What do employers look for on applicants’ CVs?
CVs can be really tricky to get right. Every employer and organisation has a different method of sorting through CVs and depending on the job description, they will be looking for different things in each application.
To get an insight into the mind of an employer when it comes to looking at CVs, we spoke to Mick Westman, CEO and Founder of Digital Innovators.
What three things do you look for when reviewing applicants’ CVs?
“Personality. When I’m looking at applications, I’m trying to see the person behind the CV. So, I look for for anything in a CV that can give me an insight into who they are and the type of person they are. After all, we employ people not pieces of paper.”
“I’m usually drawn to a CV which stands out visually. This doesn’t mean it needs to be a creative CV, but one that hasn’t followed a conventional format. This links back to my search for the applicant’s personality, which can be reflected in the format of their CV.”
“Whilst reading CVs, I’m looking for that “wow” moment. What makes this person’s CV stand out from all the others I have read? What unique experience do they have which I wouldn’t have seen before? What is the one thing on their CV which will make me interested to learn more about them?”
What makes you put down a CV before finishing it?
“One thing which is likely to make me put down a CV before finishing it is using too many buzzwords. Whilst it is great to demonstrate your suitability for the role, using too many buzzwords means that your individuality is lost.”
Understandably, this is a Catch 22. Whilst buzzwords make it hard to stand out from other applicants, many organisations (particularly large companies) use computer systems to sift through CVs using buzzwords. This makes sure that the “relevant” CVs are narrowed down for the final selection process.
So, our tip would be – do your research. Larger, more corporate organisations will often use these CV processing systems and probably focus more on experience and qualifications – which can be indicated using buzzwords. However, SMEs and start-ups with smaller workforces – such as Digital Innovators – are more likely to prioritise the person behind the application, and buzzwords might not be the best way to appeal to them. Therefore, you can adapt your approach to the type of organisation you’re applying for.
What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to CVs and applications in general?
“When it comes to applications and CVs, one of the most important things is providing real, tangible evidence of your skills. If you’re putting down your skills in reference to a job, make sure you back it up with when and where you developed this and how you were able to demonstrate this.”
The idea of having tangible work experience to include as evidence on your CV is something we really believe in at Digital Innovators as we know that lacking this can be a barrier to securing employment. How many times have you heard that a “more experienced” candidate has secured the role you really wanted?
So, to combat this we established the Digital Innovators Skills Programmes which, in addition to developing the core skills which employers tell us they want in their employees, provides young people with real-life work experience with leading employers in the West Midlands.
“In addition to this, any recommendations or comments from previous employers go a very long way. These provide further evidence of your skills and attributes listed on your CV as what you’ve said has been backed up with the word of a reputable employer.”
So, there you have it – an insight into an employer’s thoughts when looking at CVs.
For more tips and tricks on CV writing, job applications and more, check out our previous issues of The Stride. To find out how you can gain work experience evidence for your CV by working with leading employers in the region, have a look at the Digital Innovators Skills Programme.