How to Ensure a Recruiter Reads Your CV

When preparing your CV, how much time do you spend thinking about the person who might end up reading it? How much time do you spend considering who you want that person to be and whether they will in fact bother to read it?

As a recruiter I currently spend anywhere between 50% and 75% of my time resourcing for the “perfect” candidate. Most of that time is allocated for pre-screening candidates who look suitable on paper since this is the stage that leads to being able to present qualified candidates to the end employer. And so, when sifting through the CVs that I have received, I need to be as efficient as possible so as to maximise the time spent on that critical next stage.

What this means in practice is that I reject (in other words delete) any CV that does not demonstrate what I feel is the minimum standard required for that candidate to be considered a serious jobseeker who is worthy of more than a cursory skim-read.

As an independent local recruiter whose success relies completely on the trust that I have built up with my clients I cannot afford to take risks with the candidates I present. They become a reflection of my business. That is not to say that I do not consider candidates who may not have all of the skills and experience that I am looking for – on the contrary, having strong relationships with my clients allows me to convince them to sometimes overlook one or more of those prerequisites on the basis that the candidate makes up for it via their work ethic, approach, attitude, character, etc. But if you can’t even spell your last job title correctly, do you really expect me to become your ambassador and risk my professional reputation for you?!

Not all about the CV

Furthermore, it doesn’t just come down to a minimum standard of CV. Things like your geographic location and salary expectation need to be in the general ballpark of those specified on the job you are applying for. If you are taking the scattergun approach to your job search – emailing your CV to any and all jobs that you see posted that day – you risk alienating any recruiter that receives your application. And persistent offending means a high chance that, no matter how relevant your skills might be to another role that they are recruiting for, you have already been “deleted”.

Minimum standard

And so to my minimum standard for a CV that will at least be read. The following list is not exhaustive, and it is certainly only one person’s opinion, but it might be helpful the next time you are thinking about putting your resume together:

  • Spelling: correct spelling shows that a bare minimum of attention to detail has been paid. Use a spellchecker if necessary – that alone shows that you care about what you’re doing.
  • Language: make sure that your language is clear and concise, well-constructed and grammatically correct. Even where much of your CV will be written in bullet-point format you still need to demonstrate a basic awareness of sentence structure and ultimately make sure you are communicating your message in the best way possible.
  • Contact Details: I know it will probably sound unbelievable but I have seen so many CVs without any way of contacting the candidate. As well as this being, well, rather counter-productive given the purpose of one’s CV, it also shows further lack of attention to detail.
  • Formatting: use simple and clear formatting that means when a recruiter removes your contact details they don’t also have to start redoing your entire CV. When it comes to Font choose something contemporary like Calibri or Arial rather than Times Roman which can appear a little outdated. Finally, if you want to present your CV in pdf form you should also include a copy in Word so that your recruiter can make the aforementioned edits.

CV arrangement

My preference is as follows:

  • Name & Contact Details
  • Profile: a summary of your core skills/experience (focusing on those skills that you particularly want to utilise in your next role) and what kind of role you are looking for/most suited for. Also talk about your “softer” skills to show what you are like as an employee – e.g. team player, energetic, focused, entrepreneurial – again focusing on those attributes that you want your next employer to notice and, more importantly, need!
  • Employment History: current/most recent first and including month and year for each job.
  • Education
  • Other Skills/Qualifications: if having other skills – e.g. languages, IT – is relevant to your job search include them here.
  • Interests: only include things that you genuinely enjoy doing outside of work and, even better, things that enhance your overall desirability as a candidate – e.g. marathon runner (shows stamina and commitment), charity fundraiser/volunteer. Avoid anything that is too personal.


In conclusion it comes down to this: if you put very little thought into how you present yourself on paper and how relevant your application is to the job you have applied for, why should I as a busy recruiter put any time or consideration into helping you find ANY job, let alone the one you have applied for?

Author: Liz Southwick is the Owner and Director of an independent recruitment agency and has been working in the recruitment arena for the last 12 years. Her passion for people means that she cares about the result, not just the bottom line. She is passionate about getting recruitment right!

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