CVs that stand out are the worst

Making some final creative touches to your Curriculum Vitae so it “stands out” is how to ensure that agents and end-users alike reject your application, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the BI Norwegian School of Management say that, amid fierce rivalry for the best roles, it is no surprise that applicants come up with creative ways to distinguish their CV.

But having used a real job posting to test the same CV with three distinct layouts - formal, colourful and creative, it emerged that less is definitely more, assuming success is the goal.

“All deviations from a formal format reduced the chances of an interview,” reflected the study author Jan Ketil Arnulf, an assistant professor at BI.

In the test, the candidate had almost twice the chance of being offered an interview with the formal CV as with the ‘creative’ one, designed for maximum ‘stand out’ appeal.

The subtext is that applicants almost always adversely affect their chances when they “try to attract attention in ways other than through a formal [or traditional] layout.”

Seeming to explain why, Arnulf said the agent’s or client’s first skim of a CV – which lasted as little as 45 seconds – was primarily spent looking for reasons to discard it.

In trying to do so, the hiring party is influenced by almost “irrelevant elements” of the CV, with end-clients in particular admitting to basing their decision on how it has been written.

Among agents, the criteria to spot the good candidates from the bad is more tangible and specific but, based on all the recruiters tested, they are “only a bit better” at it than clients.

ContractorUK has partnered with the UK's leading authority on Contractor CVs to provide a FREE review of your CV and LinkedIn profile. Contact The CV & Interview Advisors and one of their team will get back to you to discuss if your CV and LinkedIn profile matches up with industry best practice.

Editor's note: CUK's Guides to IT contractor CVs here and IT contractor CV template guide here.

Friday 18th Mar 2011