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30 Seconds to Make a First Impression

Date Posted: 14 June, 2015

While there is no standard layout for a CV, at first glance your CV should be clutter-free using the same structure/formatting throughout, you should choose your font carefully and conservatively – you want your message to be clear and easy to read.

The recruiter will quickly scan your CV in approx. 30 seconds – by the end of this first glance over your CV, they will have already formed an opinion of you (bear in mind this before they actually get to any of the content!!). In practical terms, you should make sure that your name is clearly at the top of the page and your contact details are easy to locate and stand out from the rest of the CV. You should consider using a Summary at the beginning of your CV, this is your opportunity to introduce yourself personally and tell the reader a bit about who you are before you list what you’ve done.

In terms of content, when you sit down to write your CV you should think of the intended reader and tailor your CV accordingly. Ideally if you have a Job Description/Person Specification for the job you’re applying for, you should use it… try to mirror the hirer’s requirements with your own achievements, experience, skills and personal attributes through your CV, where possible use the words and phrases they’ve used – when the recruiter is screening CVs this will make it easier for them to shortlist your CV. Remember quality over quantity, there is no right length when it comes to a CV, however I wouldn’t recommend trying to squeeze 15 years of experience onto one page; 2 – 3 pages is considered the norm. You should think about using bullet points versus lengthy paragraphs when you’re listing your achievements and experience – time is money, try to get your message across as concisely as possible. Don’t leave out major details, but leave room for a little intrigue… what will the recruiter ask you at interview if you’ve already told them EVERYTHING about every job you’ve ever had!

Lastly, having screened thousands of CVs myself I’d like to give you my own 5 top tips:

  • Always use spellcheck – nothing shows lack of attention to detail like poor spelling on a CV, in fact while you’re at it, get a friend to proof read it too, spell checks don’t catch grammatical mistakes!
  • Never lie – the truth will prevail, you don’t want to get caught in a lie at interview or even worse at the point where your new employer is reference checking your employment and educational details.
  • Use a professional email address – doesn’t add much to your professional image!
  • Use a professional photo – while it’s not necessary to add your photo to your CV, if you choose to, you should make sure it’s a true and professional representation.
  • Technical Jargon – although you may be applying for a technical role, bear in mind the recruiter (who is often in the HR department) may not be familiar with technical acronyms or jargon – try to use plain understandable language.

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