JR on: The CV

JR on: The CV

In this post, we will address 'The CV' and provide you with a structure that we believe works. If interested in the structure alone, please feel free to skip to The CV and general format, however, if interested in an overview as to 'why' then please read on.

In 2018, Ladders inc., a leading job site in the US, released the details of its Eye-Tracking Study. In this study, eye-tracking software was used to assess the eye movements of recruiters as they performed CV reviews; this included the amount of time spent looking at each CV. The most startling revelation to come from this was that the average screening time was just 7.4 seconds.

This study only observed a small sample size of 30 recruiters, so would likely not be sufficient to take into consideration different sectors and specialisms or the varying experience ranges of the recruiters and candidates. However, it is interesting to know that this study was also performed several years prior finding that the average was even lower at just 6 seconds.

The most startling revelation was that the on average, CV screening time was just 7.4 seconds.

If we were to take this study seriously, we should conclude that the first 7-10 seconds really count when making that first impression with a CV.

As such, CVs must have:

• Focused information - large bodies of text not advisable.
• Thorough information - never undersell yourself.
• Clear visual hierarchy - elements should be arranged to show order of importance.

These 3 elements are not necessarily the easiest to balance. For example, someone with high levels of experience would need to balance the need to present focused information, while being thorough enough so as not to undersell their breadth of knowledge and experience. In contrast, someone with less experience may find it easy to be concise but may find it harder to know which elements are most important within the visual hierarchy.

While it is difficult to balance the elements above, it is not impossible:

The answer lies in the way the mind works. In any reading task that we set ourselves, the mind subconsciously:

• Seeks order.
• Looks for a time frame - how long the task will take to complete.

How do we take advantage of this?

The answer lies in 'chunking' the information.

Chunk information into digestible segments

By chunking information, the brain sees structure and a time frame in which that snippet of information can be read. As a result, the mind is more likely to be drawn to the information. Not only can this aid us when creating a CV, but it can also help with improving memory and retention of your details. This can be achieved through the utilisation of appropriate headings, subheadings paragraphs, and bullet points to condense information into digestible chunks.

Studies have indicated that the average short-term working memory can hold between 5-9 pieces of information; however, chunking the information allows for much greater retention of information (if interested read Miller's 'The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two'). When trying to remember a phone number, it is better to break it down into chunks. For example, the phone number 12345854321 is much easier to remember if we split it into 3 small chunks, e.g. 1234 - 585 - 4321, compared to if we try and remember all 11 numbers in one go. Chunking allows us to take small segments of information and combine them into a memorable whole.

The next section will discuss exactly how to integrate the principles of chunking into the structure of your CV.



Headings are particularly important to allow for chunking of information and the highlighting of key information applicable to the role you are applying for. It is up to you exactly how you arrange your headings, but below is one example that chunks information into digestible segments and is a tested formula.

General Format

1. Personal details

Provide a list of your personal details such as:

• Name
• Address for location (state if flexible, especially if the role is not within what you would perceive as commutable distance)
• Phone Number
• Email

If you have a LinkedIn, you could consider putting this link beneath your phone and email. CVs are usually read digitally for ease and GDPR purposes, and therefore hyperlinks will be clickable. This is especially useful if you have a well-kept LinkedIn page, and the reader takes interest in your profile. This is a good way of showcasing testimonials without dropping them into your CV.

If you wanted it to look more professional:

• You can get a LinkedIn button (picture) and paste it underneath the address on your document.
• Click on the picture and press Ctrl +K on PC or Command + K on a Mac. This opens a hyperlink window.
• Select 'Existing file or Web page' and then you can add the link to your LinkedIn by typing in the address, meaning anyone clicking on that button is now taken to your page.
• As an additional step, click on 'ScreenTip', this is the information that is displayed when you hover over a link. Type whatever you wish to be displayed when they hover over the button. Otherwise, it will show the entire link.
You can now test this link by holding Ctrl and clicking it on a PC or Command and clicking on a Mac.

2. Qualifications

As your experience increases and takes precedence, you may decide to move your academics and qualifications to the bottom of your CV. However, for a role where more emphasis is placed on academics and/or specific qualifications, and where you have less than 4-5 years' experience, it would be best to keep this section at the top of your CV. Beyond this recommendation, it is subject to personal taste where you place this section. Always remember to organise the information chronologically from the most recent qualification backwards.

3. Personal Statement

An optional short paragraph (no more than 6 or 7 lines depending on formatting) detailing a quick summary of what you consider most important about you, your experience and anything else you believe may be valuable to the reader when considering you for the role.

