Recruitment Consultants and Your CV – The First 20 Seconds

What do recruiters look for in a CV?

A simple question, but one we sometimes fail to grasp.  We all hear that you have 20 seconds to impress a recruiter, but what does that mean.  Surely, you think, recruiters cant make a decision in twenty seconds and, if they do, what’s the point of adding all the detail.

The answer to this is straightforward.  As with your CV, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter. A day in the life of a recruiter is presented below, but it confirms a few things:

  • They have very little time and are very much reactive, responding to calls and urgent requests often
  • They upload all new CVs together to their system to keep them there for future reference, but no automatic call back
  • They already have candidates in the forefront of their minds, not always checking the databases for candidates.
  • When they do check their databases for candidates they have little time, so they really do need to be able to skim your CV

So when looking at your CV, what does a recruiter notice first:

1. The first thing is the CV formatting and presentation.  An ugly or poorly formatted CV is a turn off.  It goes to the back of the pile.

2. Obvious spelling mistake at the beginning.  If you spell a common word poorly it is an instant turn off as it looks unprofessional.

3. The names of the companies for which you worked.  Strong brand names lend credibility to your experience and give you an instant advantage

4. Education, and yes, even A-levels for experienced candidates. With so many applicants large companies with major recruitment programmes turn to any minor details to screen out candidates.  Amazingly, even candidates with over 10 years work experience can be rejected on the basis of these old grades.  But you can’t leave them off – they will either ask or assume the worst – that you got poor grades.

5. The job title and main responsibility of the jobs you have done.  Basically, they want to know the thrust and scale of the responsibilities you have had to see if they fit the client’s criteria.

Once they have scanned your CV to check all these, they will make their shortlist.  At this point, they go into detail on your CV and may call you to discuss the role and ask you to tailor your CV to the particular job, if certain skills and experiences are not clear enough.

So get the basics right and make sure you deal with these key requirements.  If not….you will find it hard to get their attention!


A Day in the Life of An Experienced Recruitment Consultant

08:15  I arrive at work early to make a cup of tea and have a chat with my colleagues. Going to work is anything but a chore here, with the friendly and lively atmosphere.

08:35  I listen to my voicemails and make any urgent call backs. I have a message from my candidate, who has his second interview at 10:00 today, to inform me that he has all of the information that I sent him and confirming that he will call me with his feedback after the interview.

08:55  Check my emails and applications that have come through from the night before. We have a system that automatically registers the candidates details and CVs onto our database in a matter of minutes so I send all suitable applicants to this system so that they can be contacted, once they are registered. Within my emails one of my regular clients has sent me the details of an urgent vacancy so I print off the job description to digest before calling them.

09:20  I call my client and talk through the urgent vacancy, as it happens I had a very similar role local to this company last week so I instantly remember two suitable candidates. After taking the details I call the two candidates, the role sounds perfect for them so I submit their CV’s. Once the vacancy is written and advertised I add the figures to our ‘Activity’ target board that we have on the wall. Each team has their own board and in addition to our individual targets we are targeted weekly as a team and when we meet the targets for the week we get to leave an hour early on the Friday which after a long and busy week is a great feeling.

10:00  Although I am confident that my candidate will have arrived at his interview, I make a quick call to the receptionist of the company just to double check that he arrived ok. The receptionist informs me he arrived 15 minutes early and is already being interviewed, fingers crossed it goes well! I have sent two fantastic candidates over to the urgent vacancy but to make sure I cover all areas, I search our database for candidates that myself and colleagues have built up over the years, followed by the external CV databases that we have access to. I find one more candidate, interview him by telephone and once I’ve established that he is suitable (and interested in the role) I send the details over.

11:15  I have a visit with one of my local clients to find out more about their business and discuss how we can assist them going forward. I take my colleague with me from one of the other divisions who it will also benefit. If I was in the office I would normally spend this time doing Business Development, however today is an exception as it is important that we meet as many of our clients as possible to develop relationships and find out more about their business so that we can find candidates and provide the highest level of customer service.

12:45  Arrive back in the office after a successful visit where we were able to strengthen our working relationship with them and as a result picked up four new vacancies, two of which are for me to work on and the other two for my colleague.  I check my emails and my client with the urgent vacancy has requested to see all three candidates for interview next week. I have enough time before lunch to speak with the candidates and arrange the interviews.

13:00  Lunch Time. As it is a Friday I pop to the local pub with some of my colleagues. Whilst I am on lunch my candidate who had the second interview called me on my mobile to inform me that his interview went well, that he really wanted the job and would 100% accept if he was offered, fantastic.

14:00  I check my voicemails and find that I have a message from my client who asked me to call back with regard to the feedback from the second interview so I make the call straight away. I speak to my client and pass on the positive feedback from the candidate. The client then informs me that the MD was very impressed with the candidate and would like to offer him the position.

14:20  I call my candidate and after a brief chat relay the offer details. The candidate is absolutely delighted with the offer, it is just the job he has been looking for and it’s located closer to home meaning he can spend more quality time with his family.

14:45  I speak to my client and confirm that the candidate has accepted the offer and then I pass his contact details over so that the contract can be sent to him immediately. After processing the details through the system I add the figures to our target board meaning that we have now done target for the week and will be entitled to leave the office an hour early. My picture goes up on the plasma screen in both of our offices and everyone in the team cheers as we have done target. It feels great to be part of a successful team. It is smiles all round.

15:30  With an hour to go I tie up all loose ends for the week, ensure my Inbox is clear and re-advertise all of my vacancies.  I am attending an in house training course next week so I make sure I have all of the course details to take home with me to read over the weekend in preparation. I find the training courses very refreshing and motivating. I am very keen to progress my career and there is no question in my mind that Training and Personal Development are important to the Management team and that I will always be pushed to my potential along a set career path.

16:00  Although I try and stick with my plan as much as possible it is not always easy to do so as I quite often find myself reacting to new tasks as they present themselves which have to be dealt with. Time management is crucial in recruitment and so I spend the last half an hour finishing my plan for the following week. My pipeline is looking healthy so I am looking forward to another great week.

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4 Responses to Recruitment Consultants and Your CV – The First 20 Seconds

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