When I am looking at a CV, I want to make my own mind up. So I am not interested in your opinion of yourself. After all I would expect it to be high, surely you believe that you had the right skills to move on to the next role? And if you cannot say nice things about yourself, who can?

A CV that impresses me is normally from somebody who has made a difference to the companies they have worked for. Who can show me they have improved turnover by say 20%. Who have improved profitability by perhaps 50%, who have increased workshop efficiency by 10%.

So do not be tempted to give me a whole load of skills that I will ignore. Especially if you are a genuine performer. If you know you are, shout about it.

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I have reckoned for some time that you have about 8 seconds to make an impression with your CV. However recent research by some of the largest websites shows that time has now shrunk to 6 seconds. So when you sit down to write your CV, do not be tempted to think that the tiniest detail is important, that every single facet of your life needs to be included. It doesn’t.

What can you look at in six seconds? Well I will tell you what I look for.



Companies you have worked for

Your most recent job title

Any notable achievements.

If some or all of those interest me, then we continue reading. But if most of your experience is with the wrong companies or in the wrong industry, you live in the wrong location for the job I am filling, you have moved about much too much or you do not really demonstrate too many achievements then I move on.

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The problem for a number candidates is that they are too desperate to get the job. We see it too often – this is the job of their dreams, they are scared stiff to make a mistake and extremely eager to please.

So while they start off with the best intentions, they are also desperate for the best answer for every scenario. They do their homework thoroughly and make sure they are able to answer every question positively and comprehensively. And just suppose that what they have done before doesn’t fit in quite with the truth. They think that they have to display the right competency or give the right answer, so they maybe bend reality a little. And if there is an answer that they don’t know the answer to, they don’t say so, they just guess, or even worse they make it up.

There is an old truism in recruitment, and I suspect in many other areas of life, that if you tell the truth you never have to remember anything. It is quite a powerful, liberating idea. You will never trip yourself up, you will never have to ask for a copy of your CV from your recruitment consultant, because you can’t remember what you said in it. You will never have to be ready with a quick explanation to hopefully explain away inconsistencies in your story.

And there is another added benefit, the employer will end up employing the real you, rather than the one you wanted to get across. And you know the worst result in all of this? When the recruiter doesn’t like the “you” that you are trying to portray, but would have preferred the regular person.

Tell the truth, it is so much easier when you remember everything.

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Having any online interview is an unnatural situation for many of us, and needs a little practice. One of the most common mistakes, one that I am very used to seeing, is that you tend to look at the picture on screen. Unconsciously that makes you look shifty as you are not looking them straight in the eye.

So when you want to make a particular point strongly, especially at the beginning when you are keen to make a first impression, try looking at the WebCam instead. It has far greater impact. Imagine looking at a newscaster on the television who merely looks at their notes, or reads from a point well below the camera. It doesn’t look great.

The next time you have an online interview, when you want to look impressive look straight at the WebCam, your interviewer will feel that you are looking straight at them and it could make all the difference.

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The Internet has changed everything. With one click of the mouse you can apply to hundreds of jobs, but so can everyone else.

While it is easier to apply, it is much more difficult to stand out.

And it is more difficult for companies to choose the right one, so the way they view and sift applications has also changed.

Because just as machines have helped with applications, they are also doing a lot of the selection. Programs that look at relevance, experience, character, stability and many other factors.  Sifting began with simple pre-qualifying questions, but now some recruiters use sophisticated readers to scan application letters and CVs against specific criteria. Scary.

As we go increasingly mobile, recruitment decisions are now being made on mobile phones and iPads rather than paper. So you need to ensure your CV will stand up to scrutiny and out from the crowd when viewed in these new formats.

So, what can you do?

First of all, read the advertisement carefully. What is the company looking for? Look at your CV, especially the “profile” section. Savvy applicants now make sure this profile matches almost exactly what is requested in the advertisement.

This is not for the benefit of humans, who rarely read profiles, but for computers who never tire of them.

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I’m a motor industry specialist, and if you are already working in the industry and looking to move, you will almost certainly be sending your CV to a motor industry specialist. So you don’t need to tell me what a parts manager does, or give me a sales manager’s job description, or even explain that a parts advisor is there to serve customers, identify parts and put them on the shelf. Because I already know that.

But what I don’t know is the franchises that you have worked with, the number of staff you control, the amount of stock you are responsible for. And nor do I know what you have achieved, how your operation has improved since you joined, what targets you have met. And that is the real information that I will make my decisions on. If you want to get to an interview, don’t be lazy and leave it until then to tell me that information as you may well get filtered out beforehand.

