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The Curriculum Vitae from a recruitment perspective

The Curriculum Vitae from a recruitment perspective


Much has been written on how to produce a good CV so in this article, I will give you an insight as to how a recruiter uses a CV during the recruitment process.
Last Updated: 27-Aug-2010

Despite the many hours’ work involved in pulling together a good CV, you may be surprised to learn that most recruiters spend only a few minutes scanning each CV before making a decision regarding your application.

The main purpose of your CV is to generate sufficient interest to gain an interview. It should make the reader keen to meet you. Your CV must, therefore, be accessible and relevant. It needs to be attractive, but not too elaborate, and designed to meet potential employers’ needs. Your CV must show what you have to offer – your skills – and how you have benefited other organisations in the past – your achievements.

It is important that the CV reads convincingly and appears well structured.

A preliminary screen by a recruiter

  • verifies the required academic qualifications
  • verifies an acceptable background and job history looking at consistency, logical career progression, and success.
  • assesses qualitative issues

As the CV presents you to the outside world, it is your personal brochure. It should attempt to convey what makes you special and why you should be preferred over other candidates. However, it is important to bear in mind what else it may be saying about you other than your skills and achievements! Close scrutiny will reveal whether it has integrity and can reveal a lot about you through analysis of the “soft” or qualitative information.

Presentation is very important, as a sloppy CV can be symptomatic of sloppy work habits. Spelling mistakes and proofing oversights can be indicative of poor attention to detail and an inability to meet professional standards.

Your academic record must make sense. Don’t worry about showing a poor academic performance if successful retakes have followed as this could indicate persistency.

You may have spent three years of your life studying an immunological cascade within the gills of an obscure estuarine amphibian. Whilst it is an important part of your academic background do not expect a recruiter to share your fascination or enthusiasm. A well thought of summary of your research could indicate that you have good communication skills.

Do not have any unaccounted for time on your CV. All the dates shown should square up and there should be no gaps without explanation. A gap may indicate maternity leave, world travel, or it could indicate a spell in prison!

Any job moves should show a logical progression. Frequent moves between permanent jobs can be an indication of a lack of persistency or commitment, a low boredom threshold or a recurring performance issue. Moves between industries may indicate that you have no idea about what you want to do.

Additional clues can be derived from your personal interests. Participation in team sports may indicate extrovert tendencies; whilst more solitary pursuits such as reading, music or chess, may indicate introvert tendencies. (Mild introversion may be a key personality trait in a field-based role!) References to physical activities – sport, the gym, hiking, etc. – may indicate high energy levels and consequently a greater capacity for work.

It is amazing how many assumptions (whether right or wrong) are made about an individual on the basis of a quick visual scan. The next important use of the CV during the recruitment process is to check these assumptions and to clarify any questions that emerge from the analysis of the CV during the interview.

A good CV is one of your most valuable assets and so you should aim to review and maintain it on a regular basis. The only proof of a good CV is whether or not it leads to an interview.

There are no golden rules or absolutes for CVs. It is your personal brochure. It should reflect you and the image you wish to project. You can be creative but you must be honest.

The CV will be doing what it should for you when it

  • shows that you contribute to whatever job you take
  • shows implicitly that you are organised, ambitious and goal orientated
  • conveys an image that deserve a closer look.

Your CV will, or will not, do these things depending on the strength of how you present your work experience, the tone, readability, and its overall impression.