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Is your CV sticky?

Posted on: July 7th, 2015 by admin No Comments


The average recruiter will spend all of six seconds1 reading your CV before moving on to the next one, so if your resume isn’t enticing readers to stick around for a little longer, you’re definitely not getting an interview.

In the media, marketing and advertising industries, professionals spend their working days creating campaigns that stick, and those landing the best jobs are doing the same for their CVs.

What is The Stickiness Factor and how does it relate to my job search?

Malcolm Gladwell first wrote about The Stickiness Factor in his book The Tipping Point (2000), a cult hit amongst marketers that is somewhat of a black book for 21st Century marketing. Gladwell demonstrated that very minor tweaks to enhance relevance, talkability and memorability can dramatically improve a product’s success rate.

You need to think of your CV as the product. Your job is to market it.

Chip and Dan Heath further delved into the art of making a message resonate in their book Made to Stick (2008), laying out the following six principles for success:

#1 Simplicity
#2 Unexpectedness
#3 Concreteness
#4 Credibility
#5 Emotions
#6 Stories


#1 Simplicity: Does your CV serve its true purpose?

The simplicity principle is about getting to the core of your message. Are the hiring company looking for a Sales Manager with five years experience? If you’ve got it, turn it into your tag line! In doing so, you’ll answer the recruiter’s primary burning question within the six-second window, saving them from the time-killing task of trawling through the small print on your CV.

#2 Unexpectedness: Take the hiring manager by surprise!

CV formats haven’t evolved much since job seekers first started jotting down their credentials with pen and paper. Even LinkedIn, with its new-age digital platform for professionals’ resumes, hasn’t swerved too far from the generic intro-experience-education-skills CV template.

It’s not wise to turn the format on its head until your CV becomes a complete conundrum, but a little creativity doesn’t always go amiss, especially when applying for roles within the creative sector. Are you a Graphic Designer? Don’t submit a plain text document; create a unique, slick layout. Web Developer? Give your CV its own website! Or maybe you’re a Data Analyst? Try presenting your experience, qualifications or skillset as an infographic – is a free online tool that’ll do it for you.

#3 Concreteness: Don’t be scared of white space.

Our brains remember concrete information, not abstract fillers. If the Head of Events role you’re applying for requires French-speaking candidates, you don’t need to be fluffy about it to fill empty space on your CV – you just need to state that you speak French.

Some of the best CVs have plenty of white space because candidates are simply stating the important facts rather than worrying about their CV looking bare. These CVs will often focus a recruiter’s attention better too, as a de-cluttered resume can provide some much yearned for respite amidst hours of heavy reading.

#4 Credibility: Include references and keep your online presence up-to-date.

‘References available upon request’ has become the default response on job applications, particularly from those in work who fear that a prospective employer may unwittingly contact their current employer. However, you can still include a previous employer or teacher who will vouch for your credibility until a job offer is officially made.

It’s also important to keep your LinkedIn profile updated, along with any other professional and social networks you are on, as most recruiters will Google you to verify your experience and connections.

#5 Emotions: Be human.

Don’t let your professionalism falter but do allow a little of your personality to reach out to the hiring manager, who will be looking for a person that they believe could settle into the company’s culture.

You can put this message across via the tone of your CV – just read through the company’s website and marketing materials to understand the styles in which they communicate first – or you can include an ‘about me’ section on your resume. The more specific you are, the more interesting it is to read; most people say they ‘love TV and books’, so instead, say that you enjoy reading George Orwell but you’re finding it hard to pry your eyes away from the latest season of Orange is the New Black right now. It could become a great icebreaker at the interview stage if the hiring manager mentions that you share a similar fondness for Piper Chapman.

#6 Stories: Never forget to tie up your narrative.

If you’ve read Made to Stick, you’ll know that a carefully constructed story is the key to stickiness. Your CV is your professional story; you set the scene in the introduction, provide the backstory with your education and past experience, and give the reader a glimpse into the future with your skills and covering letter.

You need them to push the story onto its next chapter by calling or emailing you. So think like a marketer and provide a clear call-to-action at the end of your CV, and if your CV is online, include a direct link to your LinkedIn page or email address to get the conversation rolling faster.

Not sure if your CV is sticky enough? Send it to and one of our specialist consultants will be in touch to offer you some advice and help advance your job search.

1 UK Business Review, 2015. Here’s What Recruiters Look At In The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Résumé. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 7th July 2015].

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