In my career, I have received approximately 50,000 resumes (obviously I did not read them. Otherwise I would have no time to write this posting!). The reality is that I take less than 1 minute on the resumes I receive. And I am in good company: Research says that the average recruiter spends 6.25 seconds per CV before deciding “this one is not for me”.
The CV is thus the worst ROI in your job search strategy: you have spent 20, 30 or 50 hours – and you have lost us after only 6 seconds! And yet, the CV is (still) necessary. It is the entrance door to the phone call you will get which will eventually lead to the invitation to a job interview and an offer.
What are the 7 key learnings I can share with you after years and years of reading CVs?
- Bear in mind that the recipient receives a lot of CVs. They have to understand quickly if you match the selection criteria or not. Up to 90% of the CVs received on any given vacancy don’t. One of my clients, a multi-billion USD firm, told me they had received 250 applications for their new CFO. Among those was one from a 27 year old oboe player who stated she had never worked in finance, but always wanted to become a CFO…
- Most managers I know are short on time. So are you and I, right? It is vital that you deliver your message in a concise way and to the point. Make it short. The “cover letter”, today being replaced by an email should be 3 short paragraphs max on a screen. The CV itself should ideally be two pages and never more than three. I met a candidate once who had a 14 page resume and explained that he felt he had to compensate for his missing studies. Well, nobody who wants to work efficiently has time to read a 14 page resume.
- All the essential information should be seen at a glance and on the first page. What is your professional identity? What makes you special? Which languages do you speak? Make sure that everything you want to be read is on the first half page. If the person in front a) understands and b) likes what s/ he sees, s/he will read on. But you want to make sure not to hide essential information on the last page. Because 95% of the readers will never get there…
- Also, choose a file name that can be easily saved for easy referral (e.g. “Stegemann_CV”). A doc name such as “CurriculumVitae_english” or “CV_name_November2013_NEW” (I have seen all that) cannot be saved and or retrieved under its current name.
- On hobbies or leisure activities: One candidate asked if it was ok to put “belly dancing” under skills or interests (well, I would say it depends what job you apply for…). Should one put hobbies or interests into the CV, if there is a connection to the job (e.g. “cars” if you apply with Porsche). Otherwise I would say no if there is no relevance to the job/ the reader.
- Proofread: check (or ask someone to check) for gaps and inconsistency in the flow – and typos wich are alwas inacepptable (if you spotted three in this sentence, you are on a good way). If necessary, explain gaps and try to establish a logical transition from one job to the other, e.g. by adding the reasons for leaving. The reader will look for several things in your CV: consistency, gaps or a good explanation if these are not given
- Say the truth: It goes without saying that everything you write can be checked. Lying or “embelleshing” can result in immediate termination of your work contract and every court in the world will be on your employers’ side…
Make it easy for us to invite you. We have to decide very fast. Only put data that is essential and relevant, the most important ones on the first page. If your CV has more than 3 pages, prioritize and shorten it. Finally, run one last final check for gaps – if you don’t, we will ask hard questions in the interview or we will never invite you.