Last week I read an interesting article on Business Insider titled, “What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume”. This article has been circulating on the social media front for a little while so if you haven’t yet seen it, it’s probably because a) you don’t follow me on Twitter, or b) you haven’t joined my 7 Keys to a Winning CV Facebook page. But not to worry, you can catch up on the link at the end of the article.
Now about six months ago I wrote an article for Guardian Careers on how to grab an employer’s attention in 30 seconds. As short as it is, 30 seconds has long been the average accepted time it takes for an employer to scan your CV to make an instant decision on whether or not you’re a valid candidate for the role. According to this new Insider article however, 30 seconds is soooo…well, last year – SIX is the new thirty!
As Science would have it…
This revelation follows a rather scientific research whereby 30 recruiters were subjected to “eye-tracking” over a ten-week period which recorded and analysed where and how long they focused on CVs. The “where” is shown in this heat map below, and the “how long” worked out to an average of six seconds.
What this means for your CV (six key areas)
If you’re a jobseeker you would be forgiven for being a little alarmed right now, after all six seconds is barely long enough to decide which leftover to have for dinner let alone make a life-altering decision about someone’s career.
But don’t despair – while there is not much you can do about the length of time recorded, the study revealed six key areas the recruiters looked at during these few seconds, so if you focus on getting these right you may well be able to earn yourself a longer audience with your potential boss.
Area number 1: Your name
This is a seemingly obvious one to start with but yet many jobseekers neglect to give their names that all-important prime positioning at the top of the page, choosing instead to write the word “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae”. As I’ve talked about this previously in 5 sure signs you need a CV makeover, we can move swiftly on to the next point.
One thing to mention however, is to bear in mind that these days employers are quite likely to hop on to Google (or another search engine, of course) to check you out online, so make sure your LinkedIn, Facebook and the rest are professional and up to date.
Area number 2: Your current job
Your current job listing gives your potential employer an indication of your present status (i.e. whether you’re employed or unemployed, and if the former how much notice would be required before you can start, should you get the job), and also allows them to speculate on why you might be interested in the advertised role.
If your current or most recent job is along the lines of the one you’re applying for then you’re okay; if not, or if you’re a career changer, you may struggle to win the six second battle here and unfortunately there’s not much you can do about this, short of changing your job title (which is deception and could get you the sack later so don’t bother).
Area number 3: Company details
Who you’ve worked for in the past is just as important as what you’ve done in these precious six seconds. Employers generally scan for well-known companies to give them a frame of reference for the type of candidate you are and the quality, skills or organisational culture you are likely to bring into their own company.
“Name brands” can act as an A-star reference on your CV; this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be penalised for not having worked for household names in your industry (at least, not by the average straight-thinking employer), but if you do happen to have some name brands under your belt, don’t be shy about it – make sure the information is clearly displayed on your CV to pass that six seconds test (you can read more about this in 7 Keys to a Winning CV).
Area number 4: Previous job roles
Similar to your current job, employers like to see some kind of correlation between your work history and the job you’ve applied for, just to make sure you’re not wasting their time with an irrelevant CV. If you are a career changer, given more time, you can redress the six second balance in other sections of your CV by writing a strong introduction (i.e. Personal Profile/Statement), highlighting all the relevant transferable skills you have in your Key Skills section, and of course including any unpaid work experience you may have gained in your desired area.
Be sure to list your results and achievements from previous roles as opposed to mere ‘duties and responsibilities’. If you’ve achieved anything remarkable in any of your roles (such as exceeding a sales target), highlight this in a separate “Significant Achievements” section to boost your chance of making that all-important great first impression.
Area number 5: Start and end dates
Your job start and end dates reveal your length of experience in a particular field, but also – and perhaps more importantly – your level of commitment to work in general. Too many jobs in a short space of time generally sounds off warning bells of a potential job hopper and no reasonable employer wants to waste time recruiting and training someone who will only jump ship a few months down the line.
Of course these days it’s more common to change jobs perhaps once or twice every three years or so and employers are aware of this, however be sure to explain any prolonged job hopping derived from agency, contract or freelance work by simply stating the relevant term in brackets after you’ve listed the job title.
Area number 6: Education
Finally, the education scan is to see whether you have the right qualification for the role. Admittedly, this area doesn’t play as a big a part in non-specialist jobs as the other five areas so there’s not much to worry about here.
If you are going for a specialist role (such as in IT or teaching) where particular qualifications have been listed as essential or desirable on the selection criteria, make sure you highlight your relevant certificates in the Education section, but also mention it in your personal profile for that quick-hitting final impact.
So there you have it – six areas of your CV you can improve on straight away to give yourself a better chance of passing the first hurdle to the job you want. Does this help? Let me know in the comments box…
Oh, and here’s the link to the Business Insider article.
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