HERE’S the bad news. Recruiters and employers will only look at your CV for an average of seven seconds before deciding whether to discard it. This is according to a new book by recruitment expert James Reed. The good news is that the same book — The 7 Second CV: How To Land The Interview — provides a killer guide to perfecting your résumé so it won’t get overlooked.
Reed has crowdsourced the opinions of thousands of recruiters for the book, giving us a straight-talking inside scoop. His guide comes complete with CV templates, frank advice (fonts really do matter: Arial, Verdana, Calibri or Times New Roman are the best) and tips on how to digital-proof your CV in an era in which a quarter of hiring managers use applicant-tracking systems (software that sifts through the first round of CVs, often using keyword recognition) for automatic screening.
‘A job is a problem to be solved so when we send our CV we need to be presenting ourselves as the solution to a particular problem,’ Reed says. ‘And that does need some thought.’
He says there are no-nos that can get your CV rejected within moments. Obviously, make sure your spelling and grammar is on point because minor slip-ups lead to major disappointments.
‘I’ve seen “urn” rather than “earn”, and even “whorehouse” rather than “warehouse”,’ says Reed. ‘It’s really important to get a friend to check your CV. You sometimes just can’t see the mistakes yourself. I’ve spoken to many employers and many say that all CVs with mistakes go on the reject pile.’
Above all else, resist the urge to fib, even if it’s just fudging dates. ‘The worst thing you can do is lie,’ says Reed. ‘It wrecks your integrity. We have a screening team in our business looking at thousands of CVs for employers and we’ve found that 26 per cent contain falsehoods of some kind.’
Apart from making sure we tailor our basic CV to each specific role (boring but necessary), what should we concentrate on?
‘I look for indications of a person’s character and relevant work experience,’ says Reed. ‘Ninety-seven per cent of employers tell me mindset is their priority but a lot of people don’t give much attention to that — how they come over as a person.’
Your CV is a space in which to (politely) toot your own trumpet.
‘A lot of people undersell themselves,’ says Reed. ‘If you’re worried about your professional experience, think laterally — volunteering or sports coaching could demonstrate transferable skills and strength of character.’
While you may not be job-hunting now, creating a CV can be a valuable process of self-examination. And it pays to be prepared.
‘Even pretty large companies can be unpredictable these days,’ Reed says. ‘A friend asked me how I would characterise 2019 and I said I feel like I’m sailing round Cape Horn — you don’t know what to expect! So being prepared is no bad thing. How often do you write a life-changing document?’
JUST THE JOB: HOW TO PERFECT YOUR PITCH
■ Keep it concise and never go beyond a double-sided A4 page.
■ Be logical when it comes to listing your experience. If you’re a teenager looking for your first job, the skills you developed organising your school fête are relevant. If you’re in your forties, not so much.
■ Don’t leave unexplained gaps between jobs because many employers see these as massive red flags. If you’ve been raising kids, travelling, caring for a relative or anything else, a good employer will respect this — but just let them know.
■ Try to resist firing off the same CV to as many job adverts as possible. Each employer should feel that their job is the only one you’d really love to do.