What Recruiters Really Want to See on Your CV
1) As a senior recruitment consultant, what are the first things you look for in an applicant when recruiting?
As a graduate recruiter you can receive a huge volume of applications for just one role and so you need to have a clear list of essential skills or experience that are a prerequisite for the role. The first thing I do is briefly scan to see which of these they tick. If they tick most of the boxes then I will usually call them as soon as possible or read further into their CV. Things I look for in their CV are minimum educational requirements, relevant experience, a desire to do the job I am advertising and the ability to work in that location.
From an applicant’s perspective, they can identify this list from the job ad and any information they have about the company. Once you know this it’s all about making it leap off the page in the first ten seconds someone looks at your CV. A great way to make these obvious to someone scanning your CV is to put it at the top so it’s the first thing they read. For example, “Having just graduated from a UK top 10 University with a 2.1 in Economics I am now looking to work for a large multinational corporation within the finance sector in London. My previous internships within this sector have given me a passion for this as a long term career.” Something like this tells me they match what I am looking for before I even read the CV and I am then just looking to the CV details to back this up. Specific and matching information is much better than the usual “I am a confident, motivated, punctual…” which is something your interviewer will be the judge of!
2) What are major CV mistakes you notice when you’re looking for potential candidates?
Clearly stating at the top of the CV they want to work in another sector or job than the one they have applied for is a common mistake. This tells me immediately the role I am recruiting for is their plan b, or c and in this job market that is an immediate turn off. I want candidates who are going to commit to the client and be a long term and beneficial employee and that won’t happen if they have somewhere else they really want to be.
Also, presentation of CVs is very important. If a CV looks bad the implication is that the candidate is bad and they are either too commercially unaware to know how important a CV is or too apathetic about their job search. Some examples of ‘bad presentation’ include shabby formatting which makes it hard to read and follow, bizarre pictures, floral borders, a Graduate CV that covers six pages or just no content at all. Consistent formatting with bold headlines, clear dates and headlines such as achievements, awards, education and duties really helps to find the information I am looking for quickly and efficiently.
3) At the moment, what factors are employers looking for in their potential employees?
They are looking for graduates with a clear focus on their job search. People who know what sector they want to start a career in and can prove their commitment with a good CV and experience portfolio to back it up are attractive to employers. They are also looking for people with a relevant degree, appropriate work experience from the 2nd year of University or Post graduate study and someone with a clear, long term commitment to that role. If you don’t really know what you want to do for a specific job then identify groups of jobs and focus on those such as sales, analytical, charity etc. But don’t expect a good job to be sold to you even if you are a good candidate because there will be someone else in the queue who can demonstrate a burning desire to do that role and who the company knows will commit and work hard.
4) What are the industry secrets to really getting yourself noticed and known?
Call first! Every graduate recruiter gets hundreds of applications for each role they are in charge of. So before you apply, try and call the person who is advertising and introduce yourself. If you make yourself known to them they are more likely to take you forward. Even if you can’t get through they will still get a couple of messages from you and hear your name so they are more likely to flag your application out of interest. If you can’t get through then ask for their direct email and send the CV to them so it doesn’t get lost in the system. Follow it up within 2 days for feedback and be persistent until you get an answer. If they don’t want to interview you then try and get a reason as to why so you know what you need to do or where you are going wrong.
You can also drop them a LinkedIn request after you have spoken to them. Linkedin is king at the moment and should be on every graduates guide of how to get a job. State clearly in your LinkedIn headline who you are and what you want, for example “Edinburgh Economics Graduate with Analytical Banking Internship looking for a Graduate Investment Banking Analytical Scheme in London”. Then add an online CV so employers can really get to know you. I can’t stress enough how important a great LinkedIn profile is. Start linking in with everyone relevant in that industry and hiring managers; don’t be shy to request to add them and explain why in the email. Then start being proactive on the site; join relevant groups and “Like” updates to get noticed.
Be proactive! Don’t just sit there applying and hope the jobs come to you – go out and find the jobs yourself, building up a big network of contacts whilst you do it. Keep track on Excel spread sheets so you are always on top of who you are in contact with, who they work for and what they can offer you.
5) How do you guarantee your CV will make an impression and get you through to the next stage?
Many large recruiters use algorithms to search CVs for content before a human sees them, so mirroring the language they used to advertise the position will make sure your CV gets put forward for review. For example, if they are looking for high achievers then use this exact phrase and pack the buzzwords in so you tick all their boxes. The more relevant words to the job description you have in your CV the more likely your CV will get through.
Even for jobs with small or mid sized employers make sure you use relevant words on your CV as much as possible. This looks great when someone scans your CV as they instantly see all the great qualities they are looking for. Make the language relevant to the role, for example, if it’s a sales position use strong sales focused words like: drive, targets, ambition, success, business, entrepreneur etc. to make your application as suited as possible to the position.
Basically, don’t just be average. Find out what the person recruiting for the job you want is looking for – and then be that person.
6) What are the last, best pieces of advice you can offer as an expert?
Be different and think long term.
Use Linkedin –it is your best friend in a job search and beyond. Don’t just use it to make contacts but also to do your research. Look at experienced people who are doing the job that you want at the moment. See what types of things they have done and achieved and set about gaining similar qualities. Use them as a template for making yourself as desirable to employers as possible.
Another thing is if you get declined from interviews, ask the hiring managers what you would need to do in the next year in order for them to want to interview you for the next intake. If you know what you need to do in order to get into those roles, you can then spend the next 2 years getting that experience and then reapply for those roles, hopefully with a much better chance of getting it since you’ve tailored yourself to their needs. Graduates with a year’s experience in something relevant, even in another sector or not necessarily in London, will usually trump raw graduates even for a graduate role because they have the experience to back them up.
Written by Anna Pitts, The Graduate Recruitment Bureau.