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8 ways to make your CV stand out in the 8.8 seconds it takes for employers to read it

make your cv stand out.jpg

8.8 seconds – that’s all the time it takes for an employer to review an entry-level CV before deciding to progress or discard it, according to the National Citizen’s Service (NCS).

If that wasn’t worrying enough, half of employers admit to spending just six seconds reading CVs. Yes, six seconds.

The NCS asked 500 employers about their CV-reading habits earlier this year, before coming back with this frankly terrifying statistic – part of a trend that they’re now dubbing ‘Tinderised recruitment’ in reference to the very fast swiping seen on everyone’s favourite dating app.

According the report, the situation has come about because the average number of applications for an entry level role has doubled in the past two years – from 46 in 2013 to 93 today – meaning that employers simply don’t have the time to consider every application properly.

Despite the surge in applications, employers say that most of the CVs they’re currently faced with just don’t cut the mustard.

As a graduate (or soon to be graduate) with a strong set of skills and a burning desire to start your career, we can see how this admission might be more than a little bit annoying.

We know you’ve got a strong skillset, though. So maybe the problem is that you’re not displaying your talents properly – or that the most important information is buried too far down your CV, way after that crucial 8.8 seconds has passed.

So, what can you do to make sure your CV doesn’t end up in the bin in the blink of an eye? Entrepreneur Piers Linney (who you might recognise from Dragons’ Den) says: “In an increasingly competitive job market, young recruits need to be able to demonstrate something extra. A plethora of A*s doesn’t guarantee you a job any more, or even an interview in many cases.”

He continues: “Businesses are looking for evidence of strength of character, tenacity and resilience – characteristics that show you’ve got what it takes to perform and negotiate the complexities of today’s workplace.”

It makes a lot of sense to us. Indeed, according to the NCS report half of employers would completely dismiss a CV if the candidate wasn’t able to demonstrate experiences outside of the education system.

With this in mind, here’s what the NCS says are the most important things to remember when it comes to developing your CV:

  1. Prioritise extra-curricular activities, particularly those that show evidence of strong character

  2. Don’t expect exam results to speak for themselves – even if you’ve got a string of A*s followed by a First

  3. Format your CV so it is 450 words/ 2 pages long, and in Arial, size 11

  4. Evidence your personal skills, for example when you’ve shown initiative

  5. Clearly demonstrate your personal drive – how can you make this obvious?

  6. Use your CV to show off your personality and character

  7. Prove your understanding of the company, its context and the role you have applied for

  8. Make your ambition clear – and show what you’ve done so far to get there


At the end of the day, your CV is the first impression that employers get of you – and the tiniest mistake, whether it’s a typo or a misspelling or a missing apostrophe, can be make or break. Follow the advice above, though, and you’ll be on the right track. Good luck!

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