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Your CV could be stopping you from landing your dream job. Here’s why.

On average, employers look at your CV for 6 seconds.

And you thought kids had a short attention span!

That’s just six seconds in which you need to get across all of the information needed to land yourself an interview and potentially score your dream job.

If you think that’s unfair, consider that the job you’re applying for might have more than 100 other applicants, and some actual person is reading every application!

So if you’re not landing interviews for the jobs you want, part of the problem could be the way your CV presents you. Here are five simple things that you can do to make sure your CV stands out from the pack:

1) Get the basics right

According to a US study of professional recruiters, there are three areas that employers will focus on in the six seconds they are deciding if you are a fit for the job or not.

So, while there are many different ways that you can write a CV – all of them acceptable –  at the very least your CV should prominently include:

a) Your name and personal contact details

Include your email, home address and a phone contact.

b) Your recent relevant work history

Make sure it’s in reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience first, including start and end dates for each role. Include a job title and employer name for each role, as well as a short summary or dot points of your responsibilities and achievements in the role. If you have volunteer roles to include, put these in a separate section.

c) Your education and/or qualifications

Again, make sure they’re in reverse chronological order, with your most recent qualifications first, including start and end dates for each item. If you’d prefer not to reveal the dates of your qualifications, it’s acceptable to leave them off.

It’s these three points that will get the most attention so make sure they’re outstanding before you focus on anything else.

You might also like to consider a “career goal” or “career objective” at the top of your CV. This is a one or two sentence summary of broadly where you see your career going; given you’re applying for an ethical job, this is also a good place to mention your values. But make sure the statement doesn’t conflict with the job you’re applying for!

You could also include a list of awards; achievements or hobbies if you think they are relevant or help to give a sense of who you are.

2) Keep your layout simple and easy on the eye

This usually means a neatly laid out, black and white, A4 document, with bold headings that is easy on the eye.

If you have an eye for design, using colour can help make titles in your CV stand out, but beware: unless you are a designer (ie: you’re 100% sure of what you’re doing!), don’t use more than one colour and one font or any sort of non-white background – it will only make you stand out in all the wrong ways.

A reader’s eye will naturally fall to the upper middle area of a page so include your most important/relevant information there. That might be a “career goal” statement, your most recent job, a list of skills , or your qualifications. Choose carefully ­– you only have one chance to make a first impression.

3) Keep it short and simple

Employers may receive hundreds of applications for a role so keeping your CV short and to the point will be greatly appreciated.

At the same time, it’s better to take up more space than to leave off important information that might make a difference to your chance of an interview.

The main focus should be on making your CV “scanable” so that employers can take in as much information as possible in those six seconds.

Dot points and short sentences are much quicker to read than big blocks of text.

Got more to say? Save that for your cover letter and key selection criteria responses.

Most CVs are two or three pages – if you need more than four pages, you should probably take some things out.

4) Tailor your CV for the job you’re applying for

Is your six month stint flipping burgers at McDonald’s when you were 16 years old really relevant to the job you’re applying for? If not, leave it out.

Employers will generally focus on your most recent two jobs, so spend most of your energy making sure that the responsibilities and achievements you list under these roles are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

To be as relevant as possible, read the position description and pick out key words that the employer uses so they can easily make a connection between your experience and what they are looking for.

For example – if they’re looking for someone who “works autonomously” or “works well in a team” highlight this experience in previous roles.

While it’s much more time-consuming to change your CV for each role rather than just sending your standard generic one to each employer, it’s really  worth the effort in the long run!

5) Proof read, proof read and proof read again…

…and get a friend or family member to proof read too!

It might not seem that harmful to have a typo or two buried in your CV but if an employer has received hundreds of applications from highly skilled applicants, that misplaced punctuation could see you on the ‘no’ pile before you know it – especially for roles where written communication is important.

After slaving away on a CV for hours, it can be easy to overlook small errors, so make sure you get a fresh set of eyes over it before you send it off.

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