Five advanced CV tips

So, you have made sure your CV covers all the basics, including the ones I covered in this article. What else can you do to put the icing on the cake? In this article, I present five advanced CV tips that you can quickly incorporate to put the finishing touch on your CV before sending it out.


1. Take reading patterns into account

Most recruiters and hiring managers will look at a digital version of your CV, which means that they will read it on their computer or phone screen. Eyetracking research shows that people scan webpages and phone screens in distinct patterns. There are several common patterns, but perhaps the most common is the F-shaped pattern. In this pattern, the reader starts by reading along the top of the document, from left to right. He or she then continues to read downwards, along the left side of the document. This reading pattern resembles the capital letter F. Research also shows that recruiters typically only spend a few seconds reading a CV before losing interest. The reason for both of these findings is that recruiters don’t read your CV for fun – they have a very specific goal, namely to find out whether your CV is interesting enough to continue reading or not as quickly as possible. That’s why it is so important to make your CV ‘scannable’.


Combining the typical scanning pattern with the short time readers spend on your CV, it becomes apparent that positioning certain elements strategically can increase reader engagement. There are two things you can do to use this to your advantage. First, you can put the most interesting information along this F. You then hope that you can spark enough interest so that the reader chooses to look at your CV for longer and with more attention. Second, you can use design elements to force the reader into reading more of the page. You can do this by including visually ‘heavy’ elements outside of the F-pattern, such as headings, subheadings, bold text, colored text, bordered elements, images, and icons.


2. Put the most important information above the fold

This tip is related to the first tip. Web designers often speak of putting content either above or below the fold. On a web page, putting content ‘above the fold’ means putting it on the top half of the page, so that the user does not have to scroll to see it. Conversely, content that is put ‘below the fold’ can only be seen when the user scrolls down. The same concept applies to your CV. A reader will always look at the top of your document first. Therefore, it makes sense to put the most interesting and most important information above the fold. The question then is: what is the most interesting information? There is no singular answer to this question. If you have great work experience, that should go above the fold. However, if you don’t have any meaningful experience, but you do have very relevant skills, those should go above the fold. Ask yourself the following question: what 20% of the content on my CV would I want the reader to know, even if he skips over everything else? Put that above the fold. At a minimum, this should include your name, your contact details, and a good photo of yourself.


3. Add hyperlinks to digital content

Remember, the two main goals your CV should achieve are 1) to stand out, and 2) to tell a compelling story about yourself. One of the most challenging things is trying to fit your story into one or two pages. Sometimes, you want to provide more information. However, increasing the number of pages is usually a bad idea – it just makes the reader less motivated to take a detailed look at your CV. A good alternative is to add hyperlinks to digital content. Some people design a webpage about themselves. Others link to the websites of the companies they have worked at. The main idea is that the reader is triggered to click on the hyperlink, thereby spending more time getting to know your story. Make sure you hyperlink words that naturally appear on your CV instead of pasting an entire link into the document.


4. Make any gaps part of your story

Many people worry about gaps in their careers. A gap is any length of time that you didn’t spend working in a job. There are many reasons why you might have gaps: maybe you have traveled the world. Maybe you have taken time off to care for a family member. Perhaps you just didn’t find the job you wanted and just took some time off. None of this is a problem, as long as you make it a natural part of your story. It’s not so much about what you say, but mostly about how you say it. What did you learn about yourself by taking some time off from your career? What has it brought you? Give your gap a positive spin and don’t be ashamed of it. Nowadays, most people no longer have one single career, but multiple mini-careers throughout their working life. Gaps are a natural part of that.


5. Save and name the file properly

This is low-hanging fruit: before you send your CV to a potential employer, save it as a PDF and give the file an appropriate name. Saving it as a .pdf instead of a .doc prevents the layout from becoming messed up. A major point of irritation for recruiters, who often look at upwards of 40 CVs per day, are CVs with an unclear name. So, instead of naming the document ‘CV’, add your name to it, such as: ‘CV_Elon_Musk’.