There are a great many things that can be achieved within 30 seconds. You could butter a slice of bread and eat it. You could read an email and reply. You could even run up and down one flight of stairs twice. However, most of the big decisions in life are usually thought through and take time. So it may seem discourteous to job seekers that the average time spent reading their carefully manicured CV is less than 30 seconds. Especially with the costs of recruitment being so high. Still, at least we know the size of our window of opportunity.
In fact, that window could be even smaller to squeeze through. According to research carried out by the The Ladders.com in 2012 the average time spent reading a CV is just 6.25 seconds. Think of those hours, days or even weeks spent honing and perfecting your CV. All for a quick scan and decision that could be a major turning point in your life (and the company’s for that matter). But whether it is 30 seconds or 6, the point is clear: you have a very short space of time for your CV to work its magic.
There is little point in deliberating why so little time is spent on reading CVs. It’s just something that job seekers just need to live and deal with. In a way, it plays to a marketers strengths. Marketing is all about finding a point of difference then engaging your audience quickly and eliciting a response. So writing a CV is all about using those basic marketing principles. The challenge then is to apply those principles in marketing yourself.
The first thing is to approach it from the point of view of the reader. If you are making a direct application then do some homework first. Check out the organisation website and see what they say about their people and values. What language do they use to describe working there? It’s worth weaving a few of their words into your CV to show empathy with their culture. In any case, you should definitely read the person specification closely and make sure you demonstrate meeting the criteria.
With only seconds to work with, there is simply no point in writing pages and pages of information. A 2 page CV gives you a concise framework to work with and focuses the mind to only include the most important information. Many people keep adding to a CV that was originally written years before. It’s much better to take a fresh approach each time you enter the job market so that you can focus on your most recent and relevant achievements.
Say something impactful right at the beginning. You’ve got to capture attention. So show relevance but above all be bold. This is why the professional profile is so important. It’s like the on/off switch. Say something different, relevant and interesting and chances are the reader will switch on. Say something generic, bland and safe and you’ll more likely turn them off. There tends to be a very limited vocabulary in recruitment. So dig out the thesaurus.
Make sure the headings stand out and that it’s easy to navigate your way around. Use bullet points to help statements stand out and never justify the copy. There’s nothing that puts off the time limited reader than being faced with a big block of text. Above all, give your CV the 30 second litmus test once finished. If you can read the professional profile, headings and key bits of information in under half a minute then you might just stand a chance of catching an employer’s eye.
Neville Rose is Director of CV Writers who offer a professional CV writing service.
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