How to Prepare CVs for a Client

Whilst we’re busy bringing in new jobs, reaching out to clients and attempting to keep track of an ever-growing network of candidates, the one thing at the centre can easily go off target – the CV! The money-maker in our game is often the most overlooked aspect of recruitment. Take a look at my top 4 tips on how to make sure it’s just the thing your clients are looking for:

1. The Obvious – Spelling & Grammar

I’ll keep it short because it really is obvious; proofread your candidate’s CV. - and that’s manually, without the ever-helpful automated spell check. A document riddled with typos entirely negates the ‘attention to detail’ you’ve raved about earlier on…

2. Formatting and Profiling

Please, oh please, do not take a candidate’s CV and send it straight to your client. Take the time to format it, so that it’s in the same style as all other CVs you send out. Whether that’s in a specific font, size, or on headed paper will be down to the brand guidelines of your company. It’s worth considering adding a footer with your name and the name of your company, along with any contact details. On a styling note, don’t feel you have to stick to the ‘2 page rule’. If it simply will not fit, wall-to-wall text will achieve little more than giving the reader a headache trying to follow what’s going on.

In terms of profiling, a candidate will often have a ‘profile’ section at the beginning of their CV – I recommend using this as a base only, and building on it. Use this area to pull out and highlight the skills of the candidate in line with the role you’re putting them forward for. Prove to your client that you know the skills of the candidate and aim to set any reservations they may have straight at this early stage. One size does not fit all here; if you’re submitting the CV for multiple different roles, change the profile section to suit each one.

3. Chronology 

Candidates can try to be clever with their CVs, setting them out with descriptions of their experience all neatly compartmentalised into various tables showing each skill – but in my opinion this makes a CV irritatingly hard to follow. Not only that, but it sets alarm bells ringing in my head – why has this candidate mixed everything up into one big skills list, are they trying to hide a gap in their work history? Stick with a simple structure giving educational and work history in chronological order, followed by a brief description of the responsibilities of each role. If your candidate does have a gap in their work history, it’s your job to find out why! Be upfront with your client and add in details of the dreaded ‘employment gap’. Your candidate took a year’s sabbatical and decided to travel the world? Use that to draw on the soft skills they developed during their adventures; communication, planning and organisational skills are just as important as technical expertise.

4. Highlight Accomplishments, Not Duties

Writing a brief paragraph on each of your most recent and relevant roles is difficult; it’s very easy slip into the trap of listing job duties thus making your experience sound distinctly average. If this is how your candidate’s handed their CV to you, speak to them!

Find out why they were promoted, why they left each role, but most importantly what they did well in each role. Change the wording of the CV to truly reflect the level of work that’s been put in. For example, “updated departmental documents” doesn’t give much credit for what can be a mammoth task – try, “organised 15 years’ worth of unruly files, making them easily accessible and in a useful state for a team of 20.”

Highlighting accomplishments ensures your client is aware that your candidate will go the extra mile – just doing the job really doesn’t cut it when you’re looking to move up the career ladder.

Download button for eBook: When are candidates most likely to apply for jobs?

Heidi Gardner

Heidi is PhD student at the University of Aberdeen. Her research focuses on the issues surrounding the recruitment of patients into clinical trials.

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