room. I find a font size of about 12 is just right.
  • Use headings for each block of information you’re writing about. Such as a heading for your qualifications.
  • Put qualifications and experience in the order of most recent first.
  • Only include the most relevant information, as you are limited on room. You can leave out:
    • Your photograph (unless they ask for it)
    • Primary/elementary school
    • Qualifications that you got bad grades in (unless these are the only ones you have)
    • Unless your hobbies relate to the job.
  • Tailor or target the CV for each job you’re applying for.
  • Use a good template, links are at the end.

Mistakes People Make on Their CVs

There are a large number of mistakes you can make when writing a CV.  Sometimes simple errors can be the difference from getting to the interview stage, to being unsuccessful.  Some of the most common mistakes are:

  • Making spelling and grammar errors.
  • Spelling a company name or address incorrectly.
  • The CV being too cluttered, by trying to fit too much on two pages.
  • Not being formal enough. Such as using slang or informal words.
  • Telling lies about qualifications or work history.
  • Hobbies that are not relevant to the job.
  • Unexplained gaps in your past. Such as missing out a year when you were not employed or in education.
    • Include this, but be creative when explaining what you did, without lying.
  • Including a non-professional email address like CrazyMinecraftMaster@gmail.com.
  • Not formatting your CV correctly. Such as leaving out headings and bullet points.  Or using different font sizes and types throughout the document.
  • Using bright colours, images and patterns such as borders.
  • Using cliché words like flexible, good time management skills and being a team player. It is much better to give personal examples instead. 
  • For example: instead of writing you’re a team player you can say “I recently worked with the marketing department to develop and launch our company’s new website.
  • You don’t need to use the title Curriculum Vitae as the employer will know what it is, from the format of the document. It is much better to use your name as the main title.

Should you Declare You Have High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s 

There is no clear right or wrong answer, as to whether you should declare if your autistic/Asperger’s on your CV.  I believe that a CV should only outline the positives that you can bring to the role.  You are selling yourself based on all of your best aspects.  There are many positives to being autistic/Asperger’s, but most people don’t know or understand this.  Most people will just see this as being a disability, with all of the negative characteristics.

There are a limited number of employers, that are very forward thinking and employ people with a wide range of disabilities.  They would probably give you a fair shot.  So long as you have the right qualifications and experience.  By telling them, they may even make the application process fairer, by changing the interview format for example.  In this case it might be worth mentioning.

In a previous blog post I wrote about the shocking statistics that show how such a few people with autism/Asperger’s secure a paid job (part time or full time).  I believe that a lot of this is down to prejudice and not understanding autism fully.  Therefore, if you’re not sure about the company (and their stance on employing people with autism/Asperger’s) it might be best to not mention it at this stage.  But it’s entirely your choice.

For me I’ve never had to mention it, as I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until my mid 30s.  I told my current employer, after being employed for a few years.

In the future I will seriously consider telling employers.  But I don’t think I’d put this information on a CV.  I would weigh up whether or not to add it to an application form, if there is a tick box.

CV Templates

It’s quite time consuming to start a CV from scratch.  So here are a couple of really good links that provide CV templates you can download for free and put in your own details.

https://www.monster.co.uk/career-advice/cv-writing-tips/cv-templates

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/cvs-and-cover-letters/example-cvs

Links

Monster (2018) https://www.monster.co.uk/career-advice/cv-writing-tips/cv-templates

University of Kent (2018) https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv.htm

Prospectus (2018) https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/cvs-and-cover-letters/example-cvs

One thought on “Step 4 – Getting a Job when your Autistic: How to write a Good Curriculum Vitae CV/Resume

  • Avatar
    April 24, 2019 at 8:08 pm
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    I’m curious if anyone on the spectrum has ever dealt with an employer that refuses to believe an employee is autistic and has come up with every other diagnosis under the sun; anxiety, bipolar, depression, improper dialogue, lack of social ques, temperament, refusing to accept common medical treatments as legitimate – and so on? Any advice, stories, and/or coping mechanisms would be appreciated.

    Reply

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