how to write a cv

Resumes and Interview Techniques: Part One- The First 6 Seconds Count

Welcome to our first in a series of articles about resumes and interview techniques!

Studies show that recruiters will look at your name, current title and organisation, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education.  They then spend about six seconds scanning the rest of the application.

So, what can you do to your resume to ensure that those first 6 seconds count?  And how then if you make it past the 6 seconds do ensure that this resume gets you to the next stage of the process.  Remember this document is a sales pitch.  You want the person reading the resume to come away wanting to spend more of their precious time on you.

Sadly, in an age where information is so readily available and where technology is such that you can run a business that connects to the world from a mountain top, people continue to make fundamental mistakes when preparing their resumes and job applications.

Ideally when you are preparing your resume, statement of capacity, addressing selection criteria, cover letters – take a moment to think about the person reading the document.  For some roles hundreds of applications will be received.  You have to grab their attention in the first half page. 

Let’s begin by looking at some “DO’s” and “DON’Ts”

Don’t use photographs.  If you have 6 seconds within which to make an impact do you really want it to be about the colour of your hair or whether you even have any hair?  Is that what the lasting impression is going to be?  At best the reader will completely skip over it looking for the details of your work and career and at worst they will see a picture and send it straight to the “OUT” pile.

Save the pics of yourself for the annual Christmas letter and Facebook and think about the fact that other types of pictures may well paint a picture of you that it is not your intention to convey.  Assumptions may well be made and not a single word of your resume will have been read.

The same applies to pictures of sunsets, inspiring landscapes, cute animals, pictures with religious overtones and stirring quotations, used either as a picture or as a watermark.

Don’t overcrowd the pageRemember that pages with too many words are tiring to read and never forget that your application is likely to be just one of many.

The DO that goes with this one is:

Do keep it simple and cleanThis applies to any document that is part of your application i.e. cover letter, resume or selection criteria.  Leave some white space as that will make it easier to read.

Don’t use fancy fonts or make the font too small.

Reading an application and resume all printed in a fancy font is hard on the eyes and demand extra concentration.  You may be a terrific candidate, but this will get to the “OUT” pile just about quicker than anything else.

The same applies to using small fonts.  I know that it is very tempting to include lots of information and decrease the size of the font to keep the page size down.  Don’t do it!!

Do use plain fonts, Arial 11 or Arial Narrow 11 or 12 are clean, easy to read and a good size.

Also make certain that the fonts are consistent throughout the document.  If you are wishing to highlight something, a heading for example, bolding the text should be enough but do not overuse this feature.  You do not want to send the message that you think the reader is too stupid to pick out the important points.

In a letterhead style document including your personal details in italics is fine.  A professional looking letterhead is a good idea, particularly for cover letters.

Do keep it black and white.  When and if they print applications at the other end, it will most certainly be in black and white.  You are wasting your precious time if you worry about fancy shapes and colours and frankly when the multi-coloured document is printed in black and white, the original colours will present with less intensity, not as crisply.

You will not score well if a reviewer has to print out a number of applications, and they find themselves wasting expensive coloured ink cartridges in doing so.

There are some exceptions to this rule.  And example would be graphic designers where some flair and colour would be expected.

Don’t put in coloured background formatting.  Remember most applications are going to be sent electronically and every bit of fancy formatting increases the size of your file.  And again if you have put in a coloured background that has to print out, it will use a lot of ink, can be very time consuming, can reproduce less than ideally in black and white.

It is unusual these days to have to send hard copy of your application, but it does happen.  Don’t give in to the urge to use fancy stationery and don’t bind an application.

One of my favourite personal mottos’ in life is “Pink is an attitude, not a colour” however it is NOT however appropriate to use a pretty pink floral watermarked paper, or any colour other than white or cream for a job application.

Do use the normal, readily available and inexpensive 80 gsm copy paper for the application.  If, however you can afford to purchase a few sheets of a heavier bond or linen paper that is fine but know that it is not essential.

Don’t use a template.  However, let’s put that in some context.  Templates are a good guide and introduction, particularly if you are preparing a resume after many years or for the first time or have never had a resume.  I would suggest though that you might use the template to assist in your preparation and then when preparing the document finally do it without the template. Below is a basic template for your reference.

Resume Template for School Leaver or Little Job Experience


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