CV Writing

Essential CV Writing Tips – Understand How Your CV is Read By Recruiters

To enable yourself to write a good CV I believe it’s is essential to understand how your CV is read by a recruiter. To provide you with an insight, I will describe my CV selection process below and  my thought process in justification.

It’s a common misconception that recruiters read every word of a CV. Having worked as one for 16 years, I can tell you that this is certainly not the case. This is why it is fundamental to keep your CV as short as possible, ideally no longer than 2 pages, and use all the typical CV writing tricks, namely a clear layout, good use of section headers and easy to read to ensure that key information stands out.

The role of a recruiter is, in its simplest context, to fill a specified vacancy for a Client. To do so, the recruiter will often work with a job specification, supplied by the Client, highlighting the role and responsibilities of the position holder and the specifications of the ideal candidate. Job specifications are similar to the vacancy adverts you see in the press or online, however should be far more detailed.

As a recruiter, when I received one of these job specifications, the first thing I would do was to find and highlight the keywords and requirements held in the specification. It’s a similar approach to that described in my recent blog on targeting your CV. Once this was completed I would turn my attention to the pile of CVs I had received in application for the role.

The First Scan Read

My first scan of a CV would never be focussed on the personal details or qualifications of an individual, this would come later. I would always begin looking at the work history of the individual. Who have they worked for over the last 5 years? Have they ever worked for the Client before? Are they working for a competitor? This information provided me with an instant impression of how relevant the individual was.

If for example if I was recruiting a Project Manager for the construction industry and had received an application from a Project Manager working for a competitor then I would have a very strong candidate at this early stage.

This is why it is key to have a clear layout with section headers that communicate your work history effectively.

CV Keywords

My attention would then turn to the keywords or “buzzwords” that were contained in the job specification. Maybe the Client requires someone to have worked on a particular type of project or even used a certain software package.

I have been lucky enough to be able to scan read documents and consistently pick out key information quickly all my career, however some of my colleagues were less fortunate and often missed information. Therefore, as the CV author, it is your responsibility to highlight these key skills/keywords to make the recruiters job easier. Some people favour using bold or italic text to highlight these, however in my opinion, this only makes your CV appear messy and disjointed.

I always favour placing these keywords in bullet points either in your key skills or job history sections. If used correctly, any recruiter shound spot these keywords highlighted in a bullet point whilst maintaining the visual appeal of your CV.

Personal Details

Only once I had completed the above scan reads, would I now turn my attention to the individual’s personal details. At this stage I would already know if they were suitable matches, due to  their work experience, and have ranked the individuals in order of suitability. 

To me, the personal details of an individual were the least important information on a CV if he/she was applying to an advert. This is because the individual in question had replied to an advert that clearly stated the location of the vacancy and therefore the location of the applicant was of no concern to me as he/she had indicated that they would consider relocation for the role just by applying.  

This is not to say that personal details are not one of the most important pieces of information on a CV and should always be at the top of every page of the CV. There have been many occaisions where an individuals contact details are missing or lost in the bulk of the CV for whatever reason. IF this was the situation, the individual never reached interview stage.