With the average initial screening time for a candidate’s CV clocking in at a mere 7.4 seconds (Source: Ladders, Eye Tracking Study, 2018), you might be wondering if a digital CV could help you to hold the attention of recruiters.
From subtle hyperlinks and QR codes to a full-blown website CVs and snazzy infographics, digitised CVs are increasingly common. But while a burst of creativity and digital know-how may seem like a fool-proof way to make your mark on employers, this technique could actually leave you straddling a rather fine line.
A digital CV could be exactly what you need to snap up an interview with some employers — but use this trick on the wrong audience and you could blow your chances entirely. So how do you get the balance right and ensure that a digitised CV is the right move for your next application?
1. Consider Your Target Audience
Your CV should always be a custom fit for the role and organisation you’re applying to — so this time, you need to decipher whether a digitised CV is a good match for your specific target audience. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, common sense does come into play here.
It goes without saying that creative and digital sectors — namely the arts, media, technology, marketing and advertising — are far more likely to be receptive to an elaborate infographic or flashy web-based CV. And for those applying for public or client-facing roles such as sales or teaching, a video cover letter can prove an excellent way to show off valuable soft skills, such as presentation and public speaking.
On the flip side, when it comes to the more ‘traditional’ roles, such as medicine, law, HR, engineering, accounting and finance, a digitised CV may not be necessary nor appropriate.
Ultimately, to figure out whether digitising your CV is a winning or losing strategy, it’s essential to consider the nature of your profession and sector and take some time to research the unique culture of the company you’re applying to. If you’re still unsure, it might be worth getting in touch with the hiring manager to double-check that the company does accept the specific type of CV or cover letter you’re planning on submitting.
2. Build a Solid Foundation
Generally, a video, infographic, social media or website CV should not be used as a replacement for a traditional application. Instead, it’s advisable to use your digital skills to complement your written CV — at least for now.
Why? Well, submitting an alternative, online or creative CV is still relatively unchartered territory. Imagine submitting a link to a 5-minute video CV alone, to a recruiter who simply does not accept (or like) video CVs. You’d be stuffed.
But if you submitted a short and punchy video cover letter or perhaps linked to an online portfolio or infographic in your cover email — and paired them with a traditional 2-page CV — you could satisfy their preferences whilst bolstering your candidacy. Think of it as your plan B… or your CV insurance policy!
So, before you set to work on digitising your CV, make sure to get the basics right. Your traditional CV and cover letter should be:
- Perfectly tailored to your target role and organisation: Review the requirements listed in the job ad and ensure your CV is packed with the desired skills and experience.
- Focused on achievements, not responsibilities: Rather than merely listing your day-to-day duties, incorporate plenty of quantified achievements (for example, ‘increased sales revenue by 30% in 6 months’) to prove the real value you could bring to a potential employer.
- Well-structured and easy-to-read: With just 7.4 seconds to impress, a clearly defined structure, legible font and clever formatting will help recruiters to pinpoint the information they’re looking for.
3. Beware of Style Over Substance
You could design the most beautiful infographic in the world, film and edit a high-quality video, or create an attention-grabbing web page which makes jaws drop — but if your creation doesn’t show that you’re capable of carrying out the job in hand, it’s pointless.
No matter how you decide to digitise your CV, your priority should always be to prove you’ve got the skills and experience to fulfill the role you’re applying to. So, before you add your digital know-how to your application, make sure to review the requirements for the role and ensure everything you write, type, code, film or create is actually relevant to the recruiter who’ll be reviewing it.
Additionally, do bear in mind that recruiters are often strapped for time. While an elaborately designed CV may look impressive, it means nothing to recruiters if your content is buried in a hard-to-navigate design. Consider file size too — with an endless inbox of CVs to sift through, an image or video that takes several minutes to download is likely to be ditched by recruiters.
Lastly, remember to scrutinise a digitised CV or cover letter in the same way that you would a traditional written document. The language you use in a video still matters, any social media profiles you link to should be flawlessly professional and even the most stylish of infographics won’t disguise spelling mistakes.
Are You Ready to Digitise Your CV?
Armed with the three tips above, you’ll be able to use your digital know-how to create a high-impact CV. Ultimately, employers want to know whether you’re a good match for the role. Balancing your creativity and digital skills with an understanding of your audience and a tailored approach is key to a successful digital CV.
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.