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Your CV - 10 seconds to make an impression

Jan 07
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How long does your CV have before it gets filed under ‘read later’ or deleted? Traditional recruitment wisdom was that an employer spends less than 30 seconds looking at a CV when recruiting. According to a survey published by The Ladders in 2012, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a CV.

That’s not even enough time for an elevator pitch, so you need to be smart to make an impression.

  • First of all, remember that your employer is unlikely to read the CV as carefully as you have written it, so think carefully about what is really necessary in this document.

  • Even if the potential employer has spent more than 30 seconds reading a CV, they are likely to have done so superficially in order to highlight the information most relevant to their needs.

  • However, you cannot know how closely your CV will be scrutinised, so you should write it as though every little bit will be picked apart.

  • The chances are you have spent more than six seconds getting to this bullet point – be aware of how much information can be taken in in a short time. Decide that you will only include information of the utmost relevance to the job you are applying for.

  • Irrelevant information will irritate the CV reader and a lack of important information is likely to get your CV rejected instantly. Read the job description or advert carefully so you can include the information the employer has asked for.

  • Layout and structure are vital. The CV needs to be easy to read, so use bullet points where possible, break up your text with clear paragraphs, avoid jargon and don’t stretch margins as far as they will go just so you can fit lots of words in.

  • Make the most important content obvious. The Ladders’ study tracked recruiters’ eye movements as they scanned thousands of CVs on screen and found that the things they spend 80% of their on a few details, while doing little more than scanning the rest of the copy for key words related to the vacancy. The main points of focus for recruiters were:

    1. name
    2. current title/company
    3. previous title/company
    4. previous position start and end dates
    5. current position start and end dates
    6. education
  • When you consider what readers spend most of their time on, it makes sense to include well-summarised details of your last two jobs, while keeping information on past jobs to a minimum. However, these past job listings should have the key words that employers will be looking for in successful applicant’s CV.


  • HR professionals receive a large volume of CVs after advertising a vacancy. In order to deal with this, they will have a checklist of things they are looking for in an applicant and will grade a CV on how well it conforms to this list. Dissect the original advert in detail in order to anticipate what’s on this checklist and then include information that makes your CV very relevant.
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