CV Writing Advice in the Web Age – Optimize your CV!!

In this day and age of over-easy application processes through job boards and otherwise, you need to have a good CV to stand out. You may have the charm of George Clooney and the wit of Billy Connolly, and you would wow them at interview – but you’re not having an interview. Why? Because your CV  has the charm of Gordon Brown and the wit of Piers Morgan. 

I see 50-100 CVs every day. I am qualified to tell you what constitutes a good CV. 

So I’m going to tell you what works, and what doesn’t in the most crucial part of your CV. It’s too competitive out there at the moment for shabby CV writing. You want the agency or the employer to interview you, because you’re a star, a prospect, a perfect match for crying out loud!!! Well read on. Otherwise, your CV could be going this way… 


Let’s start with fundamental layout. We live in a Web age. People in agencies and HR departments are time-restrictive and read CVs at a lightning speed rate these days, so you have capture their attention early. Furthermore, over 75% of CVs will be read on a computer screen. I read yesterday that Websites have a 15 second `attention capture` time. I reckon CVs have 10 seconds. So some visual aspects of SEO optimisation apply to CVs.

It’s time to Optimize your CV! – Anyone who has had CV advice from me in recent times will remember that these are the three things I want to see on your CV in the first 10 seconds, or before I click my mouse to scroll…. or not. 


OK – start with your name at the top. Clearly. Don’t let it disappear under an unnecessary `Personal Details` section. Put your name in bold or capital text at the top, announce yourself goddammit! You’re proud of the information you are about to deliver. Naturally a few contact details will come underneath this, but she should be in smaller text – as frankly they are pretty insignificant at this stage – but need to be up there – because you would like someone to call you!

Please, please, please don’t distract the CV reader with date of birth, driving licence details, nationality, marital status and parental responsibilities at this stage of your CV. Stick them at the end because they are insignificant, and frankly you are wasting CV Optimization space. 


Tell me in a short paragraph what you do. Don’t tell me this in a long paragraph, as I bore quickly. This is called a Profile or a Summary. They are essential. I reckon a 3 or 4 line paragraph should cover it, whether you are 21 years old or 61 years old. Tell me what you do, with what areas of expertise, and and how good you are doing these things. 

In this paragraph, think about the key words.Think of the industry you are in, the scope of skills your ideal employer is looking for, based on key words – and include them in the Profile, and bold them. So for Social Media Marketing, your Profile might include bold text key words such as `Social Media`, `Marketing`, `Copywriting`, `Blogging`, `Community`,  as some brief examples. 

The reason for this? – well always think about your audience, and what they want to see. If they are giving you 10 seconds, and the role is for a Social Media Account Manager, they are going to want to see early tangible evidence that this is your field. CV Optimization in action. 

If you’re a graduate – the same applies. Show me you are not just another graduate. Tell me the relevance of your application, early. 

DO NOT include nothingness like… `Team Player`, `Works to set tasks`, `Outgoing personality`, etc, etc. they are pointless, because everyone is saying the same rubbish. Your CV is personal. Make it so. 


Your job. Now. You know, the one in the career you referred to in your Profile. You’ve told me what you’re great at being, I now want to know where, for how long, and who with. Proof Please. The company needs to be clear and bold, and the job title needs to be clear and bold.

10 seconds are now up. You’ve either got me or you haven’t. Now. If you were relevant, you have got me and I’m scrolling. If you didn’t – you could be gone. 

After that, I want you to briefly summarize that company in a short paragraph – to clarify relevance. Then tell me your main responsibilities in 5 to 10 bullet points – don’t write your job spec, please – and then I want to see your achievements in 3 or 4 more bullet points. Relevant achievements, please. I really don’t to know you improved the computer wiring system behind your desk. 

If you’re a graduate and you don’t have experience to sing about, but you have a fab degree – then mirror this for your degree. Tell me about your degree and the things you focussed on, learnt, and applied in dissertation or internships. Don’t just write: Kingston University: 2:1 in Political Science. I need to know more. 


So that’s the first 10 seconds and the first job sorted, and no more than the first two-thirds-page of your CV. You do the above well, I’m reading on. You do it badly. Then this is your where your CV in typical hands could be heading… 


Don’t take any risks. 

I would almost argue that you have done enough to be shortlisted already, based on the 10 second theory. But it’s not over there. Keep the remainder of your CV consistent with this, and do not give too much page time to jobs that are irrelevant to your current search. Time given to individual jobs on CVs should be based on their recency and their relevance. 

Do NOT be told that you must keep your CV to 2 pages. This is tosh, and means you might compromise important content in a career of more than 10 years. But I would advise that it doesn’t need to be more than 3 pages, unless you are a creative giving examples/links of your work. 

My last point, is DO NOT DIVIDE OPINION. Your CV is NOT the place to be controversial; either by design or by content. Unless you need to demonstrate graphic or creative flair Stick to reasonably tried and tested visual protocol. And if you choose to add art or style, make it understated and not distracting from the 10 second content. If you want to create a Web CV – do one separately, on a web page – and provide the link on your CV early on, along with any social media profiles or online presence. Keep the writing positive and interesting, but do not offer opinions or feelings. 


Do not under-estimate the value of capturing attention early. We’ve heard SEO people tell us about website optimization, key words, positioning, etc, so many times for years now. It’s time we considered CVs in the same way.

Hey, I’m a good independent recruiter – more often that not, it is my responsibility to dig way deeper than the first 10 seconds, because I have a responsibility to discover what more is on your CV and if I can help you. But the general world, and the the general recruiter world – is not like that. 

Remember the first 10 seconds: Who are You? What Do You Do? and Where Have You Done It? 





3 thoughts on “CV Writing Advice in the Web Age – Optimize your CV!!

  1. After what you told me by email + this insights I’m reshaping mine right now to give it that extra punch. Thanks for the advice!

  2. Pingback: #JobseekerTips – 5 Tips for Making a Great CV | The Recruitment Misfit

  3. Pingback: Getting CV Advice – Leave it to the Professionals. | The Recruitment Misfit

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