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How to Make Your CV Stand Out in the First 10 Seconds

Personal branding expert Johnathan Maltby shares his tips.

Here’s the thing: when you hand in your CV to a possible employer, it most likely won’t be read – it will be skimmed. If your CV doesn’t grab the reader’s attention in 10 to 15 seconds then it may be doomed for the rejection pile. Here are six strategies to help them pay attention.

Use a logical order for key sections

To make your CV easy to read, your sections should be in the following order: contact details, personal summary, core industry skills, professional history, education and references. If you are relatively new to the workforce, education should be at the top of the first page under core industry skills. If you have ample work experience, this should go after your work history section. Although qualifications are important, future employees will value your work experience higher.

Add a personal summary

This allows people to get a quick snapshot of who you are. It needs to be sharp and succinct. Include who and what you are, what you do, your area of expertise and your top three skills relevant to the role. It should be a maximum of two paragraphs (a quarter page) and include key words specific to the role you are applying for.

Be specific with your core industry skills

Make sure you list skills that are industry-specific and relevant to the job you are applying for. You can research and use a variety of related job adverts or descriptions as guides. If you have those skills, then list them. Ideally you will detail seven to eight skills that would benefit a company.

List achievements from your past work experience

For each role, list two to three achievements. These must not be personal achievements but ones that had a positive impact on the company. Hiring managers not only want to know what you can do but also what you can do for them. If possible, make your achievements quantifiable. For example: reduced turnaround time by 20 per cent or saved the company money through a particular initiative.

Ensure it is appealing

Pay attention to the aesthetic appeal of your CV. It should have consistent line breaks, text alignments and bullet points, not to mention correct grammar. You can use subtle colour, especially in the key section headings, but don’t go overboard. Use a maximum of two fonts and make sure stylistic elements don’t vary throughout the document.

Send it as a Word file

Ideally, you should submit your CV in Microsoft Word or another word-processing format, not as a PDF. Many Applicant Tracking Programs (ATPs) have difficulty handling PDF files and ATP Search features function better with Word files.

Johnathan Maltby is a Personal Branding and Career Consultant who empowers you to take control of your career and advance it to the next level and beyond. For more information on how you can productise and package yourself, visit

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