Hays UK blog


Get yourself into your recruiter's yes pile

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

Ever wondered what happens once your CV lands with a recruiter? You can probably imagine that this person has a fair few similar documents to get through, and on a busy day only a percentage of these will get read past the first page. Fewer still will make the shortlist of resumes that go to a client. But how does a recruiter come to this decision?

In this blog, I will shed some light on what goes through your recruiter’s mind when they’re looking over CVs. By knowing what they look for first, you can increase the chances of yours being added to their ‘yes’ pile.

Why have you sent me your CV?

The first thing your consultant will want to know is why your CV is sitting in front of them. What’s your career journey been like 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 to answer this, so with the above in mind, make sure yours is tailored to the job in question. Tell your consultant concisely who you are, what value your skills bring, and why you’re going for the role.

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 what you know of the job. A key point here is not to be tempted to write about what you are looking to achieve next in your career! Instead focus on how well you fit an organisation’s needs, as this will help sell you in at the next stage.

What sets you apart?

You also need to communicate – in as little time as possible –the fact that you have suitable skills 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. Bullet points starting with those most pertinent to the job (such as web content management, database skills, etc) plus your technical abilities will quickly get the message across that you’re a valuable asset.

Can you prove that you did it?

Once you have captured their attention with your personal statement and key skills, the next task ahead is to provide evidence of your skills and career history.

List your relevant career history to date, chronologically. The job title and organisation are crucial, and a nice touch here is to hyperlink the company name so the reader can check out who you worked for easily. A few bullet points detailing your responsibilities and achievements should follow, and always remember to phrase this in a way that mirrors the keywords 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 to elaborate on your more suitable experience.

Make sure your usefulness shines through.

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. Now it’s simply a case of ensuring you tick the final boxes. A consultant will often ask themselves the following:

Would this candidate be a good fit? 
While personality and cultural fit is best assessed face-to-face, certain areas of your CV can give a 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? 
Mistakes in your CV are the fastest way to come across as lazy or sloppy in your work. They reflect badly on your attention to detail and how conscientious you are in your work. It’s wise to proofread your CV for formatting, spelling and grammar. Make sure all the hyperlinks work, and if you have time, send it on to a friend for a second opinion.

Can I reach them for further discussion? 
Check your name, phone number, email address and LinkedIn URL are correct and place them right at the top of your CV. Make sure both your LinkedIn profile and CV are aligned, as mistakes here will raise questions.

A successful recruiter can have hundreds of CVs to review each week. To catch their attention you need to make an instant, positive impact with yours. By giving you the above insights, I hope you have gained a better understanding of how to optimise and tailor your CV. This kind of checklist ensures you stand a better chance of making a good impression and moving on to the next stage.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.


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