What recruiters really want to see on a CV

What recruiters really want to see on a CV

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6 months ago

by Pete Smith

What recruiters really want to see on a CV

​What recruiters really want to see on a CV

There is so much advice out there about how to write a CV, some of which can be found on this very blog! There is no question that people struggle when it comes to writing a CV and need guidance about how it should be structured however, this is only part of the story.

With the current economic challenges and depending on the function, sector and salary banding you are in you may find yourself in a highly competitive market. You therefore need to ensure that your CV stands out, over and above making sure it is well presented, you need to think about what will make you more attractive? What do recruiters really want to see on a CV?

In recruitment, whether working for an agency or directly for a company, we see a myriad of CVs on a daily basis. We are used to screening CVs quickly to ascertain whether they match our client’s brief however, rest assured, we are doing more than giving CVs a cursory glance.

With limited time to speak to every candidate who applies, we need to look for clues in a CV which indicate whether a candidate is strong fit, whether they have the required experience and competence for the role we are recruiting for but also whether they are likely to match the values and culture of our clients. Here are some of the things recruiters like to see on a CV:

Track record

Recruiters love to see hard evidence on a CV. Tangible results and achievements, preferably with specific numbers, £s and % increases which will set you apart from other candidates who use generic statements about their performance. Saying you’re good isn’t enough – you need to prove it!

Brand consistency

This very much depends on the individual situation and the preference of each client however, seeing a candidate who has worked for a number of competitor brands can make them attractive if this is important to the client. Conversely, the client may be looking for someone who has worked in a variety of sectors in which case brand variety will work in your favour. There is no question though that having worked for a market leading brand, whatever the sector, is extremely powerful.

Clear progression

Evidence that you have been promoted or been given greater responsibility is clearly an indicator of good performance. Seeing clear progression every couple of years will make you an attractive candidate and is particularly important if you have worked for a long time in the same company.

Extra-curricular activities

Are you a member of a working party in your company? Are you a mentor or coach for someone in your team? Anything which suggests that you go above and beyond your role remit gives the recruiter an indication that you are a. committed, b. passionate and c. driven and motivated, all of which are desirable traits in a candidate. After all, to be invited to do extra-curricular activities, you generally have to be good at what you do.

Giving back

CSR has grown in importance for the last few years and is important for many companies and so evidence that you are involved with your company’s CSR programme or indeed involved with voluntary activities in your personal life can indicate a cultural alignment which will be of strong interest to some companies.

Whether it is holding the post of School Governor or fundraising for a local charity, your willingness to give something back gives insight into you as a person and your value-set – something which is important to many organisations.

Out of hours

Tread carefully when listing hobbies and interests and use sparingly making sure they are interesting and different. Some would argue that spending time with family should be a given and does not qualify as a hobby!? Coaching your child’s football team or running marathons gives the recruiter or hiring manager yet more information about you and is useful as an ice breaker in an interview.


Used sparingly for added impact, testimonials on your CV can be hugely powerful however they must be from a credible source.


The credibility of your referees speaks volumes, especially if they are from your current company as this indicates that you are confident about your performance in your current role. Always take care of course to specify on your CV that the referee should only be contacted with your express permission and after you have resigned.

And what Recruiters may worry about…


Many individuals have had their careers impacted over the last few years by the Pandemic and there is a genuine understanding out there about this. Adding some notes on the CV about the circumstances of any temporary roles or shorter stints with an organisation can be a useful sign post for recruiters and will avoid any assumptions being made.

Change in status

Any significant change in status – a perceived reduction in remit/responsibility or drop to a lower grade/role many raise questions. There are often legitimate reasons for this (career change, relocation for instance) so it is worth adding a note to explain.

Attention to detail

There is simply no excuse for spelling or grammatical mistakes on a CV. A lack of attention to detail never reflects well!

As ever, the key is to make yourself as attractive as possible to recruiters, giving yourself the best possible chance of being invited to interview. Paying extra attention to some of these areas will hopefully tempt recruiters to give you a call.

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