What Do Employers Look For In A CV At First Glance?

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I have been in the recruitment industry for eight years now. That is 8 years of short listing and reviewing CVs to gauge whether an applicant is eligible for the first interview with us, before we can recommend him/her to our client or not. Most job seekers want to know what do employers look for on a CV, as they want to have their CVs read.

In my experience, many job seekers underestimate the role that a CV plays in searching for a job.

This is the deal ,as long as it’s a total stranger reviewing your CV to decide your fitness for a given  role, it’s  very crucial that you rethink of this one very important document when applying for jobs- The CV!

Of importance to note is that this document has the potential and power to dictate the course of your career life.

In this article, I have shared simple yet very crucial insights and truths that recruiters, like myself and other employers in general, look for in a CV at first glance before they decide whether to delete or proceed and call you an interview.

For your information, it takes less than a minute for the person short listing to decide whether you’ll move to the next stage, at a slight glance at your CV.

Listed below are some sections that are of great interest to recruiters, employers and employees alike.

  1. Relevant work experience

Relevant experience touches on industry, location, experience level, specific skills e.g. knowledge of an ERP etc. Unless an employer is willing to train or is open to other industries and sectors, relevant work experience is crucial.

If, for example, am hiring for the NGO sector and I make it clear that nonprofit experience is crucial, then it is not advisable for you to apply if you don’t come from such a background. The keywords are ‘relevant work experience’.

  1. Employment Status

Are you currently engaged or not working? This could work for /or against you. Some positions require immediate placement while others are willing to wait for candidates to serve notice.

It is, therefore, prudent that you pay close attention to the details of the advert to avoid missing such important information. If you’ve been out of a job for a long time, this raises very many serious questions as to why you left your previous job and the reason why you’ve not been absorbed elsewhere yet.

Employers are generally suspicious of candidates who are not working. Some employers will actually be hesitant to hire such candidates. If you’ve been searching for a job for long with no success, I advise you to consider volunteering or interning to close this gap.

  1. Referees

If you have worked for 3 employers and none is listed as your references, this raises doubts as to how you left previous employments.  Always indicate some of your previous employers or colleagues as referees. This shows that you have nothing to hide. Unless you are fresh from college, remove your former lecturer and anyone who is not work-related from your list of referees.

  1.  Achievements

We are living in an era of a very competitive job market where the demand for jobs is high and supply low. To thrive in such an environment you need to demonstrate your uniqueness. Marketers call this USP (unique selling point), to do this, don’t just indicate your duties in the CV but rather, go a step further and list some of your achievements. List achievements in figures or percentages to drive the point home e.g. cut operating costs by Ksh 5.2M or increased sales by 23% in a span of 3 months.  3-4 achievements will do in that matter. The point is to demonstrate that you can deliver and employers want someone who can do just that.

  1. Gaps

Are there gaps in your CV? If they are too many, you might be labeled a job hopper. To avoid this, always explain in your CV why you left each employment and what you were doing in that period. The danger with gaps is if they are too many and especially if preceded or followed by short stints in employment. Such a CV communicates that you don’t stay long in employment and employers don’t want instability since recruitment costs a lot in terms of time and money.

The danger with gaps is if they are too many and especially if preceded or followed by short stints in employment. Such a CV communicates that you don’t stay long in employment and employers don’t want instability since recruitment costs a lot in terms of time and money.

  1. Duration of employment with current employer

If you were hired in May this year and you are already applying for other jobs know that few or no employer(s) will take you seriously. While it’s expected that candidates will seek greener pastures employers look down upon those who look unsettled by changing jobs within a short period. This is related to point five above.  In such a case,I advise you embark on networking. With networking, you can get a chance to explain yourself even before you share your CV with a potential employer.

This is related to point five above.  In such a case,I advise you embark on networking. With networking, you can get a chance to explain yourself even before you share your CV with a potential employer.

  1. Education

Those who have studied claim that they are trainable on any job. And those with experience but no qualifications are quick to point out that experience triumphs all.

Different employers look at the education part differently. For some it is mandatory for you to have achieved a certain level of education e.g. graduate or MBA, for others what matters is whether you can deliver, and yet for some employers, the more ‘educated’ you are the less absorbable you become i.e. some employers will not hire you if you have an MBA etc.

The job market has many twists and turns and you need to read between the lines. For example, you don’t need a CPAK, B.com and, MBA to perform as an accounts assistant. Chances are high that an employer will consider CPA holders only before they can look at the ‘overqualified’ candidates.

  1. Others

How appealing is your CV to the eye? From how you’ve formatted your CV, spelling, presentation etc. Just like any other formal document, you will be judged on presentation. It even becomes more critical as you advance in your career. I might forgive you for some careless mistakes if you’re an entry-level job seeker but trust me, the same won’t happen if you have been in the job market for more than a year.

I always advise candidates to always make it easy for the person short listing by packaging  their CVs in such a way that the recruiter will get as much information as possible at a glance, and without any struggle.This will enable them  to make a quick decision about you.

Secondly, always ensure that your CV is ‘marketing’ you. You can as well share your CV with a trusted friend and request them to critique. Alternatively, have a professional review your CV.

 

Perminus Wainaina
Perminus Wainaina is a Recruitment Consultant at Corporate Staffing Services. He delights in seeing professionals take control of their own careers and make choices that work better for them