The 5-second rule?

Yes, the 5-second rule.

There’s really a 5-second rule for CV reviewing? How do you know?

Yes, there really is. I know because that is, in part, how I screen my own job candidates.

Recruiters and large HR departments receive perhaps 100 CVs and applications per day for various positions. In that volume, it’s impossible, at least initially, to give a CV its due. So, we screen them. We give it a glance and make an initial determination whether it is relevant to the position for which the candidate applied. Recruiters are a little more relenting than companies, however, as part of our job is to look past a few initial flaws in style or format. Employers are not so generous.

There are several key elements to successfully get past that first glance from an employer.

First, ask yourself if you’ve mistakenly substituted style for relevant content as the main attention device. Employers don’t have time for attractive graphics, stylish fonts or unique bullet points. That isn’t what they are looking for. They need a clean, easy-to-read CV where they can identify whether a candidate satisfies their main qualifications and experience.

The second question to ask yourself, obviously, is whether your relevant skills, experience and education are easy to identify. Do not hide behind a lot of words. For example:

“I have spent most of my career in a management capacity with various companies. I started out managing a staff of five and now I manage more than 100.”

Compare this to:

    20+ years of management experience

Which one of these pops out at you? Which is easier to read? If there is one CV flaw I see most often, it is the mistake of being too verbose. This only serves to hide your true qualifications behind a lot of words that simply screening a resume will not find.

The next thing to consider is time relevancy. If you won an award in your freshman year at university and you are now age 50, it doesn’t mean a thing anymore. Employers want to know what you are up to now. This is very tempting for older employers with vast and varied career experiences. If this is the case, style your CV in this format:

This presents the relevant information in a format that is easy to identify. Instead of duplicating the information you are going to present in your previous work history, the employer can identify your industry experience simply by reading your previous employers.

It is important to remember a CV is not a personal history biography – it is a highlight of your career thus far, and it is meant only to assure the employer on the face of things that you have enough credentials to get you to the next step: the interview. No amount of bluffing or verbosity will substitute for true qualifications and skills presented in a manner an employer can recognise in just five seconds.