When I tell people that recruiters will make a decision on your CV in 10 seconds or less they don’t believe me, they think they must take several minutes at the minimum. That length of time may be spent on a second read through, but initially the recruiter will just give it a quick scan.
I spoke with a recruiter recently to ask how she manages to read a CV so quickly. She told me that she doesn’t actually read them, but scans them and it’s as much looking for things to reject you as to add you to the read pile.
Why your CV will be discarded
- Typos etc.
Obvious typos, grammatical errors, weird fonts and layouts and photos will head you into the reject pile as will CVs that clearly don’t follow conventional formats – the recruiters needs to be able to quickly assess your career history and educational background. And you need to be succinct, that’s why we say 2-page CV max, a 6 page CV – not worth the time spent in looking at it.
This relates to MASS recruitment where you send your CV to an advertised job. If you take a targeted approach where your CV is directed at a particular person and you have clearly customised your CV it is likely to be reviewed in more depth.
Their client wants a perfect match, ideally someone who is already doing the same job for a competitor, so if you don’t clearly match up, for example you have worked in finance in the public sector but they want to fill a vacancy in the private sector, or you have worked in distribution and they want experience from a retail background, your chance of success is slim.
If the job is based in London and you live outside of a commutable area, you will be out. Most companies have no intention of relocating someone for a job. If you want to move location, make it less obvious that you are living and working 200 miles away! I used to suggest people get a local address they could use but you don’t need your address on your CV and your mobile doesn’t show an area code. Be smart and avoid location against your current job.
If the advertised job is for a senior manager and your job title doesn’t not include that again unlikely to be shortlisted. At some point people will gain promotion from middle to senior management but this is most likely in their current job or very closely related field.
Can you revise job titles to make them closer to the level you want? For example, work in the public sector and your job title may include the work officer when it is far more than a clerical role
- Recent Experience
You may have worked in organisational change consultancy or sales training but if it was more than 5 years ago it doesn’t count for much. Recruiters want you to have recent experience.
If the client wants someone with a degree and you don’t have one, this is another reason to get your application discarded. Alas it can sometimes work the other way and your PhD shows you as over qualified for the job.
- How many jobs?
You may have had to take on short term contracts, so make it clear on your CV or it looks like you can’t hold down a job and no one wants a job hopper.
- Functional CV
We know that recruiters don’t like functional CVs, they see it as you trying to hide something. We see it as you demonstrating how well you match up to a change of focus. This CV works much better when not used for mass recruitment.
You may be able to adapt your CV to take account of some of these points, but it emphasizes the importance of making a direct approach or having your CV or candidacy promoted by someone who knows you.