On average it is estimated that an employer only spends about 30 seconds glancing at a CV, which means that you have to grab their attention very quickly. Before you read a newspaper article, you always have a quick glance at the headline. If the headline is hard hitting and appealing, you will no doubt read the rest of the article. On the other hand, if the headline is dull and uninteresting, you probably just ignore it and move on to the next headline. The same principle can be applied to CV’s. Information on first page of your CV is crucial in determining whether the employer will decide to turn over and read more or put your CV in the bin. It’s as simple as that – if your front page does not scream at the reader “I’m suitable for the position” then the CV has failed to do its job.
What I’ve learnt from all my years of writing CV’s is that employers often select the candidate with the best CV rather than the candidate who is the best person for the job. Yes, it sounds harsh but that’s the ruthless nature of the selection process these days. Let me give you an example to clarify this point. Imagine the FA Cup Final (apologies to anyone who doesn’t follow football). The best team doesn’t necessarily go home victorious. More often than not, the team that has prepared well and gets their tactics right on the day usually ends up taking the trophy home. So, the person who has prepared the best CV tends to get the interview as opposed to the person who is best suited for the job.
A good CV is similar to a 30 second interview where you would be expected to demonstrate your key skills, achievements and the value that you would be to a potential employer. You would not spend 30 seconds stating your name, address, telephone number, height, weight and ethnicity; neither would you tell the employer your grades at school, your hobbies and future aspirations. Put it this way, if your interview was really 30 seconds long and you said all that, the chances of you getting that particular job is slim.
If your CV fails to sell your key skills, achievements, qualifications and experiences within the first 30 seconds then it’s unlikely that the employer will call you up for an interview. On the contrary, if you want the employer to think “wow, this person is ideal”, then you need to show the employer that you have the skills and experience that the employer is looking for. You need to show them that you understand the employer’s requirements and are a perfect fit for the role that you are applying for. I think an example would make this clear.
Put yourself in the shoes of an employer, sitting in a plush office on a sunny Friday afternoon. Your friend has just rung you and said that the barbeque is out and the coal is burning nicely. You have 200 CV’s on your desk and you have an hour to whittle them down to 10. 10 are the number of CV’s that you are fully prepared to read. I bet you’re thinking “wow, how on earth do I do that” That’s exactly the dilemma employer’s face on a routine basis but here’s what they do to whittle 200 CV’s down to a manageable 10.
First 10 seconds
(Employer takes a quick 10 second glance at each CV)
These go in the bin
- CV’s that are more than 2 pages long, have no profiles, career aim or objective or list irrelevant skills and achievements.
- CV’s that include height, weight or any other personal characteristics.
- CV’s that have been badly written or badly photocopied.
- CV’s with inconsistent fonts, font sizes, irrelevant sub headings or fancy borders.
- CV’s with long winded sentences rather than bullet points.
100 CV’s left
Next 10 seconds
(Employer does a very quick scan of each front page)
These go in the bin
- CV’s that have profiles which do not reflect the requirements of the job advert or do not match the employer’s expectations.
- CV’s where employment history and key skills do not match specific requirements of the job advert.
- CV’s that contain bad spelling, poor grammar or typing errors.
50 CV’s left
Final 10 seconds
(Employer creates a pile of candidates who will be called for an interview)
These go in the potential pile (remainder go in the bin)
- CV’s that contain profiles that show relevant skills, attributes, qualifications and experiences that easily match the employer’s requirements.
- CV’s that are well written and logically ordered with appropriate sub headings.
- CV’s that are free from spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
10 CV’s left
Once the employer has managed to whittle the final number down to 10 CV’s, they will look beyond the first page. If they are happy with content of the second page and it matches with their requirements and expectations then there is a good chance that they will be invited for an interview. Remember, if the synopsis of book you like, doesn’t stimulate your mind within the first 10-20 seconds of you picking it up then there’s a good chance you will not read that book. Your CV is similar to a story. If the first page of your CV isn’t smart, professional and business like, employers are not going to waste their time and effort looking beyond it.
As I’ve indicated previously, research suggests that the part of the CV that most employers tend to focus on is the upper middle of the first page. This is the part of the CV where you would usually find your profile (if you have one), key skills, achievements, and your work history. If you’re CV doesn’t have these details near the upper middle of the first page, what you waiting for? Get typing.