Tick tock: You have just seconds to impress with your CV

With only six seconds in which to impress a recruiter, how can you ensure your CV shows why you are the perfect candidate for the job?


Did you know that you have only six seconds in which to determine whether a recruiter is going to offer you an interview or throw your CV back into the pile? This is what career specialist The Ladder found in a study of recruiter decision-making, highlighting that the most important aspect of how to write a CV is being able to impress in the time it takes to draw a deep breath.

So as the vital seconds tick by, what are the features of a resume that are able to freeze the hands of time and capture the attention of a potential employer?

One second: Easy-to-read

With recruiters taking such a brief look, it is essential that they are able to access vital information immediately. Hiring managers need to be able to easily pull out your name, where you currently work and how long you’ve been there, your previous job and any formal education that you have.

These things can give them an instant idea of whether you are suitable for a position, and may influence whether they toss your application aside right away or read further. Ensure that these details can be found quickly by creating a visual hierarchy and placing the most important information at the top.

Two seconds: Well-formatted

A well set-out resume is going to make it easier to understand in a short space of time. A 2014 survey by job site revealed that recruiters reported a logical presentation is the most important aspect of a resume. The survey also showed that a clear font is rated at the second most vital feature of the perfect CV.

This reiterates that hiring managers do not want to spend a long time trying to decipher the information. Make it accessible and you’ll be more likely to retain their attention.

Three seconds: Concise

Similarly, an effective resume needs to be straight-forward and to-the-point, as six seconds is not long enough for an employer to get through your life’s story. Make sure you highlight your previous experience, such as any IT contract roles you have held, as well as your skills and qualifications that are relevant to the job.

The University of Sydney Career Centre says that the reader should be able to scan this information in seconds, so leave out the qualities that do not directly relate to the position you are applying for to ensure that the things that make you the perfect candidate stand out.

Four seconds: Specific

Another component of a CV that can impress in seconds is specificity. It would be ineffective to merely state where you have worked in the past, and this gives the reader no context of your real experience.

Consequently, it’s important that you add the exact duration of employment for each job, as well as your title and the details of your responsibilities. And don’t forget to highlight your achievements by including any positive outcomes where they are relevant.

Five Seconds: Tailored

Don’t waste a recruiter’s time with a stock-standard CV covering every skill and summer job you have ever had. An effective resume will be tailored to the particular vacancy to ensure you are not wasting valuable seconds on details that do not recommend you. According to the Reed survey, recruiters say that a generic CV is one of the top four biggest turn-offs that will make them lose interest immediately.

Show that you understand the job requirements and are willing to go the extra mile by tailoring your application, and you’ll be much more likely to make a positive impression.

Six seconds: Digitally compatible

In the digital age where many business activities are done on a computer or device, not ensuring that your CV is optimised for on-screen viewing is a big mistake. This is especially important for those engaging in digital recruitment, as you are supposed to be the technology experts. You do not want to come across as an IT amateur, so guarantee that your application is going to look good on whichever operating system the recruiter uses by converting it into a translatable format such as PDF.

Seven seconds: Reachable

If you have made it to seven seconds – congratulations. You managed to hold the recruiter’s interest through the crucial first impression, and its likely that they now see you as a potentially suitable candidate. Don’t forget to round off your great resume by clearly setting out your contact details to allow the employer to reach you for the next step; the interview.

Despite that fact that six seconds may sound like a remarkably short period, it’s apparent that for a well-written CV, this is plenty of time to demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate and advance your IT career.