It is often stated that recruiters only spend around six seconds on average glancing at a CV prior to making a decision.
With hundreds, and at times thousands, of similar job candidates available for one particular post, recruiters do actually review large amounts of CVs. What that means is that they need to have a way to quickly yet effectively filter them.
Of course shortlisting or hiring decisions are not made in six seconds. The initial review revolves around finding individuals who are worthy of a more in-depth and serious consideration. This is the highest and first level of the overall filtering process.
You should be familiar already with the basics of CVs: keep it brief (usually less than two pages), use bullet points and sub-headings, and proofread it a number of times to eliminate any grammar or spelling errors.
What about your Curriculum Vitae content? If you only have a few seconds worth of someone’s attention, what type of information should you be making as accessible and clear as possible to ensure you receive further consideration?
The following are the top five things that your CV should clearly indicate.
1. Recent experience
What you are currently doing is the most important aspect of your CV. This is where you should seriously spend some time detailing your accomplishments, key skills and responsibilities.
This is usually the first place that recruiters look to see whether you are working in a relevant field or not, maybe ready for a new position (you might need to provide an additional explanation if you’ve only been at your new job for three months) and if you are working at a company that the recruiter is familiar with.
This final point is critical. Unless you work for well-known brand or FTSE100 company, then you should include a one-sentence summary of the company you work for and provide a link to their website.
That is especially useful in certain fast moving sectors like the London tech industry where great companies crop up so frequently that it isn’t always possible to stay current on all of them. Stating what your company does in your CV can help you avoid being passed over.
2. Signs of career progression
It isn’t necessary for you to detail your entire career history by going all the way back to secondary school. However, recruiters do like to see what your last three to four positions have been and see if you show any signs of progression in your career. Some individuals, despite receiving promotions, tend to lump all of the various roles together that they have had at a company into one item, which disguises what they have done to rise up the ranks.
Promotions (or a new position that is an upwards move at a new company) is a sign that an employer has been impressed by your work and had confidence in you.
Help out recruiters by making it evident in your job titles that you have progressed to a higher grade. Also include dates, or years at least, that you worked in your job positions.
3. A few numbers that explain your achievements
Recruiters want to gain an understanding of the quantity that your impact has made – how much value have you been able to provide and how large of an effect has your work had?
It can be very hard to decipher descriptions of your achievements that are vague (e.g. “I doubled the traffic to my company’s blog”). Doubled from what? 100,000 to 200,000 or 100 to 200 per month?
Including a few well-explained numbers along with your achievements is a strong indication that you will most likely impress at your job interview since you have given some careful thought to the impact that your work has had and how you can best express it. To make things even clearer, split out key responsibilities and major accomplishments from your last few roles.
4. Relevant keywords
Remember that recruiters don’t have a great deal of time for filtering candidates. One thing you can do to help them out is to place the right keywords into the right places. Don’t stuff your CV with little more than buzzwords. However, if you are applying for a specific job, then you should make sure to highlight all the common tasks you do, the tools you work with, and relevant skills that you have.
For instance, if you are a UI/UX designer, and you fail to mention you are very experienced working with programs like Invision and Adobe Creative Suite, undertake usability testing and are very adept at producing mock-ups and wireframes, then recruiters will have a tendency to move on. They don’t want to have to guess at the things you are able to do.
5. Provide links to good work that you have done
Obviously, this matters a lot more on some jobs (social media manager, UX/UI designer, web designer) than others. However, if your CV includes some bold claims about your communication abilities, writing skills or design skills, then point towards something that you have actually accomplished.
It doesn’t need to be anything complicated. If you have an online portfolio, then place a link directly in your summary. If content marketing is something you have been responsible for, then link to an infographic you have produced or an ebook that you have written.
If you happen to be a social media manager, provide us with a direct link to the LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter pages that you manage. If you don’t have things in digital format, you can create a portfolio out of screenshots and put it in PDF form. A CV that includes visual examples really helps to bring it to life.
So what should you not include in those first few seconds? Your education
Recruiters tend to be a lot more interested in what you have done and where you have worked, unless you happen to be a new graduate.
A degree is definitely important, and even better if it happens to be in a relevant subject area, however during this early stage it is rarely a dealer breaker.