CV advice: six seconds to impress recruiters

Mike Barnard explains how to make the most of your opportunity

Six seconds is not a long time to impress anyone, but that's how much time recruiters might dedicate to your CV. On this quick glance, they'll be looking closely at your activities as a student, and what will grab their attention is evidence of specific and measurable achievements. If you've had a part-time job, they'll be interested in whether you've led a team, stood in as manager, or boosted sales by a specific amount. In terms of university activity, being the secretary, treasurer or even founder of a society will look good, as will playing an active part in your Student Union or on a sports team.

If you're thinking you lack the experience or skills on your CV that would make a graduate recruiter want to spend more than six seconds reading about your talents, think ahead to the summer. The long, sunny days are ideal for getting over all the stresses of the academic year but, while it can be tempting to avoid all forms of work and concentrate on having fun, a bit of forward planning can ensure a relaxing vacation does not feel like a wasted vacation by the time you're back on campus.

Many companies run internships during the summer months to find potential students to employ when they graduate. These are a great way to find out whether you want to work in an industry, gain valuable contacts and experience - and can really help your CV to stand out. You could fill some of the additional time with voluntary work with a charity, which will also look great on your CV.

Thousands of students and graduates take a gap year to go travelling, but you don't have to go abroad for a full year: you could spend your summer interrailing across Europe, trekking through the Andes, or exploring Asia. A graduate with some travel experience on their CV shows they've got independence, strength of mind and resourcefulness.

You probably don't want to think about university work too much when the sun is shining, but that's not the only form of studying you should probably be contemplating. If you're considering a career that might require additional qualifications you won't acquire at university, a short course over the summer could give your CV a head start with recruiters. For example, those thinking of becoming a journalist could learn shorthand, while a language course would be a good option for anyone wanting to work abroad as part of their future career.

Some recruiters may only give your CV a moment to impress them, but you'll need to put in a lot more time than that to gain the skills that will keep them reading. So put that long summer holiday to good use by striking the right balance between time off and time spent on making sure you make an impression in those crucial six seconds.