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The Other Side of the Desk – What a recruiter sees in your CV

The Other Side of the Desk – What a recruiter sees in your CV

05 Feb 17:00 by Katy Humphries


Being new to recruiting has its advantages and disadvantages, and one of the main advantages that I have noticed is that I now know what it’s like on the other side of the desk. What a recruiter will look for and what some clients want to see in the CV’s you send.


As recruiters we want to help you to help yourself, and most of what we see from candidates are their CV’s. A relevant, well-structured CV will take you a long way (and it makes my life easier, so where is the harm in revealing the deep dark secrets of recruiting to you).


Let’s say that you have written your CV out and you send it to a load of different people trying to get a bite from a hook that just doesn’t have the right bait on it. You might get a couple of emails, but 9 times out of 10, it’s just going to come up empty.


And I know what you’re thinking – as long as they know I’m a prospect, what does it matter? But as a recruiter it is my job to look through CV’s and only send the ones onto the client who I think fit the bill. If your CV doesn’t quite fit, or the detail just isn’t there on a crucial aspect, I am going to look at other candidates where that isn’t a problem.


More likely than not, this will draw my focus away from you as a prospect for that job.


Now, I’m not saying spend 3 hours rewriting the perfect CV for this one job role, because honestly that’s a waste of time. What I am saying is that if you care about a job enough to change your CV to fit the right terms and structure, I am more likely to know that you are serious about this job and are therefore going to be a stronger candidate to send on to a client.


Even if you just have a different version of a CV that you send out for different types of jobs, that’s better than just a run of the mill – this is who I am, this is what I’ve done, hire me – type CV.


However, I would always suggest tailoring it to each job, only a half an hour type switch around that, when sent on, will have the biggest impact. Below are my suggestions for tailoring your CV to the role, which I would make me look twice at a candidate.


My first tip would be to edit the structure – put relevant information at the top and work down to the less relevant information. That’s not saying to skip out jobs or anything, that’s just saying that irrelevant information won’t get you the job.


The way that I have started looking at CV’s is a “must, should, could” approach. This is generally used by teachers setting targets for kids, but it applies quite nicely here.


First of all, I go through my job specification and I write down what they must be able to do. These are generally things like a degree or experience in a certain sector which are non-negotiable to the client. I will then go through my applications and check who meets the criteria. Generally, the edited list is still long, because they wouldn’t have applied otherwise.


So, then I go back to my job spec and I find out what the client wants them to be able to do before they get there – what they should be able to do. I reduce my list again and do the same with the could options in my pile of CV’s.


This will generally get me down to a handful candidates who are the best fit for the job specification, and they are the ones who I will contact first. It really helps if that CV has all the information there and in order – it tells me you’ve looked into the specification rather than just hitting apply.


Furthermore, if you see a key skill in a job spec, which you have in different words on your CV, change your CV to match the words in the job spec. Some businesses give their scientific jobs to non-scientific recruiting agencies and they might think that GCMS is different from Gas Chromatography Mass Spec or GCMS/MS.


They will be checking your CV for key words in the job specification that they have been given and they might not be looking out for the words (that are completely correct) in your CV.


Essentially if you have the right phrases in your CV, a recruiter is more likely to think that you’re a better match for the job and thus more likely to send you onto the client.


Speaking of key words - when I came into this job one of the things I didn’t realise is that on some job boards (like Reed) it will put tags next to the people who have applied with the highest number of matching key words. Personally, I will still go through everyone who applied and make sure that they are all seen, but you may get some who might just go through and only look at the candidates that have Great Matchnext to their application.


Some websites also send us weekly updates on candidates they think will fit the job we’ve posted, and they will (almost always) just get the key words from the advert or job title and match them to people who have those key words in their CV. If you can put some of the key words that are in the title or the job specification in your CV, you are more likely to get noticed than someone who hasn’t taken that time to switch some words around.


 If it is clear that you have made an effort to vary your CV and tailor it to the job then I am far more likely to want to talk to you about a job, than if you apply with an old CV where I’m not entirely sure that you have the right experience and knowledge for the job.


Don’t get me wrong, applying for jobs is tedious, you might just want to send out a load of CV’s and cross your fingers and that’s all well and good… but don’t expect to be top of the list.