Applications / Coronavirus

How to create a CV that impresses, in 7.4 seconds!

It’s fair to say that the job market will be more challenging than most this year. In this period of uncertainty, the economic impact of the coronavirus means that the number of opportunities available this year is likely to be lower than in previous years. Applications will be even more competitive, so how can you make yours standout?

Andrew Fennell, the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany. Here, he offers seven tips to make an impression in 7.4 seconds!

If this was a CV, and you were a recruiting manager, you’d be deciding, right about now, whether this CV goes to the bin or continues to be read. That doesn’t give you long to make an impactful impression. You’ve got less than 10 seconds!

Iris recognition systemA fascinating  eye tracking study by Ladders, revealed that recruiters spend just 7.4 seconds looking at an application. This in itself is incredibly valuable information but the study actually revealed more. Those 7.4 seconds aren’t spent reading from the top of the CV. Actually those 7.4 seconds are spent scanning, pulling out key points. For graduates, who are new to CV writing, this in invaluable information. Armed with this knowledge, you can follow this advice to make the most of those 7.4 seconds.

How can you make your CV impress quickly? There are a number of different strategies you need to apply when writing a CV to impress in a snapshot.

1. ‘Top-loading’

Recent graduates often make the mistake of getting the order of their CV wrong. They focus on their education, and move chronologically from oldest to newest. While the eye-tracking study shows that the recruiters scan, rather than read, they do still spend the majority of their time at the top of the first page. So you need to make sure the top of your CV packs the most powerful punch. It needs to be captivating, showcase the highlights and make the recruiter keen to find out more.

2. Make it scanning-friendly

You’ll know from attempting to digest tonnes of course notes, some writing is easier to scan than others. Make your CV really easy to scan by having plenty of white space, use clear simple fonts, and use bold to pull out key points and titles.

3. Head left

Left turnThe study revealed that recruiters concentrate most of their attention on the left hand side of a CV when scanning. Make sure that you play to this with clear short titles on the left.

4. Stay snappy

As a recent graduate, you may be concerned that you don’t actually have enough information to populate your CV. But you’re actually at an advantage here. Experienced professionals often fall foul of trying to cram too much into their CV. You can still list most of your relevant experience and skills without taking up copious amounts of space. But keep things on point.

5. Avoid chunks of text

less is more text on paper. Word less is more on torn paper. Concept ImageIf you include a bio, it is important how you do it. It’s not an essay! Instead, jot down what you really want to include. Now ditch any clichés and focus on what is unique to you, and relevant to the roles you are applying for. Make the bio short, using bold to make declarative statements or words stand out. Bullet points can work brilliantly. Take the same approach to anywhere else where there is a temptation to write in paragraph format. Overall, don’t exceed two pages of A4.

6. Focus on achievements

When you put down your work history, you may be tempted to write about the duties of the role. This is a pitfall. You do better to write about what you excelled at within that role. This can apply to any work experience, no matter how mundane. For example, let’s say you are listing bar work whilst applying for an office role. Instead of listing your responsibilities, you can perhaps state that you implemented a new system making busy times more efficient; were always relied on to do a specific task; or maybe that you demonstrated excellent people skills showcased by loyal customers asking for you.

7. Keep it relevant

As well as thinking about what you have to offer, think about the role that you’re after. Your CV needs to be relevant. Point 6 above will help you showcase your experience in the most relevant way. You can also go through the job description to reveal what the employer is looking for. Go through your CV and make sure that those points stand out. You may find that this means you need to tailor your CV to specific positions.

7.4 seconds? It is possible…

With some time and care it is possible to create a CV that wins the attention of the recruiting manager within 7.4 seconds. If you succeed, they’ll then take their time looking at the CV in more detail.


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