In the last nine years, I've had the privilege and opportunity to handle a lot of CVs. (Just one of the perks of being a consultant manager.)
And the truths I’m about to reveal – while not rooted in anyone’s studies, or even empirical research carried out by, well, me – are based on thousands of hours combing through CVs and deciding: is this one a winner? Yes or no?
How do I do that? How do I decide who to let through to the next round when I literally have piles of applications in front of me?
Let’s talk numbers
Say I have seven positions to fill, with 50 applicants for each one.
If I spend ten minutes going through each CV and personal letter, it will take me eight full days. Add to that the usual everyday disruptions, media noise, searching for other candidates, meetings, reference taking, tests and interviews, and suddenly I’m looking at 1 month of non-stop CVs.
The ugly truth? I simply don’t have time to do this.
Instead, I do something much faster.
When I pick up someone’s CV, I spend between 6 and 10 seconds deciding if it’s worth my while. (This is often referred to as the 10-second resume test.) So this is the amount of time you have to impress me.
Is it fair? No way.
Many applicants put lots of juicy stuff in their motivation letter, that ends up being unread if their CV doesn’t pass the test.
So the question is: how do you get past that first judgement call?
The good news is that it’s actually simpler than it sounds.
My secret recipe for getting your CV past the 10-second test: write as if a seven-year-old were to read it.
Wait, what? How do you explain to a seven-year-old that you’re the right person for a job?
I'm glad you asked.
1) GROUND RULES
First, let’s assume that this particular seven-year-old is quite precocious and can already read fluently. I’ll also assume you can do the job you're applying for, because I’m nice, and of course you totally could, why not?
2) TWEAK YOUR LAYOUT
What do seven-year-olds typically read? Story books with lots of pictures, right? So you need to calibrate your CV’s layout in a way that it will catch the child’s attention and never let go (or not until the motivation letter at least).
But how? Well, a nice picture (that fits the job’s level of seriousness) is important. Rule of thumb: a yawning person makes you yawn, a smiling person makes you smile!
A “title” (i.e. headline) and short introduction that clearly match what your seven-year-old reader is looking for are also crucial. But keep them short and to the point. (You can always elaborate later on.)
In short, prepare your “storybook” to be judged by its cover.
3) ADD THE BUZZWORDS
Finally, just like in activity books for seven-year-olds, you should make an easy connect-the-dots task: add the relevant topics/buzzwords for the job you’re applying for, so your seven-year-old reader can easily connect them in his mind to the job in question, and feel proud to have solved the task!
Remember: the more matches, the happier the child…
(Note: I work in the IT industry, which is heavily fixated on buzzwords. Not all industries are like this. In that case, you should just add the relevant soft skills and other topics your reader is looking for.)
Once you’ve completed these steps and your CV, or “storybook cover”, is a well-organized, shiny page of perfection, your seven-year-old reader will be so drawn in that they won’t have no choice but to read the rest of your material.
...Of course, there are many other tips and tricks you can use when it comes to your CV. I’m definitely oversimplifying it here.
Still, I strongly believe you can improve your chances tenfold by making life easy for the recruiter. You wouldn't think how many others don’t.
Hördur Thorgilsson is a Consultant Manager at Knowit Core. People, Culture & Techy Solutions are his passion. He also have way too many playlists on Spotify. Check him out on LinkedIn and say hi!