How Recruiters Read Your CV

Today’s workforce is rife with competition – and with recruiters viewing (and rejecting) so many CVs on a daily basis, it’s important to know how to make your profile stand out. How recruiters read your CV, could be the difference between a potential job offer or a “thank you” email which says the position cannot be offered to you.

In this article, we discuss specific elements on how recruiters read your CV and what they look for while short-listing candidates. And how you can write your CV in a way that resonates with your recruiter’s mindset.


Recruiters must be persuaded to open your CV first


A well-tailored CV is next to useless if the recruiter doesn’t bother opening it.

The fact of the matter is recruiters don’t have the luxury of time and energy to sift through every single CV, so you need to do what you can to make sure yours is seen.

Writing a custom cover letter for each role you apply for will hugely increase the number of times recruiters read your CV. Address the recruiter by name and write a brief personal note which explains why you think that you would be a good fit for the role, and what you have to offer the company. To make it easy for recruiters to see your cover letter, include it in the body of your email as opposed to attaching it separately.


recruiters read your CV - be different
Try to stand out from the crowd with a personalized covering letter 




Recruiters skim read initially


Since recruiters are almost always hard-pressed for time, they can only afford so much when looking at CVs. You can bet none of them will have the time (or energy) to read every single line of text in your CV in full when they first open it. Most recruiters will skim read the CV initially to look for key signs of suitability, before they commit to reading in full.

Therefore, when writing your CV you must make it very “user friendly”. It should be easy to read and digest the information on the page. To do this you must split the page into clearly headed sections which are divided appropriately, such as an introductory profile, work experience, academic accomplishments and hobbies. You must also break text up as much as possible by using concise bullet points under each section and a simple clear font.

In addition, you must research your desired role extensively to understand what the recruiter expects to see in your CV before offering the role. Reflect those needs in your profile and you’re on your way to passing the initial recruiter skim read.


recruiters read your CV - ensure the layout is simple
Ensure your CV layout is easy to read 


Recruiters will scrutinize your current position


Recruiters will typically scrutinize the most recent position you’ve held the most; because this is generally the best way to assess your current capabilities. Therefore, you need to make this section the most detailed in your CV and ensure that you fully demonstrate the impact you have made, by including the following details:

  • The nature of your employer’s business
  • Where you sit within the organization hierarchy
  • The high-level goals of your role
  • Inputs you’ve made and skills/knowledge required
  • Individuals you interact with such as managers and clients
  • Results you’ve achieved for the business


Recruiters are obsessed with metrics


Recruiters just love numbers and metrics – why? Because it helps them save time and benchmark your profile against other hopefuls. Be careful of making exaggerated claims in your CV, as you’ll need to back them up with facts and numbers.

Including information such as what percentage of sales you helped the team achieve, the number of on-site/off-site locations you’ve worked or the total number of client accounts you secured between x-y time frame can really make recruiters pay attention.


recruiters read your CV - numbers
Show off with numbers


Recruiters are very skeptical


Glaring spelling and grammatical errors, incorrect dates or other forms of inconsistencies will discourage your recruiter quite quickly. Proofread everything – multiple times, if you have to – and eliminate all inconsistencies such as gaps in employments, any bold claims or “white lies” and a dodgy looking email address. Fix anything that raises a red flag.

Recruiters are only looking for accuracy, clarity, straightforwardness, and direct, easy to understand text. Now you know how a recruiter thinks, writing your CV should be easier with them in mind.


recruiters read you CV - gap on CV
Ensure you've addressed any gaps on your CV 


Andrew Fennell is a former recruiter and founder of StandOut CV, a leading advice centre for CV writing and job search. Andrew contributes careers advice to a number of sites including The Guardian, Business Insider and CV Library.


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