Speed dating your CV: 20 seconds is all it takes

Sadie Franke 11.02.2019

We are always being told how to improve CV’s by adding to them – but what about the elements you need to take away as well?

Imagine being the manager hiring for a prospective role in their company and seeing that you have over 50 applications to review, along with very little time to do it. Get rid of the jargon hiring managers don’t want to see, put in the juicy stuff and they will soon start noticing you. 


This opens up a whole world of pain for potential employers, not to mention taking up crucial space on your CV where you could be detailing more relevant experience. As well as personal information that doesn’t need to be detailed on your CV such as marital status, number of children and date of birth – by including a photo you are opening up the possibility that potential managers feel they have judged you based on appearance.

Fluffy Stuff

Words that are used by almost every job seeker and yet they add almost nothing to your CV. Examples of these words include ‘expert’, ‘dynamic’, ‘patient’ and ‘driven’. Things you have accomplished should be able to convey the message that these words signify. Keep it real – give them something tangible to evaluate!

Jobs that you did more than 10 years ago

Hopefully your skills and experience have amounted to enough in the last five years to give an employer a good indication of what you can bring to the table than the temp month-end role you did ten years ago. Don’t pad your CV out with unnecessary information; even just a few bullet points of role, company and dates will do if you want to demonstrate unbroken career history. 

Using the same CV every time

Employers look at two things; what have you achieved so far in your career and what value this could add to their company. It takes a prospective employer around 20 seconds to scan your CV before deciding if they want to find out more – do this every time you apply for a different role and you’ll soon see why you’re not getting the call backs. 

Not including relevant experience or qualifications

This is a biggie! Sifting through applications and job boards to find suitable candidates is often done via a keyword search – so if you have the skill but it’s not on your CV, how are you going to be in the search results? Detail specific projects or periods of change you have gone through, any particular system skills, regulation knowledge or qualifications such as ISEB, Solvency II, SAS or VISIO. 

Not using facts and figures

Leading on from detailing experience of implementing change or improvements, simply saying ‘you managed to secure cost reductions across the division’ does not give a wow factor. Go that bit deeper into relating exactly how much you saved across what amount of time and the benefits of doing so. If you have multiple strings to your achievement bow, choose those most suited for the job you are applying for.

Leaving unexplained gaps

Short and sweet explanations – studying/maternity leave/family bereavement can be covered off further, if at all, at interview stage. Not explaining gaps instantly leaves question marks over this period compared to an unbroken career history

Bad formatting

No more than three pages of information are needed on your CV – but don’t just throw information in for the sake of it. It can be short and punchy with only three years’ worth of career after graduating/commencing work or detailed statements that show progression – as long as it is all relevant. Ensure you save your CV in a .doc format rather than .docx or .pdf format, as some formats are a hiring manager or recruiters nightmare!

Remember “less is more” as long as it has the impact you want to make on potential hiring managers – or recruiters – that are looking at your CV. You need to ensure each application you make has tailored, relevant and eye-catching content. 

Sadie Franke's picture
Senior Consultant | Accounting and Finance Recruitment