So your CV should tell me what you have achieved, rather than describe the job you have been doing.

(or: Making an impact)

We have looked at plenty of people reading CV’s.

One thing you notice about their behaviour is how quickly they can reject an individual, how fast they make a decision about those they don’t want to see.

We reckon you have 10 seconds maximum to make an impact, and if somebody likes you they may read the CV for up to a minute. That is it, no more interest than that.

And it makes sense for a hard-pressed regional director or dealer principal faced with a pile of say 30 applicants. They will sort those into the Definites, the Maybes and the Rejects within five minutes. And that means, if you do the maths, an average of 10 seconds a CV. And if they don’t have enough then they may come back to the Maybes and read them in greater depth. But they won’t spent more than a few minutes doing so.

So the most important message is that your CV should be detailed enough to sell you but short enough to be read comfortably within a minute and to make an impact within 10 seconds. Whatever the layout, whatever the format you send it in, 2 pages and 650 words.

And there are no exceptions to this rule. I have heard people pleading that they are a special case, that their experience merits more than that, that they are different to everyone else. Well, you are all different, you have different experience, different views, different capabilities.

But broadly speaking you recruiters have the same needs, to quickly and efficiently sort the wheat from the chaff. And if your CV is too difficult, too involved, too much like War and Peace then you will get rejected more often than others.

When you only need one job, when you only need that slight advantage for one opportunity, then do not think you are that different. You won’t stand out from the crowd, you’re more likely to languish in the recycle bin.

I have just done a little exercise. I have taken out 10 random CV’s of people I have recently met. Bearing in mind I know these individuals, here are some slightly worrying statistics:

  • nine were “dynamic”
  • eight were “great communicators”
  • seven were “highly motivated”
  • six were “passionate about customer service”
  • five were “charismatic”
  • most worrying of all, four were “responsible for the day-to-day running of this busy dealership”

Clichéd phrases such as this do none of you any favours. We don’t believe a single word of them, especially having met all of the individuals – I don’t believe they have any relevance to their job applications at all. Focus on concrete achievements, rather than giving us your clichéd view of your background and your abilities.

Think of it this way. Do you really believe that DFS has a sale every day of the week? Are you utterly convinced that payday lenders let you borrow responsibly? Do you truly believe that 8 out of 10 cats prefer a particular brand?

This is how we think about a lot of stuff that is said on CV’s, as I say stick to the facts, concentrate on your concrete achievements, focus on how professional, disciplined and organised you are and you will probably not go far wrong. Try and tell me that you were better in motor trade terms than Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney and I probably won’t believe you.

And nor will a potential employer.

Control what is in your control, and do not worry unnecessarily about anything else is the sportsman’s (or sportswoman’s) mantra.  A lot of you who are out there applying for jobs worry too, but they don’t give the impression of being too concerned about the things they can really control, like spelling……

If you spell things wrong a number of employers will reject you out of hand or put you way down the list.

Illogical?  Probably, but reality.  And there are a few typos that we see loads of, and really should not happen – let me talk specifics:

  • Curriculum Vitae is the correct spelling (it is Latin for “the course or the path of your life” if you wanted to know.)
  • Dealer Principal – not Principle, which is all about morals. Some would say the two don’t go together.
  • Guy Liddall, not Liddle or Liddell and certainly not LiDL.

I only mention these because spelling errors are unforgivable. Spell Check is pretty good nowadays and there is no excuse for failing to press that all-important button before you publish a document.

The spelling of my name does not matter, but it tells me that you cannot be bothered to check. If you are addressing an application, you have to take the time to make sure you get the recipient’s name correct as well as the address.

Then you won’t worry that you’ll be rejected for this illogical, unfair reason.

In general, reducing a large number of applications down to a manageable shortlist is a negative job – who can I exclude?

So if you give recruiters too much irrelevant information they will have more reasons to reject you. They will do so really quickly if they are under pressure.

By studying the way that we and our clients process applications, here are some challenging observations (looking at 30 applications in 15 minutes is not unusual):

  • You have 10-15 seconds to make an impact
  • You might then get 30-60 seconds of detailed study
  • Employers read more if everything is where they expect it
  • Bullet points stand out and grab the reader’s attention
  • Personal profiles rarely get read or believed
  • We like to make an initial decision from the first page
  • We only have the time to read 2 pages

So make it short snappy and positive – oh, and don’t just give a job description – we all know what you , but not what you have achieved.