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Ask Lawrence: Can you quickly review my CV?

14 Feb 11:00 By Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers review CV

Whether we like it or not, CV’s are a necessity when it comes to applying for jobs. Unless you’re one of those lucky ones who have managed to land in job after job, there will come a point where you need to sit down and really fine tune your CV to become an effective document to promote your number one asset: You!

I often receive requests from people asking if I will take a moment to review their CV. I will often approach this task with the same mentality that I do when people apply for a job; I’ll open the CV and see what immediately jumps out at me about this person and what they do. I can fully appreciate that it can often be hard to try to condense down a lifetime of experience into one document and, in the creative industry, make it look like it comes from a designer mind. This is part of the challenge though, as I will still frequently see people who cram way too much information into their CV with the hope of covering all bases. And let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of that at some point or another although it pays to be aware of what current psychological research says about layout and how to convey information.

Research indicates that the average CV has a mere six seconds to convey what the reader needs to see. That’s it! Six seconds!

From my own experience, I allow more than six seconds however I also know that when I have over a hundred CV’s to work through, there is a fine juggling act between being able to qualify the person’s suitability respectfully vs getting the job done. This six-second statistic isn’t solely assigned to recruiters and HR professionals. I recall being back in my marketing role within the music industry and having my Marketing Director drilling into us repeatedly that the street posters advertising new albums and tours needed to be light on content, high on design and allowing the message to be conveyed quickly, easily and effectively within the space of a second.  New research into Facebook video streaming also indicates that some of the statistics around that are flawed simply due to the fact that many people didn’t watch more than 3 seconds of the video - 3 seconds! We’re in a modern world where communication relies upon instant gratification in order to be successful. Sadly, the mentality now is that if you have to work for it, then it is just too hard - although this is clearly not a rule that impacted the first season of ‘Game of Thrones’.

If you even look within the world of UX, there are particularly placement positions for certain sign ups or button clicks that not only work best but also influence. You’ll be told to frequently put important information and action on the right-hand side of the screen because this is how our minds work. Advancements in the way we consume information are also going to slowly but surely have an impact on how we look at information offline too. It’s basically down to the creation of new habits.

I think it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the CV. While it is great to offer up some insight into who you are, it is ultimately a ‘sales tool’ to help promote your services (or brand) and to win business. There is nothing wrong with viewing your CV as a selling tool. The point of the CV should be to quickly and easily convey what you can do, what your experience has been and what success you’ve had with that. This is the creative brief; the problem of how to get the right content and work it in with a design that you feel proud to put forward. I’m certainly not expecting a word doc with Times Roman font here either; a graphic designers CV needs to look like a graphic designer created it after all. 

The CV is the foot in the door and, once they meet you, then you can bring the rest of the package to the table to seal the deal.

It reminded me of my own recent experience. While many people may not know this, I have a small business working as a counsellor and therapist. I recently finished one of my monthly supervision sessions with the instruction that I needed to diversify my marketing approach. I had decided on creating a postcode and print them up with a special offer. Upon finishing my postcard design, I posted it to Facebook and found that several of my mentors immediately responded to tell me that my postcard was ‘too generic. Not niche enough. Too much information and far too broad.’ At the time, I felt frustration because I had just spent time, energy and money to create this however I think deep down I knew they were right. I didn’t want to hear it but I knew that the intention behind the feedback was only to see more opportunities be created for me. For the record, I’ve had not one cracker come from those postcards but it was a timely reminder that we need to really consider how we want to present ourselves and our brand to the world. There has to be that meeting ground between the look and feel vs the kind of content that is going to attract opportunities. 

There is no shame in going back to the drawing board to revise and refine how we present ourselves even further. All of us need to do this. My postcards weren’t bad. They got plenty of great feedback from friends however if they do not generate any form of response, do they become nothing more than attractive little pieces of cardboard? There will be times whenever we are self-employed or running a small business where we have to realistically look at the tools that we have and consider if they’re being as effective as we would like and, if not, take on board the feedback that has been offered to improve them.  No one is an absolute expert in all things design, recruitment and the psychology of what makes people go for one thing over another; this is where an open and creative attitude to explore, research and create is going to win opportunities for you.

If you have any thoughts, questions or simply would like to get in touch with me and offer up a topic for the next Ask Lawrence, you can contact me on or you can find me and connect with me on LinkedIn. You can check out more jobs by going to our website or you can search for them on Twitter via #CRJOBS.

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