It’s your CV! 7 front-page rules to hook your audience

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When I discuss the topic of CV's with hiring managers and recruiters they say the old CV templates being floated around on the net just don't cut it anymore. And, in today's increasingly fast paced world of screening job applicants in or out, when it comes to your curriculum vitae (CV) 'less is more' may be gaining popularity.  However - that's not an invitation to ignore the complexities of automated processes and to compromise on quality! Quite the opposite.

'quality content is king'

 Hooking your audience

The front-page content must hook your audience.  It's where the reader expects to see relevant experience aligned to their needs (advertised and researched). If you're on message with their needs, they’ll get hooked very quickly and be compelled to call you. The reader will gain a sense of urgency because you're obviously in demand - right?

How much time have you got?

6 seconds.

That’s it!

Recruiters are trained to very quickly scan your CV for relevancy. They may decide to read on - or not!

There's an abundance of research available online that says recruiters may spend around 6 seconds scanning your CV to identify if your experience is fit for purpose.  Now, whether you agree with this or not, the message is clear; You no-longer have the luxury of a self-indulgent 30 second elevator pitch.

Read more about recruiter CV review behaviour here.

The 7 Rules


From my own discussions with hiring managers and results taken from an online poll the top 5 areas to include in the front page of your CV.

  1. Qualificationsand relevant certifications: These should be on the front page - not languishing at the back of your CV somewhere in the hope that the reader may actually get there. If you have a tertiary degree, diploma, certifications or professional memberships that are relevant consider putting them next to, or below your name.
  2. LinkedIn URL:Provide a URL address to your LinkedIn profile. Your CV and LinkedIn profile should be aligned to remove ambiguity, conflict and doubt.  If you haven't got a LinkedIn profile you may be sabotaging your chances for those who do have a good one.  Your call!
    You will find your LinkedIn URL in your contact detail on your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Brief personal profile:  Note - this is not the old styled 3 paragraph statement of 'objectives' and what you like to do in your spare time!  Briefly outline your recent experience relevant to the role at hand including size and scale.  This 5 second read hits the highest priority hot buttons of the role and consequently grabs the attention of the reader. At this point the reader may invest another 5 seconds.
  4. Recent Career Summary:Go back 10 to 15 years max. Show a single line employment history for each role. Role, company, tenure (from – to, including months). This demonstrates relevant career path and natural progression into the role at hand.
  5. Key Skills and recent experience:This is where you shine! Demonstrate outcomes supported by an applicable skill. You’re demonstrating here – very succinctly what you bring to the table for the role - supported by evidence of application. This is not an opportunity for you to demonstrate you know how to search the internet for competency frameworks!  Do not provide a bullet point list of single word skills on their own with no context. Think Outcomes!

And then there are 2 often neglected - yet obvious ones...

  1. Photo – what photo?A contentious issue this one - and based on my research more of an exclusion than an inclusion!
    I’m often asked by my clients if they should have a head and shoulders photo on the front page of my CV? No Photo please. For some roles and perhaps some levels of management a photo on the front page of your CV (or resume) may be relevant.  However - it's generally not regarded as beneficial to getting you across the line and to be interviewed. Surprising given that LinkedIn say a photo will generate 11 times more views?  Well that's for LinkedIn, and it may not apply for the majority of CV's.  One set of research reported that a recruiter will spend on average 19% of the total time spent reading your CV looking at your photo.  That's not where you want their attention (unless you're applying for a role that requires a photo).   You'll note on the example below there is no photo. 
  2. Contact Details:Enable the reader to easily contact you.  You may think this is an obvious one - but you'd be surprised at the number of CV's I see that don't have contact details on the front page.
    What about a street address. I’m inclined ot say no here. I’ve heard too many recruiters judging an applicants suitability for a role based on their location in respect to the place of work. In other words a recruiter may screen you out because they think you live too far away. For all they know (and you may not have told them) you may be prepared to move for the role. The just don’t know it yet! This is particularly important for ‘on-call’ or support roles.


Keep the layout simple

The layout of the front page of the sample CV below may seem somewhat simple - but it's simple for a reason. It's content focused and it follows the 5 most important interests of the hiring managers identified in the poll results.  Some recruiters may not like it - and some hiring managers may not either.  So irrespective of the templates you find out there (this one included) - you must think of your audience.  For example, a graphical design candidate will probably have a different approach to their CV's front page to that taken by an engineer. Just remember though – graphics aren’t processed and assessed for relevancy by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). To learn more about ATS click here

For all CV's though - a non cluttered and logical layout for the front page (and subsequent pages) applies.  Your content must address the challenge, support your claims, and demonstrate a track record.  The message;

Keep your front page content sharp and compelling.  And it's only compelling if it matters to the reader.


Sample Front Page of Your CV

The graphic below shows a sample front page for a CV.

I have two questions when reading the front page (and subsequent pages) of a CV to assess its alignment to the hiring manager needs. If you can't answer these two questions for each statement - don't include it:

  1. So what?
  2. Prove it?

"This is what I need to see" 
Dale - hiring manager

To close - your full CV (pages 2 onwards) should support the claims summarised on your front page - setting out more achievements and more detail. And you need to own the content. If you engage a CV writer please make sure they intimately understand your value proposition, the requirements of the role and that you're aware of the story and the linkages they create - otherwise you'll fail at the next hurdle, the interview.

Take a look at the first page of your CV.  Will it result in a call?


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