How to get your CV into the recruiter’s ‘yes’ pile

Have you ever wondered what happens once your CV has made it into the inbox of a recruiter?

You can imagine that this person has a fair few CVs to get through, and sometimes only a percentage of these will get read past the first page. Fewer of these will make the shortlist of resumes to pass onto their client. But how does a recruiter come to this decision?

In this blog, I will shed some light on what goes through the mind of a recruiter as they read a CV, what they look at first, and what you can do to increase the chances of yours being added to their ‘yes’ pile.

Why is your CV in front of me?

The first thing the recruiter will want to know is why your CV is sitting in front of them. What’s your career journey so far, why are you applying for this role now, and why should their client take an interest?

Your personal statement is the first thing the recruiter will read, so with the above in mind, make sure yours is tailored to the job in question and concisely tells the recruiter why you are applying for it. This last point is essential – it must be brief so keep it to two to three sentences focused on your experience and why you are suited to the role. Don’t be tempted to write about what you are looking to achieve next in your career – the recruiter needs to know how well you fit an organisation’s needs, not how the organisation can help you move forward.

What can you do?

Now, the recruiter will want to know at a glance that you have suitable expertise and experience. So, if you haven’t done so already, I would recommend placing a short list beneath your personal statement, almost a snapshot of your main skills, starting with those most pertinent to the job; e.g. web content management, plus your technical abilities such as WordPress or Excel.

Where’s the proof?

Once you have captured their attention with your personal statement and key skills, the recruiter then looks for evidence of your skills in the career history section of your CV.

Starting with your most recent role, list your relevant career history to date. List the job title and organisation, then follow with a few bullet points detailing your responsibilities and achievements. Remember to phrase this in a way that mirrors the key words and language used in the job description.

As you list your responsibilities and achievements, also provide facts, statistics and links to your work. For instance, if you listed web content management as one of your key skills, you should mention how much daily traffic your content drives to the site, plus any other relevant KPIs. You should also link to some of your online content.

If any past roles aren’t relevant to this opportunity, simply list the name of the company, your job title, and the dates you were employed. This shows you were employed during this time, while freeing up space for your more suitable experience.

Your education

Beneath your career history, simply list the educational institution, course, certificate and grade achieved. There is no need to go into extensive details here on your CV.

Does this CV tick all the other boxes I’m looking for?

At this stage, the recruiter will have more than likely made their decision about whether to add your CV to their ‘yes’ pile or not, and now it’s simply a case of ensuring you tick the following final boxes. These include:

Would this candidate be a good fit?

Yes, personality and cultural fit is best assessed face to face, however certain areas of your CV can give a small glimpse into what you’re like at work, and give you that competitive edge. Don’t be tempted to do this by listing your hobbies and interests though; they are irrelevant to your ability to do the job in question.

Do they pay attention to detail?

CV mistakes reflect badly on your attention to detail and how conscientious you are in your work. Proofread your CV at least once before sending it. Check your formatting, spelling and grammar. Make sure all the hyperlinks work. My colleague Jane has written a great article on how to make sure your CV is error-free, which you can read here.

Can I get in contact?

Check your name, phone number, email address and LinkedIn URL are correct and sit at the top of your CV. Make sure both your LinkedIn profile and CV are aligned.

A recruiter can have tens if not hundreds of CVs to review each week. To catch their attention you need to make an instant, positive impact with your CV. By giving you the above insights, I hope you have gained a better understanding of how to optimise and tailor your CV, ensuring that it stands a better chance of landing on their ‘yes’ pile.