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How to impress your CV in 8.8 seconds

Category: Career Experts, careers, Employer, CV writing

How to impress your CV in 8.8 seconds

New research has shown that you have less than 9 seconds to grab the attention of a potential employer. On the UK's busiest day for career development, Louisa Symington-Mills, unpicks the best way to make yours stand out

If one of your goals for this year was to take charge of your career, then today is the day that you are going to do it.

That’s according to LinkedIn, anyway.

Research released this morning by the professional networking site, and based on the behaviour of its 17 million UK members, shows that today is the busiest day for New Year career development.

But before you dash off to update your profile (advice on how to do that here) it’s worth bearing in mind a new study that this week revealed prospective employers spend just 8.8 seconds ‘reading’ your CV before deciding whether to interview you.

Reassuring eh? All that time spent carefully preparing a hard-copy CV, or online version, only to be judged on what leaps off the page/screen in less time than it takes to walk to the water cooler.

It all boils down to one thing: whether you’re selling yourself on paper, or online – your CV needs to stand out.

Here’s how to keep recruiters interested and sell yourself in 9 (ideally slow motion) seconds…

The first second

Keep it concise. Nothing is more off-putting than reams of paper, an online page that seems to scroll down indefinitely, or endless prose without paragraph breaks.

No one’s asking for a Haiku, but you don’t want to irritate the reader before they’ve even begun. If you can keep your printed CV to a single page, so much the better.

The second second

Keep it traditional. The harder you try to stand out, the greater the risk it backfires.

You are unlikely to know the likes and dislikes of the person reading your professional back story, so maintaining a standard format and easy-to-read font (no calligraphy or coloured paper) is the best way to keep them focused.

One current CV ‘trend’ involves an infographic of your life so far, starting with a cartoon sperm. No.

The third second

Be relevant. Make sure your CV or profile makes it immediately clear why they need to carry on reading.

If you currently have a job that gives you the perfect experience for your dream role, then it needs to be instantly visible – right at the top.

If your current role isn’t an obvious stepping stone to the job you want - but you’re convinced you have the skills necessary to succeed - then make sure those skills are the first thing your prospective employer sees.

The fourth second

Don’t make them cringe. Avoid jargon. According to new LinkedIn research on the top buzzwords of 2014 – those that appeared most frequently in member profiles – ‘motivated’ was most frequently used (replacing 2013’s ‘responsible’ as the UK’s most worn-out career attribute).

It was closely followed by ‘creative’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘passionate’. Prove it, don’t say it.

The fifth second

Focus their eye. The chances are that whoever is reading about you is looking for certain phrases – soft skills, a particular job title or specific qualifications - that will indicate to them you need to be invited to interview.

Use emphasis strategically to make sure that these words jump out by using basic text effects, such as bold, sidebars and larger fonts, selectively.

And on LinkedIn, put keywords in your profile to make sure people who are searching for those terms come across your page.

The sixth second

Be connected. LinkedIn is all about networking, but you can translate this to paper too. Highlight your social media credentials where they relate to work and mention relevant networking events you’ve been to that will demonstrate your commitment and contacts to a potential employer.

The seventh second

Be interesting. If you’ve sold them on your professional worthiness in the first five seconds, don’t be cast into the ‘reject’ pile because you forgot to mention your life outside.

‘Only listing generic hobbies’ appears in the top 10 CV faux pas, according to the National Citizen Service.

So forget ‘culture’ or ‘socialising’. If you’ve run a marathon for charity, say it.

The eighth second

Forgetting to mention personal development is also a CV no-no, so think about key soft skills that a future employer would hope to see and that may set you apart from others.

Good examples are public speaking or presentation skills. Highlight situations where your focus on self-improvement has helped you.

The ninth second

Time up. Now you’ve won them over, be contactable. Make sure your contact details are clearly set out, up to date, professional (no dodgy personal email addresses) and that you respond promptly.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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