Does your CV get you noticed?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 at 10:21 PM

Guest post by Kate Walker, career transition consultant and CV expert

Did you know that on average a busy recruiter spends only 60 seconds reading your CV? Sad but true. Especially when you think of the blood, sweat and tears you spent writing it.

Let’s take a moment to consider what your CV is for. Well, it is the first personal marketing material that a recruiter sees. You want it to get you into the yes pile during that 60 second review. You need it to whet their appetite, make them read on and, ultimately want to meet you.

So how can you make sure yours gets you noticed and increases your chance of landing the interview you really want? Well, first you must make sure that all your best bits are at the top.

Begin your CV with a clear, concise four to five line summary statement or personal profile. This should capture the essence of YOU and what you wish to be known for. For example:

Highly driven and quality conscious Human Resources Business Partner. Extensive HR experience including management of organisational development and change initiatives. Excellent track-record of strategic and operational achievement at regional, national and global level.

Next, bullet point three to four key skills. For example:

You will have filled about one third of your first page. This is a recruiter’s main focus area. So don’t be modest. Sell yourself!

‘Without publicity a terrible thing happens: nothing’

PT Barnum

In the current economic climate a  well-written, standout CV is even more important. For every national press advertisement placed, some 300 applications are received.

You need to stand out from the crowd. All too often people let themselves down in the silliest ways. It’s easily done. I’ve seen some howlers.

A colleague spelt his name wrong on his CV and hadn’t noticed. I could forgive this but it was the first thing I read at the very top of the page. And it wasn’t a name that was difficult to spell!

Furthermore he claimed in his profile to have excellent attention to detail. Somewhat shooting yourself in the foot, I think.

Now here are some more basic principles to think about when writing your CV.

Choose the right format for you

There are several different kinds, with pros and cons to each.

Consider which of the following two would best showcase your career history and achievements. And also which best meets your personal career aims.

INDENT Reverse Chronological and Functional

Reverse Chronological – most commonly used. Lists experience in reverse chronological order, most recent work first. This works well if you:

Functional – more  skills-based. Rolls together skills and experience under job function headings, e.g.: Leadership, Change Management, Recruitment and Selection. This works well if you:

Be a solution to the problem

Read the job advert carefully. Every word is in there for a reason.

What does the job description say? What does the person specification say?

Most people fail to match the skills, achievements and experience they offer, to what the employer wants. You can do a bit of matchmaking here on your own behalf.

Show that you understand what they are looking for by mirroring the essential and desirable qualities. Consider your audience. Are you applying to a  forward-looking, creative company or a more traditional, staid and professional one? Using their language shows you are on a similar wavelength and indicates your likely fit with the company.

This is about correct pitch. It also helps ensure you only apply for roles which closely match what you offer. Why waste time sending off 50 applications when two or three will do?

Using power words

Although it is always best to keep your writing simple, many CVs can be dry and repetitive. Read one and you’ve read them all. You can stand out from the crowd by varying power words to strengthen your writing:

For planned use centralised, programmed, positioned, structured

For provided use executed, formulated, represented

For improved use enhanced, optimised, transformed


Where possible always include HOW you have done things rather than list duties and responsibilities. This brings your CV to life more than anything else. Adding specific results and successes gives context and backs up your key skills.

For example:

Always keep your master CV up to date, adding more and more achievements. It should be a constant work in progress. I review mine every three months.


Some of the best CVs I have seen fail to impress for basic reasons. Keep it simple and easy to read for us poor overworked recruiters.

Here are my top tips for good presentation:

And finally, think quality versus quantity

Be brief. Use short sentences. Think telegram not novel.

‘There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together’

Josh Billings 1818-1885

You can contact Kate Walker on 0208 287 0158 or 07980 473151.


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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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