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How do Recruiters Read Your CV?

How do Recruiters Read Your CV?


Your CV is one of – if not the most – important aspects of your job application. When putting together your CV for your next Life Science job, you need to write with the aim of making your CV stand out from the pile, and this means understanding what it is that recruiters and hiring managers are really looking for.
  • Author Company: PharmiWeb.Jobs
  • Author Name: Lucy Walters
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Editor: Lucy Walters Last Updated: 05-May-2023

Your CV is one of – if not the most – important aspects of your job application. When putting together your CV for your next Life Science job, you need to write with the aim of making your CV stand out from the pile, and this means understanding what it is that recruiters and hiring managers are really looking for.

In this article, we provide advice on how to make your CV communicate your strengths as a candidate clearly and concisely, and in a way that is memorable.

How do you Ensure That Your CV Gets Read?

The first hurdle to engaging recruiters with your CV is to ensure that it actually gets read. There are a few things you can do to ensure this, including:

  • Submitting your CV using a professional email address
  • Saving your CV in the correct format, ensuring the layout you have used is compatible and can be easily opened on any device
  • Using an appropriate file name that includes your name and the job title
  • Including a personalised cover letter or short elevator pitch when sending off your CV that summarises your key achievements and demonstrates the relevancy of your application
  • Ensuring your profiles on LinkedIn and online job boards are up-to-date and in line with your CV

This applies to instances where recruiters are tasked with screening and filtering CVs themselves, however, many will be using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for this initial round of screening, especially those hiring many roles at once.

How do you Get Through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)?

Many recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen and filter CVs before they even reach a human recruiter or hiring manager. To increase your chances of getting past the ATS and into the hands of a decision-maker, you first need to make sure you’ve tailored your CV to the specific job you’re applying for.

Many ATS scan CVs for keywords related to skills, qualifications and experience, so including the keywords listed in the job advert/description will increase the likelihood of your CV appearing relevant to the software. However, resorting to keyword stuffing instead of using these keywords in context will not help you to make a lasting impression on recruiters, so use them with purpose.

To get through an ATS, you’ll also need to choose a format that’s clear, easy to read, and well-structured. More tips on formatting your CV for Life Science jobs can be found here.

How Long do Recruiters Spend Scanning Your CV?

A 2018 eye-tracking study carried out by Ladders found that recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds on the initial scan of a CV. The study also found that recruiters scan the left-hand side of the CV first, picking out important pieces of information such as subheadings and job titles before reading supplementary information as necessary.

In terms of the length of a CV, the study showed that recruiters spend as much time scanning the second page of a CV as the first, given that the first is well-formatted and engaging. Subsequent pages do not perform as strongly, regardless of how engaging the first two pages are.

Which Layouts do Recruiters Prefer?

The Ladders study also shows that recruiters spend more time scanning the top third of CVs than anywhere else, proving that you should always include the most important information first. This is where your opening statement comes in, as this should summarise the key strengths and accomplishments listed throughout your CV, beyond the top third.

Layouts that supported F-pattern reading tendencies also worked well to capture the recruiters’ attention, with bold subheadings followed by bulleted lists proving more engaging than large blocks of text. These types of layouts that use clear headers to mark each section of the CV help to guide recruiters to the most essential parts of the document, ensuring these aren’t missed during the initial quick scan.

What are the Most Important Sections of your CV?

After your opening statement, recruiters will typically move on to your experience section. Your experience should be listed in reverse chronological order, as recruiters want to know what you’re doing right now. Here, they are looking to see:

  • Relevant job titles
  • Your key accomplishments, and not just a list of duties
  • Career progression
  • Keywords relevant to the job advert/description
  • The goal of your role
  • The value of your work
  • The results you’re capable of producing

When discussing your accomplishments, use bulleted lists rather than lengthy paragraphs to make your writing more impactful, and be specific. The same applies to other sections of your CV; recruiters want more than a list of job responsibilities, courses completed, and grades achieved. They want to know how all these things combine to make you the perfect candidate, and what results you can produce in the role using everything you’ve learned.

How do you Make Your CV Stand Out?

When talking about your skills, qualifications, and experience, always use numbers to put your accomplishments into context. Statistics can show your ability to meet targets, improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase revenue, and make other measurable contributions to your previous employers.

By including specific numbers and metrics, you can provide evidence of your achievements, which can help recruiters understand the potential value you could bring to the organisation. Ensure that the statistics you include are relevant, accurate, and can be backed up with evidence. Avoid using vague or misleading statistics, and make sure to explain the context and significance of the numbers you include.

Here are 10 more things to include in your CV to make it stand out from the pile.