What’s “Attention Span” Got to do with your CV?

Donald Trump is in the UK today and there are many people supporting him and slating him in the media, on Social Media and elsewhere. An old school friend has just slated him on Social Media, making the political point about him saying that the NHS was “On the table” as part of a trade agreement between the UK and the USA. 

Her point was that the NHS was sacred and should never be allowed to be part of any trade deal. Trump’s point was that there were elements of supply to the NHS which should be open to supply by companies from the US. 

Same point, two different opinions. 

Why Headlines are Important (Your CV success depends on this!)

In today’s sound bite, headline grabbing, attention seeking world, the headline is vital. People won’t spend much time reading this article and the truth is that they won’t spend a lot of time reading your CV. 

Some research points to the average time that recruiters and employers spend looking at your CV being 6 seconds. An interesting article from The Ladders, written in 2012 explains that 6 seconds is the average: https://www.theladders.com/career…/you-only-get-6-seconds-of-fame-make-it-count 

Seven years ago, the average time spent on a CV was 6 seconds so how long is it today? I’m guessing that the average time today is closer to 5 seconds or less. 

Making a great first impression with your CV

So, if the research is right and people will make a decision regarding their own point of view based on their own beliefs and opinions, what does that mean for your CV?

The first third of the first page of the CV is vital!

Your CV needs to make a great impression immediately, before the reader needs to scroll down the page and read more so make the most of the first section of your CV. Practically, what does that mean?

Don’t use a header and a footer in the document. Having too much white space at the top or bottom of the document isn’t going to help you. I’m not saying to squish the text to the very top of the page but leave a small space an make the most of the top section of the document. A recruiter will scroll or scan through quickly and will only return to your contact details if they want to call or email you. 

Make the profile succinct

The sweet spot for the career profile (also called objective, career summary and introduction among other things) is around the 100 word mark or less. Think speed networking or speed dating and you’ll get the idea.

Don’t fill the profile with superfluous buzz words but write succinctly and to the point. A recruiter or potential employer needs to know at this stage if you’re a potential fit, nothing more. 

A Key Achievements section really does work

If you’ve read my article regarding achievements and the benefit they have in your CV, you’ll understand that achievements are the secret sauce in a successful CV. That article can be accessed here

So if you are trying to make a great impression on a recruiter or employer that only looks at your CV for 5/6 seconds then it stands to reason that an achievements section at the very top of the CV is going to help. 

For example: 

Key Achievements

  • Effectively integrated large numbers of transient workers into major brown field projects on Gas Terminals and Offshore assets through conducting thought-provoking behavioural sessions.
  • Personally, implemented multiple warehouse processes including robust material lot tracking, ensuring traceability to the source supplier, a key requirement of ISO 13485:2016.

Two line bullet points work!

One of the elements that I’ve found through trial and error in the first place and gaining great results thereafter is that two line bullet points work better than one line or not having bullet points. In particular, in an achievements section, two line bullet points make the point quickly and effectively, gently guiding the reader through to the next point. 

Back to attention span

If you’ve read this far then you’ll get it. People have short attention spans so making it easy for the reader really does help! 

Author: Glenn Hughes

I’m a professional CV writer who also writes website content, LinkedIn profiles, helps people with bespoke job applications and more. I’ve been writing for the internet since 2009 and have many published articles.


  • Glenn Hughes

    I'm a professional CV writer who also writes website content, LinkedIn profiles, helps people with bespoke job applications and more. I've been writing for the internet since 2009 and have many published articles.

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