4. Key Skills/ Highlights section.

This section should contain a bullet-pointed summary of skills you believe will be important to the role you are applying for (you may have the job description to use as inspiration). Each of the key skills can be described in more detail within the experience section of your CV. This key skills area can be amended for each role you apply for allowing flexibility. This will hugely increase your chances of selection.

• When looking through CVs, the reviewer tends to pinpoint key snippets of information that may be suited to both the role and the employer's requirements. This is usually done before any contact is made with the candidate. With a relevant key skills section, you can save the reviewer some time and encourage them to read on to the detailed experience section beneath.

This is a classic example of information 'chunking' and using the mind's desire for finding order and structure to our advantage. Everyone, including those with less experience, should strongly consider adding a key skills section to their CV.

5. Work Experience

The most important section. This should be structured chronologically from the most recent experience backwards. There are many formats that work. One would be to include headings to show the company name and the dates you were employed in each role. You should list any promotions at the same company immediately beneath in the same dated format if your responsibilities did not change - this will demonstrate progression.

If your responsibilities did change:

1. Add dates at company and company underneath.
2. Include your most recent job title (and the dates you held the title)
3. Add bullets outlining responsibilities while working at the specific role
4. Repeat the process beneath but without again listing the company.

Beneath your heading, and in bullet point format, you should list the experience you have gained as part of the role. Your most recent role and your longest role should contain the most information. Take into consideration:
• All experience acquired in each role. Before starting, make a list of all your experience and think long and hard about all the elements that make up the roles you have occupied. Do not sell yourself short here.
• The experience that will be most important to the roles you will be applying for and emphasise these parts. Your key skills section will have led them to look at this closely, so provide thorough description. If you have performed a broad spectrum of responsibilities throughout, you can list the different types of work by sub-headings for example:

• People management
• Business development
• Corporate M&A
• Company Secretarial
• Key achievements in the role

6. Skills (Language, Computing)

Languages can be useful to companies; especially as flexible roles are on the increase and companies are becoming more internationally focused. If you speak other languages, especially with fluency then make sure to add this.

7. Publications, awards, memberships

This is about going above and beyond. If you write articles, have won awards, or are a member of a body relating to your career, include this on your CV. These extra activities demonstrate your passion, enthusiasm, and commitment.

8. Interests/ Hobbies

Some recruiters swear by the interests/hobbies section of a CV, and it can even come up in discussion as part of your interview. When discussing an interest or hobby, body language and communication style tends to relax; this can lend insight into what the person might be like to work with. It also provides insight into how they might present if their role requires presentation skills.

Suitability for role requirements can be demonstrated in many ways. Some employers search purely for technical aptitude, as this is the most important for their environment and role. To succeed in other environments requires a plethora of soft skills, emotional intelligence, and communication styles.

Other factors to consider

The Font

Keep it simple and legible. Serif fonts have small decorative flourishes on the ends of the strokes. Whilst attractive, this means that as the content gets smaller or more layered, the font becomes harder to read. Sans serif fonts do not have the flourishes and are more legible. Have a look at a popular sans serif font and see if any suit you.

Keep it simple and use a sans serif font.

Some examples:

• Arial
• The attractive and free Roboto font from 'Google Fonts'
• Helvetica
• Calibri

First or third person?

Choose the first person, whilst ensuring you do not use "I". Examples from a mix of professions might be:

• Drafting and negotiating EMEA - wide SaaS agreements and software licence agreements.
• Sole legal point of contact for Procurement.
• Ensuring the company's financial systems, processes and procedures are compliant with legislation.
• Responsible for the oversight and delivery of annual budgets.
• Partnering with key stakeholders globally to build performance management procedures and advise on employee relations issues.

Although optional, choose the first person.

Two-page rule myth

You may be able to fit your experience onto two pages if you have little experience; however, as you gain more experience technically, commercially, and as your soft skills develop, this becomes more and more difficult to achieve. You may find your experience spans 4 pages. If you try to keep your CV to two pages you run the risk of underselling yourself.

As your more recent experience becomes increasingly relevant, you may be able to reduce the length of your prior experience, but be careful not to compromise the ability of the reader to understand of the route that led to your most recent role.

As we know, it is not necessarily about the length of your CV, but the way it is presented. Knowing how to choose the right structure and how to chunk information in a logical way will be your most powerful tool for building a successful CV.


You are not alone. If you are working with a good recruiter, then they will be able to provide insights into how to make yourself stand out and may be able to help tweak your CV to maximise your opportunities.