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CV Presentation: How valuable is one’s first impression?

There is little said about the art behind building a CV. Most of us have been given advice on what to and not to include in a CV, but far fewer of us have such knowledge in how to design a CV, which might hold substantially more impact on a candidate’s result than we realise. This blog will discuss the importance of a CV’s presentation and its influence on getting the job one pleases.

Lasting impressions on others come within seconds

How quickly do you think you take to form an impression of someone? Put yourself in this scenario: first date. If you were like me, I would probably say that I would take a good hour, maybe a second date, a third, getting to know someone before holding a lasting impression on that person - in fact, I do not think I could put down a specific length of time, maybe marriage even. I would think that I need to know someone fully before holding lasting impressions. However, looking at statistics, you might be surprised. According to the New York Post, it only takes 27 seconds to hold a strong first impression. Shocking, right? From a study of 2000 Americans, 69% of them formed a first impression before they even spoke. Worse, Princeton psychologists had revealed in a study that it just takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger.

You need to apply such knowledge to the presentation of your CV. If it takes 27 seconds to hold a strong impression, that won't give recruiters enough time of day to start reading details of your CV. Those 27 seconds need to go towards design; the overall look of your CV that might make it differ from your competitors - or not! There is no harm in making your CV stand out, and if research shows that first impressions are so important, it may be worth spending a little extra time focusing on the presentation of your CV, on top of its content.

Appearance is largely impactful for a lasting impression

Too lazy to do your washing? Me too. However, after reading some articles, maybe we should become more stringent - and not resort to wearing that one ‘shirt’ we probably should not own anymore. People will judge you based on your appearance before judging your actions, Forbes states, you should work to catch people’s eyes. To hold a lasting impression, you should first be able to catch someone’s attention. That’s much harder to do when you are not looking your prime! Your one way ticket to a bad first impression is not smelling nice, what 66% of the 2,000 test subjects stated, and 49% said that dressing poorly leads to a bad first impression.

Instead of focusing on such odour, we can take this information and apply it to a CV. No hiring manager wants to open a messy, chaotic CV that looks like it was made in Windows XP. It is 2022, and there are so many different ways to apply a unique presentation to your CV. Canva, for example, can add some creativity, it has some beautiful templates just for that, or you can make your own! Otherwise, you can go the normal route, use Word, make sure everything is neat and tidy, formatted consistently and if you would like, add some pizzazz! A little bit of colour might do the trick (but do not overdo it, CV’s should not look like a pre-school project). Remember, it is the small things that might just give that lasting impression you need to secure the job of your dreams.

The importance of presentation on your CV

Presentation is crucial for first impressions of candidates. Indeed writes that a potential employer will usually notice the layout of your CV far before reading it, and furthermore Verdica states that the presentation of your CV can very often be of larger value in getting into the next stage of the application process. Verdica also stated that up to a quarter of CV’s are automatically rejected based on poor presentation, so it is time to step up our game!

However, and very importantly, as I said earlier, no employer wants to read a pre-school project as your self-portrait. A rainbow Clip Art of your name on Word is not going to attract employers, however, add other things that are professional while at the same time allow your CV to stand out from the crowd. The founder of CVCentre.co.uk stated that, when making a CV, individuals should not go over the top with fancy layouts - and this is what I mean here. They tend to distract employers from that valuable information that you hold within the text, and this should still really be your main priority. Try find a balance, play around a bit - what harm would it do!

So… now what?

Time is money. You do not have ample time to gain someone’s attention, or to gain a first impression, so make sure that the information that you put in your CV is information that will get you to the next stage, and at the same time, use other tactics other than content to make yourself stand out. Fitting in with the crowd is not going to pass, so you should ensure that your CV is perfectly informative, and out-of-the-ordinary in some aspect. Because, when a recruiter has thousands of CV’s to go through, we need to think of new, or different ways to make our CV’s better than the one before us, and after. What are you waiting for? Get working on it!

Luke Burke,



Nypost.com. 2022. It takes 27 seconds to make a good first impression. [online] Available at: <https://nypost.com/2018/12/14/this-is-exactly-how-long-you-have-to-make-a-good-first-impression/> [Accessed 29 July 2022].

Wargo, E., 2022. How Many Seconds to a First Impression?. [online] Association for Psychological Science - APS. Available at: <https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression> [Accessed 29 July 2022].

Gibbons, S., 2022. You And Your Business Have 7 Seconds To Make A First Impression: Here's How To Succeed. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/serenitygibbons/2018/06/19/you-have-7-seconds-to-make-a-first-impression-heres-how-to-succeed/?sh=32f8116356c2> [Accessed 29 July 2022].

Indeed Career Guide. 2022. Why Is a CV Important? Everything You Need to Know. [online] Available at: <https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/cvs-cover-letters/why-is-a-cv-important> [Accessed 29 July 2022].

VERCIDA. 2015. The importance of your CV design!. [online] Available at: <https://www.vercida.com/uk/articles/importance-cv-design#:~:text=Presentation%20is%20key,on%20the%20reader.%22> [Accessed 29 July 2022].