Recruiter Advice: Writing Your CV

Recruiter Advice: Writing Your CV

Recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a CV.

CVDoctor recently undertook a study by interviewing several hundred recruiters and headhunters to find out what they like and dislike in a CV. So read on to find out their top tips and see what is going to ensure your CV gets read...

1. Pictures and Graphics  

Unless you are a supermodel or are applying to a position such as an actor or TV personality that might require a 'headshot', there is absolutely no need to include your picture.

A candidate should be judged based on their skills, education and work history - not race, sex or age.

Recruiter Tip! ... If a jobseeker possesses the requirements for a position it is imperative that they grab the recruiter's attention immediately with their skills and experience - not how they look!

Candidates should customise each CV that is sent out, tailoring it to the key terms within the job description, catching the employer's attention within 5-10 seconds.

2. CVs not sent as a Word Attachment

Unless specifically requested otherwise, your CV should be sent as a Word Attachment. Do not send your CV as a PDF, Mac or zipped file - recruiters do not have time to download and convert special files.

Recruiter Tip! ... Many employers shared with us that it is always a good idea to name your Word document “Smith, John CV”, saving recruiters time 'guessing' the author of the document at a later stage.

3. Too Duty Oriented 

A common complaint amongst recruiters was reading a CV that is 'too duty oriented'. CVs need to describe more than just job duties. A good CV must also detail your accomplishments- so mention the business benefits and results attributable to your direct effort, involvement or leadership for mximum results.
Recruiter Tip! ... Do not separate your skills and accomplishments from each position. Someone should be able to look your CV and know what you did at each job and how long you were there. Be sure to provide specific examples of how the company benefited from your performance. It's also important to quantify your accomplishments in pounds or percentages - for example, "Successfully increased the productivity of  'X' department from Y% to Z%".

4. Objectives or Meaningless Introductions 

Instead of an objective that can pigeonhole your focus too narrowly or an introduction that adds nothing to your background; use this top piece of real estate to really market yourself by creating a headline

Tell them who you are and what you can bring to the table - come up with one powerful sentence or phrase to 'grab' your reader. Think of this like a headline to a major front-page news story. What is going to grab that reader's attention and make them want to read further? E.g. 'Senior-Level Health and Safety Manager with Extensive Experience Working with FDA Regulations in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Arena.'

Recruiter Tip! ... This headline can be customised to match the job description and key terms for each employer or recruiter.

5. Lying or Misleading Information

We all know the temptation is there to beef up your background by stretching the truth here and there to land that job.

Beware! It is extremely commonplace for companies and recruiters to do extensive background and reference checks on a candidate prior to hiring. 

Recruiters stated the most common misleading information being put on a CV is: 

  • Inflated job titles 
  • Inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps in employment 
  • 1/2 finished degrees, inflated education or "purchased" degrees that do not mean anything 
  • Inflated salaries 
  • Inflated accomplishments 
  • Mistruths in regards to specific roles and duties

6. Candidates Who Apply To Positions They Are Unqualified For

In order to gain experience in an area you need to start out somewhere, and recruiters understand this.

However they do not have time to sort through hundreds of CVs that are in no way a match for the requirements they are trying to fill. 

Recruiter Tip! ... The easiest remedy is to provide a simple introductory statement along the lines of: "While my qualifications do not match your requirements, please accept the attached for your files in anticipation of future, suitable opportunities."

7. Long CVs

A CV should never be more than 2 pages.
Situations that often contribute to long CVs are: too many past jobs, a career that is not focused, an inability to be concise, written communication problems, or something similar. All of which make for an 'unplaceable' candidate. 

No matter how tempting it is to go into detail about the first job you had 25 years ago, don’t!

Instead, let your CV showcase your most recent accomplishments. Recruiters are only reviewing the last 5-8 years of your career, 10 tops. 

If you are a recent graduate with limited professional work experience your CV should be only one page. If you are from academia, but are seeking a position in industry, do not include every publication or journal paper you have ever presented. 

Recruiter Tip! ... For employment beyond 10 years ago, create a 'Previous Employment' section. You can quickly list your older assignments by simply including job title, company and dates. 

8.  Poor Formatting   

It is paramount that your CV is clean, clear and not full of formatting errors.
Be aware that many formatting features will not view well on differing computer screens and may not download properly into HR recruiting systems.

Recruiter Tip! ... Do not use any unnecessary or fancy formatting on your CV document - stick to the basics to minimise the changes of running into any issues.

9. Spelling Errors and Poor Grammar

In the world of technology and ‘Spell Check’, you would be amazed at how many CVs come through with errors! Candidates need to remember their CV represents them. The general consensus among recruiters is that your CV will more often than not be your one opportunity to make a positive first impression.

10. Dates Not Included or Inaccurate

A CV that does not include dates sends up 'red flags' about a candidate’s background. The obvious assumption is that the candidate is trying to hide something. So the moral is - always be honest about your dates of employment. 

Recruiter Tip! ... When providing dates, work history should be in reverse chronological order. Place the employer info, title and location to the left hand side of the screen, with your employment dates aligned to the right so that a reader can easily skim down the page. If you have a proven track record of staying with a job for a while, absolutely make sure that your employment dates jump out at your reader - this is a real selling point about you as a candidate.

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