Your CV: 10 seconds to read it or bin it

‘How do recruiters really look at your CV?’

Potential employers and recruiters look at your CV for a total of ten seconds before deciding whether you’re a suitable candidate or not. That’s pretty scary considering your CV is your first opportunity to make a good impression. And maybe your only opportunity if they decide they don’t want to put you forward for an interview. This means it is vital for your CV to make a quick impact so that the reader goes from just scanning to reading.

So, what are the things recruiters look at first and why?
I asked our in house recruitment team the top five things they look for when reading a CV for the first time. And here they are:

Layout and Structure – This sounds relatively simple, but organisation and consistency is the key here. A clear layout will appeal to the reader, making it easy to read and find the information they want to know about you. Don’t make it difficult for them, keep it clean and clear. A simple format is usually best, so don’t make it too long (2 Pages is best) and use bullet points in areas to summarise key information. You may think using 6 different fonts and font sizes is creative, but there’s such a thing as standing out in a bad way. Stick to one font and one font size . Make sure everything is neatly aligned and is spaced out evenly, making it look clean and smart.

Essential Information

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Achievements
  • Qualifications

These are essential parts of a CV and must be included. This information shows off your strengths and demonstrates how you’ll do the job well. Also, make sure you only include information people will want to know. A whole list of your GCSE’s probably isn’t necessary and neither is being your colour team captain in Year 7, so keep all the information up to date and to the point.

Dates – Maybe surprisingly high up on the list, but dates proved to be important in our recruiter’s opinions. Dates on your CV allows for someone to spot any gaps in it, zone in on any short tenures or long absences. Gaps and white space aren’t good, and if there are any they’ll wonder what you’ve been doing in that time period. So don’t leave any big gaps and account for your time in recent roles, even if it makes you look bad be honest, because leaving gaps will make it look like you’re hiding something. Include the date you started and the date you left, month and year is sufficient.

Relevancy for the Job – Not surprisingly, your potential employer wants to know if you’re suitable for the job. So when you’re applying make sure you include examples of the skills and personal attributes required for the job you’re applying for. The best thing to do is to tailor your CV to individual jobs. Some jobs will be similar and then the same information can be used, but make sure you tick all of their boxes and add in any skills that are crucial for a specific job role. This may take time, but a recruiter can tell when you’ve put the effort in.

Spelling and Grammar – Recruiters and employers read CVs all the time and will spot any mistakes. We all make a few typos and spelling mistakes now and again, but this is your CV. You need to make sure there are no errors in it at all, some grammatical and syntax errors cannot be detected by a simple automatic spell check! This represents you and paying attention to detail is important. Make sure you proof read it yourself and ask others to proof read it too. Fresh pairs of eyes are more likely to spot any mistakes than the person who wrote it. The more eyes the better!

So here are Kingsgate Recruitment’s top five things when first looking at a CV. Master these to have your CV properly read and not crossed off within ten seconds. Then you’ll have a much better chance of getting the opportunity to attend an interview.

Need help with your CV? Register with us to revceive CV advice. Emai us at or give us a call on 020 8549 7212.

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