Hiring Managers spend only 6 Seconds on your CV - so make it count

Posted 10/12/2016 by George Jamison

Creating a Great CV

a CV should always be treated as a working document that can continuously be improved as you go through working life, furthermore it should be tailored /tweaked  depending on the role you are applying for. You may not have the perfect CV but will have a great CV which will increase your chances of an interview. The main thing to remember when writing this very important document is to have a clear and concise format.

A study by TheLadders used a scientific technique called 'eye tracking' on 30 recruiters over a 10 week period, examining the recruiters eye movements to 'record and analyze where and how long someone focuses when digesting a pieces of information or completing a task'. It found that on average a recruiter when reviewing a CV spends all of "six seconds before they make the initial 'fit or no fit' decision" on candidates.

We work in an environment where we are reviewing a large number of capable people's CV's (double figures on most days), and we are not always just looking for capable people we are looking for professionals most suited to the job we are recruiting for. This can sometimes involve searching through hundreds of CV's and working to extremely tight deadlines, therefore how we invest our time is really important to success.

In today's world these are some of the key people who make the initial decision on whether your application process is taken further or not.

If you only have 6 seconds to make an impression, what's the key?

CV clearly set out in a way which not only makes it easy for the reader to get a quick overview but at the same time entices them to read your CV in more detail. The picture you see attached to this article are two resume's with heat maps of recruiters eye movements, and it shows the resume on the right was looked at in more detail than the one on the left because of its clear and concise format.


This was also taken from TheLadders research which concluded that the short time recruiters spend on your resume, recruiters look at your name, current position and company, start and end dates, previous role and company start and end dates and the one before as well as education. Therefore it is critical you lay out this pertinent information with a clear visual hierarchy, without distracting visuals since such visual elements reduce recruiters analytical capability and hamper decision making whilst keeping them from locating the most relevant information, like skills and experience. If you can understand this than you have the basis of creating a great CV. 

In certain disciplines particularly Architects and designers I regularly come across CV's with visual demonstration of work with in their CV, If your target market demands portfolio of work I would recommend putting this in a separate document and not with in your CV or to have two CV's one with for those who specifically ask for examples of work with in the CV and a generic one with out any visuals.

CV Format & Tips 
There are varying opinions on certain aspects of the CV i.e the length, whether to include a profile statements, hobbies & interests, should it be written in third person or can you use 'I', should it have a picture or not. I did not write this article to debate these points, it was more to provide you an insight on how your CV is reviewed to give you a basis to make improvements. I have bullet pointed some pointers below that will enable you to do this, some of these points are what I personally like to see, so don't take it as gospel, ultimately you should choose a format that you feel most comfortable with. The main thing to remember is to always keep the reader in mind and as this article has demonstrated try to create a visually easy to read document. Some suggestions on how you can do this; 

  • Have a profile statement (Not too long a couple of paragraphs is sufficient, make it factual to key aspects of your career and not based on your personality traits), I have come across a few people who have told me they don't like profile statements, personally if written well its a good way of giving an overview to help to start to build a picture of you and show your perspective reader why you are the right person for their role.  

  • I also like to see a short key skills section, I would recommend this as its a quick way of tailoring your CV to the job you are applying for. It usually works well positioned just after the profile statement.  

  • Clearly stating companies you work for, position held and dates (I would recommend to put this in bold).  

  • Bullet point your responsibilities and duties under each role (on CV's long text is difficult to read, avoid long texts where ever you can)  

  • Highlight any key achievements in that role  

  • Mention major projects and value of these projects if relevant  

  • If you held line management responsibilities in any role, mention the size of team you were managing, sometimes its good to also mention who you report into and who reported into you, it helps a reader understand the level you sit in with in that organization (this is something you would have to make a call on whether you think its important for the type of job you are applying for).  

  • There are different opinions on what is the right length of a CV, I have seen one page CV's and also on a couple of occasions a 20+ page CV, although the common view is two pages, I personally like to see a CV anywhere between 2 to 4 pages in length. I would recommend to have two version of your CV, a shorter and more commonly used version of two pages and one that is a little more detail at a max length of 4 pages.

  • One of the things that is not nearly practiced enough is tailoring you CV to the job you are applying for. Think about examples on when you may have demonstrated the particular skills and experiences, that the company is looking for in the role and ensure these are clear to see in your resume. If you have a JD available use this.


Clear visual hierarchy, see an example of a format below:

Personal Information 
Name etc 

BA (Hons) Health & Safety 

Over 15 years of experience working on various Rail, Construction and Infrastructure related projects in the UK and Middle East ....... 
Expert in Health & Safety with the following key skills acquired through hands on experience in Safety.....  

  • Bullet point  

  • your key skills  

  • here  

Employment History

Railway Safety Board 
Head of Safety 
Sept 2010 to Present 

Was bought in as a Safety Advisor promoted after one year to Safety Manager and latterly as head of Safety reporting into the Regional Director, main duties involved;  

  • Bullet point  

  • your Roles & Responsibilities  

Key Achievements  

  • Participated in the Safety Investigation for London Underground   

  • Improved Safety record for all Rail Networks in the UK by 30% 


Create a visually easy to read document that allows the reader to get a high level view to entice them to read your CV in more detail. 

Most recruiters take 6 seconds to make a decision on whether your CV is a 'fit or not fit' for the role, therefore it is imperative that your resume is clear and concise in format with the required level of detail to demonstrate you have the desired skills and experience for the role you are applying for.

Author: Nabeel Ashraf Written: Dec 2016


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