Does your CV pass the 6-second test?

career guides

City CV

Award winning CV experts, City CV share their top CV writing tips to help you secure your dream job 

You have probably heard that hiring managers and recruiters spend only a few seconds scanning your CV. The studies vary on the exact amount of time. Whether it is 30 seconds or six, the message is clear: you have only a very short window of opportunity for your CV to work its magic.

The most famous (and probably the most scientific) research on this was carried out by Ladders Inc, a leading US career site for $100k+ jobs. They used eye-tracking methods to assess the amount of time recruiters spend looking at job seekers’ CVs. Their findings concluded that, even when there is fierce competition for talent, recruiters still skim CVs and focus on certain key elements, such as job titles, keywords and how easy the CV is to read.

Many of our clients come to us because they find this lack of time and consideration from recruiters frustrating. That’s understandable. You’ve seen an ad for your dream job or maybe you’re looking to return to work after a career break, and you find that the recruiter has spent less time than it takes to read this paragraph looking at the CV you spent hours crafting.

Don’t despair. We’ve spent years researching what makes a top-performing CV and we have five success factors to share with you here:

You won’t make an impact with a boring CV

Of course, your CV needs to tick all the common sense boxes, such as a clean layout with clearly marked sections to draw the eye down the page, bold job titles and no spelling mistakes. Although you’d be amazed how many still don’t! But, in the modern jobs market, your CV must be much more than that.

Your CV is your sales pitch. And, probably the most important and potentially lucrative marketing document you are ever likely to create. When it’s written in a compelling and dynamic way, it can give you access to multiple opportunities and should deliver exactly what it is designed for – an open door to the interview room.

The opposite is also true. You’re unlikely to get an interview if you submit a poorly written, incomplete or dull CV. That’s going to cost you the opportunity to re-charge or step up your career.

Generic CVs simply don’t work

A good CV writer will never sell you a generic, one-size-fits-all CV. They’ll take the time to get to know you, your long-term career ambitions and short-term objectives. They’ll also dig deep into what makes you special; what are you unique talents, skills and value proposition?

Every City CV client has a 1.5 hour ‘career call’ with their CV writer. That’s before we even start writing. Your CV is about promoting you – we can’t write it based on job descriptions and exam grades.

A comprehensive skills audit is essential. We’ll help you evaluate all your achievements – professional and personal. What skills did you develop in every role you’ve had and what benefits did you bring to your employer? You’ve got to be specific; did you drive efficiency gains, build a winning sales team or deliver successful projects?

Your executive summary must be a compelling pitch

A recruiter or hiring manager wants to know who you are, whether or not you can do the job and what benefits you can bring to their company. All in the first few seconds of glancing at your CV. The executive summary at the top of your first page of your CV is not the place to be vague or long-winded.

It’s your sales pitch. It needs to be a short, concise profile that persuades them to read the rest of your CV. And with no tired clichés about being hard working or a having excellent communication skills.

Many of our clients feel slightly embarrassed at selling their achievements but there is no room for modesty on a CV. You need to sum up what you offer to an employer in a few key sentences and bullet points that you feel comfortable with.

Turn the responsibilities in your job description into benefits

When summing up your career history, it’s tempting just to list your responsibilities. But, it’s more compelling to state your key achievements and transferable skills using powerful words that will capture attention. And, then provide evidence to back up your claims.

For experienced career professionals the most difficult part of CV writing can be deciding what to leave out. It helps to be absolutely clear on the most relevant skills, experiences and benefits you bring so you only include examples that demonstrate you are a good match for the specific role. Could you sum up your USP in two or three powerful and concise sentences?

You’ll need to navigate the ATS

Almost all recruiters and large companies now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These algorithms scan for keywords in CVs and reject those that don’t meet their criteria. You can’t simply stuff your CV with keywords though; you need to use relevant keywords in a way that sounds natural and professional.

Your CV is your evidence of achievement and many employers will make the decision to interview or reject your application purely on the strength of your CV. Remember to keep it positive and back up your attributes with real examples. Make the most of the precious seconds they spend looking at your CV by ensuring they can find what they’re looking for quickly.