Updated: Apr 14
My CV Guide recently conducted a survey asking recruitment, HR and business professionals about how they actually read a CV.
A CV is a means of communication and to explore and understand how information is most efficiently passed and accessed from it is extremely valuable to both somebody looking to write a CV and those who regularly review them.
The survey provided some interesting insight and raised a number of discussion points that will be explored through a series of articles that My CV Guide will publish over coming weeks. Rather than the survey and articles providing statements of fact, they offer relevant observations and are intended to instigate healthy conversation and consideration for CV writers and readers alike.
Are you a Scrutiniser, Skimmer or Jumper?
Participants of the survey were asked to choose a description that best fitted the way in which they would most commonly read a CV. 96% of respondents were able to identify with one of three descriptions and for ease of reference were categorised into a group based on the answer that they gave. The three descriptions and associated groups were as follows:
Read a CV line by line from top to bottom, spreading time evenly to read the whole document fully - categorised as Scrutinisers.
Scan a CV line by line from top to bottom, but spending longer on sections of interest, skipping over others quickly or all together - categorised as Skimmers.
Jump straight to particular sections of a CV, reading those that are of most interest first – categorised as Jumpers.
Other answers in the survey offered further insight of potential trends and therefore suggested profiles or characteristics for each category which are interesting to consider.
Scrutinisers (25% of the respondents were identified in this category)
More likely than the other categories to be reading paper copies of CVs rather than off a screen.
Tend to see one CV at a time (67%)
More distributed across the recruitment process than the other categories, so greater spread between being the first within the organisation to be seeing the CV (50%), reviewing a preselected shortlist (33%) or being later in the process than that such as reviewing a CV ahead of interview (17%).
By far the most likely to read the whole CV regardless of the outcome (67%).
Skimmers (38% of the respondents)
Far more likely (89%) to be reading CVs on a screen than on paper.
Some spread in terms of numbers of CVs being read at a time between 1 at a time (56%), batches of 2 to 10 (22%) or more than 10 (22%).
Tend to be one of the first in the organisation to be seeing the CV (67%).
Far less likely to read the whole document before making a decision (11%), but 56% would read the whole document before deciding to select it.
Jumpers (33% of the respondents)
Often the first in company to see the CV (86%),
Again far more likely to be reading CVs on a screen (86%)
Most likely to be looking at batches of 2-10 CVs at a time.
Far less likely to read the whole CV before making a decision. They never read the whole document before rejecting it but 57% would before selecting it.
As a point of note, respondents were saying what they did most commonly. This does not mean that they would always read a CV in exactly the same way or even if the way that they most commonly do so is the same as their personal preference. Context and circumstance would influence the way a CV would be read at any given time and indeed, the 4% of respondents who didn’t select one of the descriptions was because they identified with all three.
Along with this, the reality of many recruitment practices is that a CV will most likely be read by more than one person at different stages of the selection process, whether that be initial sourcing, reviewing applications or preparing for interview. To write a really strong CV therefore, it needs to carter for all styles of reading. How do these descriptions resonate with you? Can you identify to any or all of them or do you have an alternative approach when reading a CV? Does your CV lend itself to being read in these various ways?
Future articles in this series will focus on other findings of the survey and explore how these can be used to optimise the way in which CVs are written and read.
With the majority of CVs being read on a screen, and 71% of respondents identifying as Skimmers or Jumpers, reading a CV is arguably not the same as we would conventionally read text from a page. It is perhaps more similar to how we would read a newspaper or information on a website and the next article in this series will focus on exactly that.
The prevalence of skipping and jumping through a CV to focus on the sections of most interest, will naturally make identifying which sections are being prioritised valuable to understand. Again, this will be the subject of another subsequent article, so do keep an eye out for that being published by My CV Guide soon.