The perfect CV – From a recruiter’s point of view

A resume or a curriculum vitae (CV) is a personal marketing document the teaser that will get the reader’s attention and convince them to have a discussion with you.

Highlighting why you are the most suitable candidate for a desired role and what makes you unique from the other applicants is what resume and CV building is all about! 


The following set of guidelines will help you understand if your CV has a good chance of being noticed and to successfully clear the first hurdle.

  1. Short and to the point

As they say about public speeches, a CV should be like a dress – short enough to be interesting, long enough to cover the subject. Ideally a CV should be more than 2-3 pages. Even if you need to have a lengthy CV, ensure that the most important information is on the first page.

  1. Does it pass the 6 second test?

Your CV is one of hundreds of CVs that may pass through the eyes of the person shortlisting the CV. How much time would this person have to look at your CV? Some say it’s as short as six seconds. It will definitely be a very short time. Therefore, your CV should give the reader the most amount of information within a short period of time.

  1. Structure – Most important and relevant information first

You CV should have a pyramid structure. The most important information should be at the top and this information should consist of the key elements that will help the recruiter match your skills to the job role. For example, the most important elements would be your job related experience. This is especially true for junior positions where job related experience will give you a competitive advantage over the other profiles. Even if you did a summer internship in your dad’s company, you could add that as job experience! As you go down the pyramid, you could expand the key highlights that you mentioned at the top.

The key points are:

  • The most important and relevant information at the top and on the first page (6 second test).
  • The job information should be in reverse chronological order.
  • Expand as you go further
  • Supplementary information should all appear in the subsequent pages.
  • Use space creatively and make sure you pack most of the important information on the first page as long as the reader doesn’t need a microscope!
  • You contact details should be at the Top left hand corner so that its easily accessible. (I will restate the obvious – your contact details should be accurate and keep your phone switched on)
  • Your CV should be neat and tidy – especially if you have mentioned that you are very good with word processing applications. Use of invisible tables will be useful in terms of aligning your text.

One trick would be to take each information in your CV and ask – is this piece of information essential to getting the job? If the answer is “maybe”, move it to the second or third page!

  1. Format – Make it memorable and Unique

Do you follow a cookie cutter approach (all students in the university follow a standard format)? Or do you develop your own format? The answer is, – it depends!

For creative job roles – I would urge you to use your creativity within your CV. For example, a UI or UX engineer or a Marketing Executive would use elements of creativity, design skills, writing skills to send a subtle (or not so subtle!) message about your skills. I know of a few memorable CV formats that helped candidates find a job.

My advice is not to follow a cookie cutter approach. Your CV should be unique and you should take time to design a good format. If you use a standard format, you will not be able to grab the attention at the first gate during shortlisting. Picture a person going through 50-100 CV’s a day. If you make your CV stand out from the crowd, you will have a better chance of getting into the first round.

  1. Be Professional

This aspect is sometimes forgotten, especially by first timers. The following points are extremely important and, in most cases, not considered, which could drastically reduce your chances of being shortlisted.

  • Fancy e-mail addresses – never use fun email addresses that you used during your undergraduate days. This seems obvious, but I have seen email addresses like “superguy1996” and “brerrabbit32” on CVs. What is even more horrifying are official email addresses on CV’s. Never use your official or personal email addresses for sending your CV or mention them on the CV. Create a professional email id that will be used for this purpose. You could also tie this up with your LinkedIn account and use it for purposes that are related to your career. Using a personal email id could open up other problems such as your email address ending up in a common database that could have security issues.
  • Pictures – obviously, selfies are a NO, but we do come across CV’s that have pictures of this nature! A professional looking picture is essential and again it can be linked to your profession. Remember, your biceps should remain covered unless you are applying for a modelling job!
  • Ring tones – try not to have ring tones that can put first time callers off. You may like hip hop but picture a Head of HR listening to your HIP HOP/RAP ring tone as he/she impatiently waits for you to pick up the phone! Remember, that your CV is being scrutinized by human beings with various perceptions. This is unavoidable. So don’t leave any chances where you will be rejected before you have a chance to talk to the company.
  • Confidential information – never share any information that is confidential. These could be details of clients, projects you have undertaken or even your accomplishments. However, sharing this information on a CV could be violating some of the terms of employment with your current organization. For example, sharing your sales figures, client details on a CV would be a sure way of being rejected. Same goes for links to internal systems or proprietary web sites. There have been instances where the CV contained the password to the test site! A definite NO. 
  • Keep Track – Keep track of where you send the CV to. its quite unprofessional to ask the caller what the position you have applied for is!
  1. Other tips
  • Get in there early – send your CV as soon as you see the advert. If the job role attracts many applicants, there is a chance that the company would find the right person within the first 50 CV’s that they receive.
  • Don’t send too many applications – If you are interested in two different areas – make sure you have two different CV’s that will highlight the areas related to the role.
  • Call to find out the status of the CV – However, there is a fine line between following up and harassment! You should not become too memorable to the recruitment team!
  • No mistakes – Proofread your CV until you find the last mistake. Letting someone else proof read is much more effective.
  1. Finally…

Your CV is a living document and needs to be upgraded and updated as and when there are changes to your career. Many people will tell you how to write or not to write a CV. In the end the choice is yours on how you want to make it look. The responsibility lies with you to make the CV noticeable and memorable so that you will land that job.

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