Writing, or updating, a CV is not most people’s favourite task. Indeed, for many, it’s right up there with a visit to the dentist. But it is a task that needs to be done regularly – and, I’m sorry to say, done by you personally.
The good, and bad, news is that your CV will not be read in its entirety – perhaps ever – except by you. Of course, it should be able to be read from top to bottom, and it should be carefully edited to make this task as easy and as engaging as possible. However, the reality is that most recruiters will scan your CV, digesting key elements and searching for specifics, typically all in under 30 seconds. Either your CV will tick the right boxes and progress to the next recruitment stage, or it won’t and it will end up in the bin.
The even more disheartening fact is that, if you’ve applied online, electronic spiders (scanning software) usually pre-filter the CVs that recruiters review. The spiders spend even less time than recruiters – just fractions of seconds in some cases – and your CV may be culled before it has even been seen by human eyes. Thankfully getting your CV basics right will help your chances of a successful review by both spiders and recruiters.
So how do you make the most of your 30 seconds of recruiter time? Here are our top tips:
1. Simple, Clear Layout
Don’t make it hard for a recruiter to find the information they need.
If your CV is poorly laid out, it is likely to be dismissed before it has even been read. Ditto poor spelling or grammar, very small font, no spacing between sections, inappropriate capitalisation, and unprofessional/unreadable font choices.
Keep it to two full pages in length at a maximum. If you have a partial last page, edit it ruthlessly down to the previous full page.
2. Current and Previous Role
Most recruiters start their review with your name, followed by the headline information (title, company, start and end dates) for your current role and then your previous role. Only if these seem appropriate will they dedicate more time to your CV. Make this information easy to find, in a consistent layout.
If you do not have a current position – you may have taken a career gap recently – you need to show this on your CV and explain it succinctly. A CV with a career gap or unexplained date mismatches will often be instantly dismissed by a risk-averse* recruiter when there are other, less risky, candidates available.
3. Detailed Current Role Information
The details of your current role are important and should include a brief outline of the goal of your role, who you interact with etc. Be sure to give examples of your achievements, backing them up with facts and figures wherever possible, to demonstrate how you achieved results. Try to include industry or role keywords.
Similar details should be included for prior roles but can be increasingly summarised the further back they are in your career history.
Your high school job is probably no longer relevant, and you may decide to group your first few roles together under one heading if they are not critical for explaining your current career position.
4. Career Journey
Looking over this CV at a high level, does it make sense? Is there a progression into increasingly senior roles, which might indicate that you have you performed well? Is the role that you have applied for consistent with your career path? If not, there may well be questions raised and – again – a risk-adverse recruiter doesn’t need to waste their time (or scant employer attention) on explaining CVs that don’t fit into a general mould.
5. Social Media
While not strictly a CV tip, our final point is to make sure that your social media and online footprint will make an overall positive impact on any recruiter. We know that 69% of employers have rejected candidates based on their social media.
So, once you have finished your CV, it is a good idea to compare it with your LinkedIn profile and resolve any differences. These should not be identical and each will have it’s own appropriate tone and style. However, job titles and start/ end dates of roles should be identical in both your CV and LinkedIn profile. Then look at your public Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media pages and ensure that they also reflect an overall positive story.
Finally, after you’ve updated your CV, ask a friend, colleague or family member to read it through for clarity, flow, spelling and grammar. They may notice something you’ve missed.
*I may be generalising slightly when I say that recruiters are risk-averse, but the recruiters and head hunters I have spoken with agree with this description. To understand their perspective, it’s useful to understand a few of their pressures. Most recruiters are in a competitive situation when it comes to submitting candidate CVs. For some recruiters this means that they may have an opportunity to submit only their top 1-5 CVs, and competitor recruiters may be invited to do the same. So, even if a poor CV can get through the recruiter, if your recruiter submits a CV with gaps or problems to the employer, they are effectively losing a chance (perhaps their only chance) to win the recruitment fee. For other recruiters, who may have an exclusive contract with an employer, failure to provide consistently great candidates can easily place that contract at risk.
Good luck! And be sure to check out our blog on Covering Letters – 5 Key Dos and Don’ts.