CV Writing, Job Search

Your CV and the 6-second Rule – Rules in CV Writing

If you want to get a job interview, your CV needs to pass the 6-second rule!

Have you ever wondered about rules in CV writing?

Whoever is looking for a job and wants to write their own CV and cover letter must have heard about CV rules and especially the 6-second rule. Some authors are a bit more generous so they say it’s a 15 seconds rule, or even 30.

The bottom line is this: recruiters and hiring managers are busy and you need to grab their attention. And you need to do it as soon as possible! So, as you might have concluded, there are some rules in CV writing.

One of the rules in CV writing: direct your reader's attention to your strong points!

Spoon-feed the reader

The first out of those rules in CV writing is basically this: you need to spoon-feed the reader. What does this mean? It means that you offer them information that they’re interested in. You don’t make them dig for information, you put it right in front of them!

In real life, this means that you will write about skills and experiences that are relevant for the position you’re interested in.

For example, if you want to work as a childminder, you will mention your relevant qualities, such as:

  • Trustworthy
  • Reliable
  • Emphatic
  • Creative

You will not mention anything that can’t help you in securing a job interview. For example, your proficiency in social media, advanced mathematical skills, your knowledge of till operations. Why? Because it is not relevant.

Remember, you want to spoon-feed your reader relevant information.


Focus on frequently used phrases…

Hand in hand with spoon-feeding your reader information is the fact that you need to focus on phrases that are frequently used in job ads. That would be our second rule in CV writing. Not just the one to which you’re applying to, but also those that appear in other job ads for the same or very similar position. That would be the second CV rule you should keep in mind.

To be able to do that, you’ll have to do a bit of a research and read quite a few job ads.

You need to focus on phrases that are frequently used – make sure you have those appearing in your CV and cover letter!

And remember: use your common sense and only write phrases that really apply to you (e.g. don’t say you’re proficient in Java if you’re not just because it’s in a job ad!).

Focus on frequently used phrases and keywords to get your CV noticed!…and keywords

This CV rule is pretty well-known, so you’ve probably heard about it already. Whenever we hear people talking about rules in CV writing, this term pops up.

Well, “keywords” are nothing else than words which we associate with a certain job ad. Similar to phrases, but not quite the same. Some job ads have actual “keywords” section. If that’s the case, definitely try to incorporate those in your CV or at least cover letter.

Same as with frequently repeated phrases, you need to use your common sense and only include those keywords that are applicable to you.


Make your CV easy to follow

While the above might be more directed towards a CV scanning software, the remaining few CV rules are definitely about humans!

When you’re applying to jobs, you need to be realistic. You are not the only applicant and if your CV is long, confusing and visually messy, you will not pass the 6-second rule.

So, make sure your CV is easy to follow. Have clearly outlined section titles with bullet points and keep the same formatting.

Don’t use different fonts, long paragraphs or different ways to present your work experience. What I mean by this is don’t present one work experience with 3 paragraphs, another one with 5 bullet points…stay consistent so it’s easier to follow your train of thoughts.


Stick to simple language

Another thing that will help you pass the 6 second CV rule is sticking to simple language. Avoid long and complex ways of saying something – especially if it doesn’t bring value to your CV.

For example, if you worked as a waiter, you can say that you “ensured customers felt welcome by providing a warm greeting”, “promptly brought the most up-to-date selection of drinks and food”, and “patiently waited for customers to decide on their order, wrote down their specific desires, and forwarded the orders to the kitchen team”.

While this is all technically correct, the way you said it is a bit too long. Remember that your CV needs to be clear and precise, especially if it’s spilling over to 2 pages. So, instead of the above, you can say that you “welcomed customers, presented the menu, took and processed orders”. It’s practically the same thing and we saved a lot of page space.

There is no need for you to create a “superhero” position.

Keep it simple!Don’t distract the reader

And last but not least when we’re talking about rules in CV writing, make sure your CV doesn’t contain any “distractors”. What are distractors? Whatever is pulling away your reader’s attention.

Here are the most common distractors:

  • Unusual looking fonts
  • Flowers/waves/any type of objects that are used to make your CV “pretty”
  • Mixing horizontal and vertical presentation of the information
  • Your photograph
  • Icons, tables, diagrams

Your CV has to show your suitability for the role, it doesn’t have to be “pretty” or colorful.

Your content should be doing all the talking. It is with relevant phrases, keywords, clear structure, and simple language that you show your suitability for the role.

Get professional advice!

In the end, you can always get professional advice. That can also help with understanding the above CV rules. Linking Lines, like many other CV writing services, offers free CV analysis. What we do is we go over your CV, share our overall impression of it, and advise what should be changed in order to improve your job search. You can avail of our service here.

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