Want to know what recruiters really want?
Well, you’re in luck. We recently surveyed over 300 UK employers who shared their biggest application turn-offs and told us what they’re really looking for when they read your CV.
Here’s what we found out:
Most important feature of a CV:
Aside from the obvious (i.e. qualifications and previous experience), for many recruiters, presentation should take precedence. In fact, nearly half of those surveyed told us that the most important consideration when reviewing a CV is that it’s presented in a logical order.
Good formatting and appropriate length were also highlighted by most hiring managers as pre-requisites. So when you start writing your CV, don’t leave layout as an afterthought. It really is important. Even the most well-written CV can be let down by poor presentation.
And if you’re wondering what the perfect format and length is for your CV, an overwhelming 91% of recruiters see a Word document of two to three pages as the right way to go.
Top tip: When it comes to ordering, it’s all about relevance. For example, if you’re applying for a graduate role, state your education first. If specific experience is highlighted in the job description, ensure that this is featured on the first page of your CV.
Over 50% of recruiters highlighted poor spelling and grammar as their number one application turn-off.
In today’s competitive job market, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are almost inexcusable and, more importantly, they are easily fixed. All it takes is to ask someone to proofread what you’ve written and you could be making your application twice as likely to succeed.
And don’t rely on spellcheck. It won’t find every error that’s their*.
Top tip: Re-read your CV. Read it again. And, more importantly, ask a friend or family member to read it. You may be skipping over an error or missing a mistake without even knowing it.
Biggest pet-hate phrase:
For many hiring managers, there’s nothing worse than a generic CV.
With that in mind, you may want to pay particular attention when it comes to your hobbies and interests section: one in three recruiters states that the CV phrase that grates the most is: ‘I enjoy socialising with friends’.
Let’s face it, we all enjoy socialising with friends.
The same goes for ‘Good team player/good working in a team or as an individual’, with 28% of hiring managers surveyed identifying it as their own pet-peeve. When you’ve only got two or three pages to stand out, don’t waste valuable space by using the same stock sentences.
Top tip: As well as tailoring every application to the job description, you should also quantify every statement you can and back it up with a real example. For instance, if the employer’s looking for someone who works well in a team, saying ‘demonstrated excellent team-working skills when doing x project’ is far more effective than the tired ‘good team player’ tag.
Importance of a cover letter:
For some of us, cover letters are a point of contention.
Whilst some jobseekers see it as a key way to provide insight into their experience and interests beyond their CV, others question how much value a cover letter really adds. Well, what if we told you that four out of ten recruiters not only think cover letters are important, but would disregard your application without one.
So next time you’re wondering what’s the point of writing one, remember: any extra opportunity to sell yourself should be taken.
Top tip: To maximise the impact of your cover letter, always try and tailor it to the position in question. Even if you haven’t been asked to include one, still do. For at least 40% of recruiters who receive your application, it could prove to be the difference.
What to do when they don’t call:
Finally, 82% of recruiters said it reflects well on a candidate when they follow up on an application.
Remember: most recruiters spend one to two minutes scanning a CV. If no-one’s been in touch after a week or so, it could be time to take action and get in touch yourself.
Even if you’ve been unsuccessful, some will give you a few minutes of valuable feedback which could just help you to succeed next time round.
Wondering about the best way to follow up an application or interview? 65% indicated you should follow up via email.
Top tip: If you haven’t heard back from an application or interview, be proactive. It may just give you the edge when it comes to the interviewer’s estimations.
So there you have it. With a well-written Word document, two pages long, and presented in a logical fashion, with no grammatical errors, and a cover letter to match, you and your CV will have a much higher chance of success.
Now all that’s left is to clear out your busy social schedule before the interview (sorry, friends).
*To avoid any confusion, reed.co.uk must point out that this spelling mistake is included purely for ironic purposes only.
Still searching for your perfect position? View all available jobs now
Find your next job
Sign up for more Career Advice