Does Your Technical CV Pass the 30 Second Test?

Written by: Peter Panayotou
Published on: 27 Feb 2016

It is believed that a potential employer may make a decision about whether to read your CV within about 30 seconds of first setting eyes upon it – this means your CV is initially judged purely on appearance. To ensure that your CV passes the 30-second test, ensure that you keep it as concise as possible – too long could lose the reader’s interest. Lay out the information using clear section headings to make it easier for the reader to navigate down the page and use bullet points to describe things like skills, duties and achievements, to ensure clarity and avoid solid blocks of text which can be quite hard on the eye.

Buried in paperwork

Basic CV Advice

The content of a CV is  relatively standard from one CV to the next: personal details, a profile or skills summary, educational details, work history, additional information, leisure interests and references.  Your profile is the section that normally appears first and it gives you the chance to provide the employer with details about yourself that do not appear in any other part of the document. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. It should provide a quick summary of who you are and describe what you have to offer the employer in terms of personal skills and attributes.

When explaining about your work history concentrate on providing just enough information for the reader to gain an accurate

picture of your role. Avoid going into complicated wordy detail about previous responsibilities – simple and straightforward explanations will suffice. Where possible, use positive action words to describe your work duties.

Technical CVs


One of the most common problems encountered with technical CVs is that they are by definition longer than average. They may include a section not usually included in the non-technical CV: that is the summary of technical skills which would be expected in the fields of IT or engineering, for example.

Remember that this is in addition to any personal skills. The technical CV can be up to three pages (an ideal length for someone with an established career in a technical field), while the average length of a CV in any other field would usually be two pages.


Another problem, unique to technical CVs, is the tendency to focus on technical details, thus losing sight of what the document is supposed to be about: you. Technical candidates are by their nature focused on technical details are often keen to explain, sometimes in minute detail, how some highly complex project was carried out, what software was used, what methodology was employed, and what results were achieved – all very well, but remember what you’re supposed to be selling. Yes, it explains what you were involved with, but such long winded and convoluted descriptions should be avoided. The CV is supposed to talk about what you’re going to bring to the employer. You are selling yourself, not your projects or your previous jobs.


A unique feature of the IT or technical CV is the tendency to repeat information. You may find, for example, that where the CV includes details of various short term projects, the hardware/software/ programming languages that were used are specified in each case. Avoid repetition. The best way to deal with this is to simply create a separate summary listing the necessary technical details, perhaps separated into categories such as hardware, software, operating systems, programming languages, databases, administration, networking, and so on.

Jargon and Technical Terms

It is much more likely that some kind of jargon will appear in the technical CV. It may be tempting to use all sorts of acronyms, initials and technical terms to show how familiar you are with the technicalities of your trade, but watch out: don’t assume the reader will know all the terms, and don’t be over familiar with them yourself. Be specific but don’t overload your CV with jargon. You will find that if you try to adhere to these basic rules when compiling your CV, you should be well on your way to gaining that all important interview.