After spending hours crafting the perfect CV, you'd hope that those receiving it would give it its fair share of attention.
But recent estimates have shown that, in the first instance, your CV will be looked at for around 7 seconds before some kind of judgement is made - be it good or bad.
Here at GradTouch we've also recently spoken to a handful of hiring managers and asked them: "how long do you actually spend on each CV?"
One respondent - who wishes to remain anonymous - said the answer is definitely less than a minute.
Another said they always "scan CVs, quite quickly" for vital information. They added, "I'm looking for specific elements" in the form of a list of essential criteria, and desirable criteria, "that's why it's really key to have a concise CV."
We also recently interviewed Ben Gateley, Co-Founder of a London start-up who said CVs aren't as important to him as an applicant's attitude. He said, to get this across in your CV, you need something that grabs his attention, like a witty opening paragraph or honest statement about your experience - even if you don't have any.
All this suggests that the traditional, long CV, at least for some employers, is falling out of favour.
With just seconds of a hiring manager’s attention – what can you do to make sure yours is best placed to grab their attention?
1. It's all in the formatting.
For the ultimate skim-read-able CV - don't centre any of your text. Put all the key headings and details to the left, with all the dates on the right - so it reads easily, like a timeline of your education and experiences preceding the application.
Remember, the recruiter has under one minute to look at each CV, so don't bombard them with wall-to-wall text and long paragraphs. Break each of your experiences up into succinct bullet-points, never paragraphs, and choose your words carefully. White space is your friend.
2. Hone your summary statement.
It's at the top of the page and is likely the first thing a prospective employer will read, so don't write something that'll immediately turn them off. You should, in 50-100 words, be able to communicate three things to the reader:
- Who you are professionally
- Where your strongest skills lie (that are most relevant to the job at hand)
- What you hope to achieve in your career (again, make this aligned to the job at hand)
If you read over your summary statement and it could be written by someone other than you, or it's one you could use to apply for a range of jobs across differing industries - scrap it and start again. Anything generic is automatically going to communicate you're not that bothered to the hiring manager.
3. Give them what they want.
Read the job description. Read it again. Does it ask for a specific degree subject or grade? Does it say they'd prefer to hear from someone who was involved in sport at uni? Are they looking for candidates with some experience in this field already?
Do you match the criteria? If the answer is yes, then make that information readily available for them, so it's easier to put a 'yes' next to your name.
State your degree grade (numerically), subject, university and dates of study clearly - towards the top of the page. That's a tick in a box next to one of the company's hiring criteria immediately. Don't expect the recruiter to sift through your CV trying to infer the details they need to progress your application.
4. Make careful use of key words and phrases.
We'd always advise against packing your CV with meaningless buzzwords and jargon, but you should still be mindful of what the hiring manager is looking to find in your CV. Study the job description and pick out the three key skills and strengths the role demands and make sure they come through in your language.
This can be done intelligently, though. There's not really much use creating a skills section and writing "Natural leader", "Team player" and "Organisational skills" in it. Instead, think carefully when writing the bullet-points under each of your previous positions in the Experience section (even if these positions were voluntary or relate to society involvement at uni - that's still great).
For example, if you ran a society for a few terms: talk about it. Don't just write "leadership skills", explain that you "lead a team of X students in order to achieve Y". This allows you to tick yet another box on the recruiter's list of desirable criteria and strengthens your application in their eyes.
5. Include numbers - using digits.
Everyone should be able to include some data on their CV. In the case of the above example: "lead a team of X students in order to achieve Y" - use numbers, not words. If it was a team of fifty students write "50", if that team raised seventy percent of the funds for a uni charity event, write "70%". Numbers are great because, when written numerically, they stand out on the page.
So, use them wisely alongside key phrases and examples. If you, primarily, want to show you have leadership and organisational skills - give examples of times you used them, with key words, and add in some numbers to substantiate your claims.
You can read more about using data to make your CV more convincing here.
6. De-clutter and proofread.
Generally, you should take out anything that cannot feasibly be relevant to the job you're applying for. Perhaps the most important part of the CV-writing process is learning how to edit it down, so that you can convey who you are and what you're capable of without writing endless paragraphs.
And, of course, check for spelling, grammar and readability meticulously. One error could mean it's a 'no' when you're up against a recruitment process in which decisions are made so swiftly.