Idea in short

According to a famous study by The Ladders, the average HR professional takes only 6 seconds to determine whether to trash or keep your CV. Overall, this is a fascinating and commendable piece of research; it’s a great starting point towards a more scientific approach towards CV writing. But, do you think your CV would pass the 6-seconds test? You can try testing this yourself here. In short, recruiters could almost instantly judge a crappy CV. Likewise, a well-written, nicely formatted one can be deceivingly perfect!

As a result, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for the reader to skim and identify your most important qualifications. The top 3rd of your CV / Resume is valuable real-estate. In this section, include everything the reader needs to know.  Make sure to present your job goals, qualifications, and your contact details, if they’re interested in your candidacy. Below, I’ve listed a the key elements to consider when crafting your CV / Resume to convey a compelling narrative. These critical elements can help you pass the 6-second test.

Use a clean template

Hiring managers look at scores of CVs and Resumes. Their eyes get tired quickly, and having to look at elaborate applications doesn’t help. In fact, elaborate CV / Resume formats make the recruitment process even harder, since hiring managers get distracted by design elements in order to see the content. Many job seekers believe that an eye-catching CV / Resume will help them land a job. However, that’s not usually the case.

Hiring managers aren’t looking for originality or creativity in your CV / Resume. They just want to be able to find and consume relevant information as quickly as possible. A clean CV / Resume design can help you stand out from the pool of applicants by being easy to read and pleasant to look at. Professional CV / Resume formats will often use minimalist formatting to capture the attention of a hiring manager and showcase experience and skills within a few seconds.

Professional summary

Consider this section the elevator pitch of your CV / Resume. In a short paragraph of 3-5 lines, answer the following questions:

  • Why are you qualified for the job opening?
  • What experience, education, and skills make you the ideal candidate for this job?
  • How have you used these qualifications to provide value to your previous employers?

This paragraph is usually referred to as your professional or executive summary.

Core competencies

You’d assume that the person reviewing your job application must have a good understanding of your field and the position, right? Unfortunately, the first few reviews of your resume will most likely be conducted by the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

To help get past this software gatekeeper and pass the ATS, it’s important that your CV / Resume incorporates a number of key phrases and terms that summarise your expertise. That’s where the core competencies section comes into play. Just below your professional summary, include a few columns or rows of terms that give the reader a good sense of your areas of expertise. An easy way to uncover this information is by reviewing job descriptions that interest you and taking note of the terms that routinely pop up on these job listings.

Quantify your work experience

You can quantify your experience in a number of ways. The best way is to quantify i.e. numerically display your achievements. Make sure to include facts, such as achieving / exceeding sales targets, increasing customer retention, increasing efficiency, etc. These all prove that you’re a hard-working, goal-oriented person. Another way to quantify is to simply describe your duties (or establishment) numerically i.e. the size of your projects, the volume of budget you managed, the number of people you managed, the number of clients you worked with, etc. Such quantification is an immediate signal of your application’s quality.

Details & White spaces

Be specific about your job duties and provide the relevant details. Such details will help the hiring manager better understand the extent of your abilities. Make judicial use of the white space. If you stuff details into a CV / Resume at 0.4” margins and 9 point fonts with no spaces between sections and paragraphs, you will lose the recruiter within 3 seconds. Let white space serve as a brain pause for the reader. Allow them a moment to think about your fit in this role.


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