When you're creating an ad, there are rules of best practice to follow which hopefully make your work more likely to be seen by the target audience. The same applies when you're writing a CV.
Scanning Twitter last night, I came across a tweet from Richard Shotton (@rshotton) about eye-tracking. Whilst this research refers to Direct Mail, I felt that much of it is translatable to CV writing.
“Detailed text is often overlooked”
Research shows that on average a CV is read for around 7 seconds. Chapter and verse about every campaign you’ve worked on is really not necessary. Nor is a half-page long personal statement.
In fact, probably the hardest CVs to read (and therefore the most like to be overlooked) are the ones which appear to be just a block of text. Break it up with white space and remember that…
“People generally focus on headers”
Take the opportunity to use each role as a header and make it clear what role you had and where.
By and large in agencies, careers are somewhat linear (junior, midweight, senior, Director or AE, AM, AD, BD, CSD) so just your job title gives the reader an expectation of the responsibilities you have had.
“Front pages receive far more attention than back pages”
Nearly two and half times as much. So put the most pertinent information on the first page.
Typically this will be your most recent role but not always. We recently worked with a candidate who was looking to change careers yet the relevant study they had undertaken was halfway down the second page. Simply moving this information higher up the CV helped to secure an interview.
There is however, one piece of advice we don’t think applies to CVs.
Boxes and images
Like it or not, most recruiters and in-house talent teams will use some form of recruitment software to manage and share applications. Nothing screws up the formatting of a beautifully laid-out CV like uploading it into one of these systems. Text boxes and tables in particular can be magically transported to another part of the document making your CV practically illegible.
A professional-looking headshot is fine but not mandatory. Most recruiters will be keen to connect on social media and will see what you look like there anyway.
The logos of every agency you have worked for (and/or every brand you have worked on) add colour to the page but can make your CV a busier document.
A CV is about marketing you. It’s a brand you should know really well so bring it to life. However, as with any marketing remember that the objective is to grab attention and to drive action. Make it easy for the reader to see why you’d be brilliant for the role and how to contact you.
For an idea of a CV that is more likely to work, you can do worse than have a look at the advice from The Ladders.