You only have six seconds ‒ make them count.

Applying for a job online is easy. Gone are the days of handing out and mailing printed copies of your CV to prospective employers. But the convenience of job hunting online has a downside: Everyone is doing it.

Studies show that because of a surplus of online applications, HR managers spend, on average, no more than six seconds skimming a CV before deciding whether it should pass to the next stage or end up on the rejections pile. That means you have only six seconds to make a positive impression.

Is your CV passing the six-second test? Is it poised to move your candidacy forward or leave your job hopes behind? Answer the following questions to find out.

How often do I hear back from recruiters about my application?

If you have applied for jobs that you are clearly qualified for, then you would expect to receive a response. But if you're regularly met with radio silence, there may be some fundamental issues with your CV that require immediate attention.

Software known as applicant tracking systems (ATS) is often used in the early stages of the application process to automatically identify ‒ and reject ‒ the candidates who do not align with the job requirements. A successful CV incorporates keywords and phrases from the job description and mirrors them, making it clear that you are a suitable match to the role. If your CV isn't optimised for an ATS, we suspect that it's not being flagged as a match and is instead being rejected from the application process.

Am I receiving headhunting calls or messages about positions that suit me?

It's great to be headhunted by a recruiter, but if they're reaching out about roles that you have no interest in, there's a chance that your CV is sending mixed signals about the positions you're looking for.

All good CVs should have a clear objective; they should line up with a clear job goal throughout the document as you tie every aspect of your career, skills and qualifications back to your ideal position.

If you're looking for a career change or re-entering a specific industry, this might be more challenging. Your CV should be reformatted to highlight this new goal and showcase the transferable skills that apply to the new field.

Does my CV pass the stranger test?

It should be easy to skim through a CV and pinpoint your most pertinent attributes and skills. One way to prioritise these selling points is to feature them in the top third of your CV. If a stranger looked through the top section of your CV in 30 seconds, would they be able to name your top goals and features?

Great news if it's a 'yes'. But if not, your CV could do with a reshuffle and a polish.

Have I showcased my achievements?

At TopCV, we've found that many job hunters write CVs that highlight what they do day to day, rather than what they've achieved in their role. Showing your achievements could be the difference between landing an interview and staying home.

Scan through your CV and work out whether the details in your employment history simply regurgitate your task list or delve into the details of how you delivered value to the business. This might be via concrete stats, or it may be through the power of links to portfolios or projects. If you're struggling to bolster tangible results to your contributions, it might be time to invest in a professional CV writer who specialises in achievement-focused documents.

Does my online presence align with my CV?

A quality CV is just part of your job application. While your CV might show that you can talk the talk, over 70 per cent of recruiters will cross-reference this information with your social media to find proof that you can walk the walk.

You need to maintain consistency by developing an online presence that aligns and supports your career goals. Here is where a powerful LinkedIn profile is your best friend.

Have I highlighted the most important information?

As you have a mere few seconds to make a positive impression, you need to make your CV an easily navigable document. That way, prospective employers can identify exactly what they're dealing with.

Your name, followed by your professional title, should sit proudly at the top of the page and introduce the entire document. Also, a great CV uses tailored headings for each section, optimising them so that the document's structure brings the most important skills to the forefront.

By answering the questions above, you should have an accurate idea of how your CV will be perceived by HR managers ‒ even at a glance of only six seconds. TopCV's free CV review will also uncover potential pitfalls and offer useful tips for improvement, helping you give yourself the strongest chance of convincing recruiters to take a second look.

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