Does your CV pass the 30-second test?

Timer counting down .

For those in their final year of university, the question of finding a job is always looming on the horizon. Crafting an engaging CV is an integral part of the hiring process, but capturing your skills, experience and personality on a couple of pages is never easy. In this post, Amanda Augustine, explains how the 30-second CV test can help you to make sure that your CV contains the right information to capture the attention of potential employers.

What is the 30-second test? 

Employers typically spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a CV before deciding to reject a candidate. Your aim is not only to keep their attention past that crucial initial glance, but to draw them in further. The 30-second CV test is a great way to check whether your CV has what it takes to communicate the essential facts about you in a very short period of time.

To try it out, ask a friend or family member to look over your CV for just 30 seconds, and then see if they’re able to explain what you do, the type of job you’re looking for and what experience or qualifications you have that are relevant for that role.

Once your friend has reviewed your CV, try asking them the following questions:

  • What certifications or degrees have I completed?
  • What industry / type of role am I looking for?
  • What are my top 3-5 relevant skills or qualifications?

If they can answer those questions fairly easily, then you know you’re on the right track!

To strengthen your CV further, here’s a list of questions that should feature on your checklist to ensure you are standing out for all the right reasons.

Is it succinct?

While there may be some exceptions, a CV should generally never be no more than two pages long. It needs to present your skills, education, and background in a concise and skimable manner. That means that when it comes to layout, keep it simple.

Is the layout clear?

An unusual layout can backfire and make it more difficult for prospective employers to locate the information they care about. If you plan to incorporate colour into your CV design, use no more than 1-2 from the same colour palette that won’t distract the reader from the actual content. Finally, stick to a ‘safe’ font such as Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial with a font size of 10-12 for your main areas of text and 14-16 for any headings or subheadings. And check with a friend to see if it’s easy to read, both on a digital screen and printed on paper.

Have I put too much in?

One of the biggest blunders you can make is to try and pack as much onto two pages as possible – or go overboard on formatting, including endless bullet points or dense chunks of text in a tiny font. All of this can make it very difficult for someone to quickly skim your CV and appreciate all you have to bring to a role.

Are my skills speaking for themselves? 

When it comes to showcasing your hard and soft skills, remember the adage, “show, don’t tell.” Anyone can state they’re a good communicator or that they have strong transferable skills but the person that can back those claims up will always stand a better chance of impressing. Where possible, include case studies, figures and examples that illustrate your skills and abilities.

Does the summary grab attention? 

The summary section is where you have the chance to pitch yourself. Use this section to summarise your relevant qualifications and key selling points so that the reader is encouraged to read on. This is a great place to tease some of your noteworthy contributions or accomplishments that demonstrate your value to prospective employers.


Amanda is a careers expert with more than 15 years of experience in the recruiting and careers industry, she is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and résumé writer (CPRW), helping professionals improve their careers and find the right job sooner.