In 2017, the recruitment industry was worth £32.2 billion in the UK. At this scale, agencies are common and, therefore, most candidates will be familiar with how agencies work. However, what many candidates do not realise is that recruiters will often edit and make pre-screening notes on the candidate CV.
As a recruiter, I encounter numerous CV formats. Quite often these will be PDF formats that come with ‘eye-catching’ layouts, bright colours and funky fonts. Having trawled the net, I completely understand why applicants do this to their CVs. If I was reading through the advice articles online, I would probably go to these lengths too. The consensus online seems to be that candidates should make their applications stand out or else they will be lost in the see of hundreds of other applications.
This is not the case. Part of a recruiter’s role is to match candidate skills to role requirements. It is impossible to do this properly if we do not read each application we receive. Therefore, unless candidates are applying for a job that values their ability to use word in creative ways, there are better ways to improve a CV.
1. Your CV is a working document
Whether you are just starting your career or are a seasoned professional, the likelihood is that your CV will change over time. With this in mind, I would suggest keeping more than one copy, in a standard ‘Normal’ format, safely stored in a file folder.
2. Ensure your CV is easy to update and edit
I would strongly recommend using a simple word format. It is not necessary to use PDF. Companies use a variety of software but nearly all of them will have Microsoft word.
When choosing how to present a CV, the key is to keep the presentation clean, clear and easy to read. As mentioned previously, unless you are applying for a creative role, use simple fonts such as Times New Roman, Calibri or Ariel. In some instances where you are applying directly to a company, they might stipulate font and layout. But unless otherwise stated, keep it simple. If you are struggling for space, use a size 8 font. However, a reasonable size type is advisable; size 10 -12.
3. CV length
Many sites will tell you to keep your CV to 1-2 pages. This is fine if you are a graduate or if you have less than 5 years of work history. However, if you are a seasoned professional, this is completely unrealistic because you will want to provide an outline for your most recent roles. Your work experience of the last 5 years is the most relevant and is what recruiters will read closely. Anything beyond this can be kept to a minimum eg. The company, job title, dates of employment. Admittedly, though, you probably do not want your CV to extend beyond 3-4 pages.
4. The detail
As a recruiter, I am far more concerned with matching relevant experience than looking at a pretty CV. My job is to identify the key requirements of a role and find candidates who demonstrate that they meet those key requirements. Therefore, it is better to offer a detailed list (preferably in bullet point form) of your daily/weekly/monthly duties than to try to squish everything on one page and waste space with large, eye-catching headings.
5. Pet peeves
While I will spend half an hour reformatting and stripping a CV of unnecessary decoration, I do so at the risk of slowing down the entire process. The more time I spend doing this, the less time I have to ensure that your role outlines are comprehensive. I also have less time to check your spelling and grammar. Furthermore, I have less time to add any additional information that you might have mentioned in the telephone screening but forgotten to include in your CV.
Effectively, please, please, please prioritize the content of your CV above all. If you apply for a role and your skills match the requirements, the recruiter will find your application and attempt to contact you.
However, while your CV does not need to be eye-catching to help you stand out from the crowd, the point does stand that there will be a mass of applicants for 1 role. What helps you to stand out from the crowd is to ensure a prompt response to the recruiter if they contact you. There are generally 48 hours between a role being advertised and a recruiter submitting a candidate shortlist to a client. So, if you miss that call you’ve been waiting for, don’t let nerves get the better of you. Call the recruiter right back as soon as you are free. If they are unable to take the call, they will certainly call you back.
If you are unsure as to where to start, our CV builder might help: CV Template