Get your CV to the top of the pile

Of the dozens or even hundreds of CVs that recruiters look at each day, it might surprise you to know it is not necessarily the best candidates who go straight to the “yes” pile. Rather it is those who have reviewed the job description and made relevant information prominent that get considered for roles most regularly.

With so many candidates to review, recruiters scan rather than read CVs and they have to make judgement calls about how long to spend on each profile. If all relevant information is clearly visible it makes decisions easy. If some key skills or experience aren’t obvious then the recruiter needs to decide whether to spend time searching for it.

Create a master CV

It may sound like extra work but tailoring your CV for each application will pay dividends. To make it efficient try:

  • Creating a master CV – bearing in mind the points I’ve highlighted in the section below create a CV with ALL your information on it. Review it for typos and make sure that it is well structured and formatted. Next get a friend or colleague to review it and ask them to suggest how to make it stronger – you want to know about mistakes or weaknesses as once they are eliminated from this version they won’t appear in your tailored CVs.
  • Tailoring the master CV for every opportunity – edit your master CV to create a tailored CV for each application focusing on the key skills and experience referenced in the job description. Remember – your CV is more about showing how you well you will match the role advertised than what you have achieved generally.

What to include in your CV?

  • Contact details - make sure your contact details (name, phone and email) are visible (ideally on all pages) and CORRECT. You would be surprised how often candidates get them wrong or forget them or don’t realise their CV, covering letter and email may get separated.
  • Have clear sections – your CV should be broken down into clearly marked sections, for example
  • Name, contact details & personal information
  • Work experience history
  • Education & qualifications (may go before work experience)
  • Interests (keep this short)
  • Keep it short and punchy – people don’t read CVs they review or scan them. Large paragraphs of text don’t work. Use headings and bullets to identify separate points. If your CV is long, focus on the most relevant experience… the bar job you did at university is probably irrelevant.
  • Focus on impact – a lot of CVs give lots of detail on experience and responsibilities. While these are important, employers really want to know the impact you have had. For example highlight revenue generated, costs reduced, profit increases, operational creativity, changes to cost per transaction etc.
  • Don’t be afraid of white space – a page full of text makes it hard to digest information.

Most roles will have an application deadline and it is better to send through something than nothing if a job interests you. However, given you will likely need to go through the steps above at some point during your application process anyway, why not do it at the start and maximise your chances of getting your CV at the top of the pile?

Clare Wight is managing director of Clarity Appointments, a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement (TEAM). Her email is: