Writing a CV that recruiters will notice
I’ve been doing this job for a while now, for over 11 years in fact; three of those in Kainos, and I’ve had my fair share of facepalm moments when it comes to reviewing CVs. Over the last twelve months, Kainos has received over 10,000 applications and like most of my fellow recruiters, I spend less than 60 seconds reading a CV. In which time, we’ll assess them against the criteria for the role they applied for and know if they’re right for us or not.
Firstly, let’s clear something up about what a CV actually is. Your CV is the first view that recruiters and a potential employer will have of you. It’s your chance to say “Hey – look at me, I’m awesome, you should interview me.” And really, that is all a CV is – it’s you asking to be considered for an interview.
So how do you write a CV that will ensure that it will pass the first stage of the application process? The short answer; you write it well.
Formatting, grammar and spelling issues aside, (these are an obvious given) there are a couple of basic principles that can be applied to making sure that you CV stands out for the right reason.
Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.
I’ve seen it countless times, applicants using the same CV repeatedly for different roles, they try to compress their entire career into their CV or they try to sell every single facet of themselves, and they don’t focus on the job they’re applying to – cue facepalm! Read the job description and tailor your CV to match that. It’s not rocket science, but this is one of the biggest points that’s so often overlooked.
Cover letter – yes or no?
This is a divisive one as opinions are split on this. Cover letters are opinion pieces and what we’re looking for when we look at your CV is facts. My advice – put the time you would have put into writing your cover letter into ensuring your CV matches up with the job.
One paragraph – no more. This should be at the start of your CV and should be a quick summary of who you are and what you are looking for. Avoid playing “Buzzword Bingo” here (actually, avoid it anywhere in your CV) as this section is a chance for us to get a quick glance at you. If you want to surround yourself with adjectives feel free – but I’m looking for a person who can describe who they are plainly and directly.
I’ve worked – look!
Your experience is where we focus when we review a CV. This is your chance to show you’ve read the job advert and description and you are the person we’re looking for – you can highlight what you personally have achieved and what your duties were and what your impact was. Don’t copy and paste your job descriptions – write this, then read the ad for the job you are applying for, jump back onto the companies site and review their content, read it again and then re-write it. This is where you can say, “you know that job you’re advertising for, I can do that – because I’ve done this……”.
You’ll notice I italicised personally and your. This is because so many CVs that we see from experienced candidates are written from the team point of view, what the team achieved, what the company did, what the department’s goal was. We want to know about what you did, what you achieved and what your impact was. It’s important that it fed into a larger goal but don’t waste the opportunity to tell us about how great you are by telling us how great the team you want to leave was instead. Make it personal.
Education – short and sweet
Keep this to the point: where, when and what you received. That’s it. Companies now often check these details, even for candidates who have been in employment for many years. Do not make this up.
Pizza juggling, gaming, long walks on the beach……
We’ve all got different interests – it’s what makes us interesting! (Interests/interesting…anyway). Be proud of them – put them in. They’re great conversation starters and they let us see into what makes you tick outside of your work.
If you’ve been involved in giving a presentation at a conference, you’ve provided a talk for a local meet up, you’ve submitted a patent – if they’re related to the role you’re applying for – then list them. Even better – if they’re recorded – link them!
One last tip…
I, like my fellow recruiters review CVs on screen, be that mobile or desktop, so write concisely, clearly and lay out your CV so that it is easy to read – check it on your own phone first!
While I’ve been writing this – I’ve also been thinking about the differences in applying for different types of roles – they’re not all the same. Something we’ll be covering in a future blog.
Finally, I wouldn’t be the recruiter I am today if I didn’t point you towards our vacancies page. If you don’t know already, Kainos is recruiting exceptional people to help us deliver the amazing solutions we build. Find roles that you will love – and you can try out your new CV!
Daniel Grant is a Talent Acquisition Manager for Kainos, responsible for attracting the best and brightest in the industry. Dan has 11 years’ experience in tech recruitment, working across the UK and currently leads his team at Kainos HQ in Belfast.
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