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Is The CV A Catch 22?

Is The CV a Catch 22?


Rumour has it, the CV is dead mainly due to continual technology advancements. We don’t know what life span the CV may have, but for the foreseeable we expect it to be a key tool in the war for talent in Northern Ireland!

One conflict becoming very evident to our team in Abacus Recruitment however, is that while we urge the jobseeker/candidate to commit more and more time to maximise your CV, the hiring manager is committing less and less time to review it. So while it is still around, what can you do to leverage even a few more seconds to help you get shortlisted for the role?

Here’s the old favourite. Our top ten tips:

Key real estate. If employers are supposedly spending (6 or 30) seconds assessing your CV, then they won’t glance much further than the top half of page 1. Are you using this space wisely? Too much white space is clean but perhaps a lost opportunity.

Profile – a 1-2 paragraph profile will grab their attention. It won’t be easy but make it succinct, interesting and relevant. Email Abacus for great examples via

Flow – Ok, so you got them at hello, now the hiring manager or HR person wants a little more detail, or even evidence. Make sure the content flows well, the message and writing style is consistent throughout.

Dates – a common failing / annoyance to address. Use months and years (throughout, not just in part) and also any gaps. If you travelled for 3 months, then state you travelled for 3 months. It may be a soft introductory talking point in an interview!

Facts and figures – we like these. If relevant to the role, then it demonstrates value and outcome e.g. ‘increased staff count (or clients) by 43%’; ‘my project plan saved £56,500’; ‘I reduced waste by 130%’; ‘I doubled my target by 300%’.

Checking – one spelling mistake is too many so use tools to check it, review it repeatedly and even get someone – ideally with sound attention to detail – to review it.

Relevance – perhaps the most important. From top to toe, if it’s relevant then emphasise it. If not, discard or reduce it at least.

Achievements – what have you accomplished in your role is a better story to sell than what your Job Description duties indicate. Avoid pasting what is probably a dated reflection on what you do!

Style – apply some tools to add to the layout e.g. italic job titles, bold key words (relevant to the job specification) will draw attention from the reader’s eye. Bullets over heavy paragraphs. Avoid tables, pictures and graphics.

And the flip side, what to Avoid. So you don’t need to tell anyone your marital status, your age, the number of children, nationality or religion to name a few. You don’t need to add a photo (which is probably 5 years old) or create links to your social profile! You don’t need to supply referee details either or pepper the document with loads of clichés (note, we are all organised team players with a desire to learn!). And we communicate in a very effective way!

Since 2003, the team in Abacus has reviewed thousands of CVs each year. We still remember the lady who told us she had been sterilised, the girl with the ridiculous (and not funny anymore) email address, the cover letter explaining a recent emotional break up. Be remembered for the right reasons.  If you need to discuss this further or want us to comment on your specific CV then send it to

Article by Alan Braithwaite, Business Director in Abacus Recruitment. Abacus is based in Northern Ireland and is a leading recruitment brand.

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