So, you want change? Sometimes that change happens in the smallest of moments. The reality is, first impressions count and when it comes to work, all too few of us pay attention to the most important document of our lives… our CVs and the news is, it can take as little as 6 seconds for that impact to work in your favour – or not.
For some, and I can say this with confidence as I have read enough of them, CVs seem to be written as a second thought, an annoying task that you ‘have’ to do with no real thought on the impact it has. Many CVs are by no exaggeration, a complete mess. It is obvious that people don’t understand the impact they have, or the recruiter can see that you don’t care very much from the outset. They will thank you for that and cut you from the shortlist. Some may say that in a digital world, what does it matter? In the recruiter’s world, I think it matters more, as more of our communication than ever is written and in many cases, it’s the first impression others and our future employers have of us.
What’s With the 6 Seconds?
Statistics say that recruiters (be they agencies or employers) take an average of 6-10 seconds to make a decision on whether your CV meets their criteria for the role. 6-10 seconds is not a long time. So, how do you make the most of this written first impression?
First the good news, again, from reading literally hundreds of CVs over my career both as a recruiter and as a recruiting manager within businesses, there are really simple things that will immediately give you the chance to move to the first cut and it call comes down to showing you care.
Businesses need people who care about their job and want to perform. Recruitment is an expensive process, not just the cost of paying your salary but the associated cost: the longer it takes to recruit the more it costs the business in lost opportunity, the harder it is to find someone, the more likely the recruitment agency fees are higher, the cost of training you and the recurring cost of replacing the candidate if they don’t work out, all add up. You may just need a job but you need to bear in mind the significant costs incurred by businesses, even more so once you are outside of London and the majority of employers are smaller businesses than global conglomerates. The wrong hire will hit these businesses hard. They need to make the right recruitment choice and by helping them with that process and standing out from the crowd, you also meet your objectives of finding a job that meets your needs.
Seconds 1-2 : Spelling and Grammar.
It is very easy to get higher up the shortlist. Show the recruiter you care. As already discussed, a huge proportion of our communications are now written and most roles require written and communications skills in dealing with customers and clients. In order to keep those clients and for them to know the business cares, they need to give a good first impression too and that involves caring about how you communicate. Take care over your spelling and grammar. Make it important. Be aware what it is you find more challenging, e.g. their/there/they’re and make sure you check it. You might think it doesn’t matter but the recruiter cares and when it comes to shortlisting, they will shortlist the ones that show the best communication skills. Consider it the equivalent of dressing in a suit for the interview.
Seconds 3-4: Sell Yourself
Most candidates blanket bomb their CV across a myriad of jobs. I get it. You need to earn money but just like businesses needing to earn money, they do it best by targeting and selling their benefits to a specific market. Read the job description properly. What is it they need exactly and how do you match it? Now, don’t despair at this point if you think, ‘I don’t have much experience yet.’, the reality is, no-one is a perfect match for a job. Businesses find the best match. Understand what they need and explain how you meet their needs, even if it is non-work experience. Better still, draw attention to your best unique selling points in a covering letter. Yes, a proper letter and address it… well you care about getting this job don’t you? It’ll make you stand out from the crowd.
Seconds 5-6: Join the Dots
Gaps in CVs: not unlike awkward gaps in conversation, they make you feel awkward and unsure if you should walk away. Any gaps more than a month need to be explained. There’s always a reason why, no reason why not to explain it. If you’re a contractor and there have been breaks between contracts, make it clear they were contracting jobs. If you travelled, or did something different, explain it. Whatever it is, make it clear on your CV because the more gaps that appear, the more uneasy the recruiter will be and you will drop to a B-list or below. Please don’t lie though… this always comes out and that affects your reputation, especially if you are looking for jobs in a market where employing managers probably know each other. If a lie is discovered, you quite simply won’t get the job and quite often this comes out at interview.
Six seconds - do those three top tips and you are already in a better position to win that job.