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Special tricks to ensure that your CV is noticed

Regardless of the debate around the number of people currently pursuing financial services positions, two things are certain: there are thousands of financial services CVs available on CV databases, and any recruiter advertising a job has to trawl through many hundreds of them every single day.

This being so, how can you ensure that your CV isn’t consigned to a life of oblivion?

1) Use key words

If you send your CV to a recruiter, it will probably end up on a CV database. Alternatively, you can always load your CV onto a CV database directly.

Once your CV is on the database, it will be extracted by recruiters who have searched for key words. If your CV does not contain the correct key words, it will therefore not be found. Conversely, the key words your CV contains, the greater the chance that it will NOT languish in obscurity.

“I’m looking for people to fill finance roles,” says Elan Diamond, manager of the permanent banking team at recruitment firm Marks Sattin. “Therefore, I will be looking for finance and accounting-related terminology and industry recognised terms on the CV.”

As an example, Diamond says applicants for accounting roles should be mentioning qualifications like the ACA, or experience in areas like IFRS, both of which are popular search terms.

Needless to say, you should only mention key words if they actually apply to your achievements and experiences. One senior in-house recruiter says candidates have a tendency to insert key words, even when they’re not relevant.

“Candidates might write, ‘I worked with a project manager,’ so that they ensure the words ‘project manager’ are included in their CV and that it will come up in database searches for project management roles,” he reflects. If you do this, you will get a bad name.

2) Cut the guff

Related to the key words trick, do not bury your achievements in a mountain of waffle. If you do, it is unlikely that your CV will be unearthed on a database search, ever.

“If you’ve been a management accountant, or a financial accountant, say that,” says Diamond. “You need to use those particular words, rather than saying something like, “I was responsible for putting together a range of information for use in management-related reports.”

3) Keep it short

CVs need to be short. The recruiters we spoke to for this article said they read 200+ CVs each day. They do not want to read epic descriptions of your life to date.

“As a rule of thumb, the more verbose the covering letter, the longer the personal statement, and the more long winded a CV, the less suitable the candidate,” says James Heath at Greenwich Partners.

“The CV needs to be a simple one page Word file. Academics, and a clear description of your recent position and previous experience are all that’s required,” Heath adds.

4) Mirror the job specification

If you’re sending in your CV in application for a particular job, then guess what? It will help to adapt it to the job in question.

In particular, it will help to read the job specification in detail, to think about what’s being asked, and to adapt your CV to try and reflect the fact that you’ve got the experience requested (if you haven’t, it’s not worth applying). Look at the words being used to describe the skills required in the advertisement. Use these in your CV.

“I’m currently advertising for a project management role,” says one recruiter. “However, it’s a project management role which requires properties management experience. This is clear in the job spec, but I’m getting hundreds of applications from IT project managers who’ve clearly read no further than the title.”

5) Keep updating it

When recruiters are searching job boards for CVs, they are usually given the option of filtering CVs based on how recently those CVs were updated/uploaded. This being the case, it’s worth uploading your CV every day every month to make sure you’re not at the bottom of the pile.

Alternatively, if you’ve sent your CV to a recruiter, it might be sufficient just to keep calling them up. “We are able to sort CVs on our database according to how recently we’ve spoken to candidates,” says one recruiter. “Every call a candidate makes to us is registered, and the more recent the activity, the higher the CV will appear on a search that’s filtered by date.”

When tricks are a waste of time

Bear in mind, however, that no matter how many tricks you pull, they won’t work if you’re applying for jobs which you have no experience for, or you’re not the right academic calibre.

“Unless the skills, the relevant experience, and the academics are there, you haven’t got a chance,” says Heath. “No amount of dressing up a CV can compensate for a lack of the core competencies a client requires.”

Comments (21)

  1. Just FYI, on eFinancialCareers we’ve noticed that Recruiters are shortening the time span of CVs on our database that they’re interested in reviewing. It used to be 3 months, now its CVs no older than 1 month – as recruiters get pickier in a tough market, it’s all the more important to keep your CV fresh in the database. Otherwise you’ve got no chance of being found for searches.

    Sam Cowen, marketing, eFinancialCareers Reply
  2. I have learnt so much from this. I will be following all your advice eFinancial. You are a brilliant team! YEAH! I had never thought of any of this. Really, I hadn’t.

    I am now being taken back to the home…..medication time.

  3. @Darvil – thanks. Good to know you appreciate it.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  4. Another point to add is that agency databases will normally calculate the relevance of the candidate by the amount of times a certain word appears in the CV divided by the total number of words in it. For example a CV with 200 words with C# mentioned 5 times will appear higher in a search than a CV with 900 words with C# mentioned 10 times.

  5. Oh the joys of pampering to recruitment consultants so that their technology can extract the right buzz words.
    In my book there are only a few credible words; experienced, profitable, effective and efficient. As opposed to I kissed my bosses a— for the last xx years

    Revolution2010 Reply
  6. And normally the results will be ordered alphabetically so if your name starts with Z you better change your name to Aaron or something like that.

  7. So now its official – recruitment consultants dont read you cv until it has been put through a computer program to search for key words.

    Is this because recruitment consultants dont have the time inclination or intelligence (or all 3) to do anything else?

    It seems that many recruitment consultants are immature lazy and inexperienced.

    Imagine you run your own small business and you need to make a senior hire at a significant cost – would you trust the average recruitment consultant?

    perhaps you would be better advised to find candidates direct rather than use a bunch of largely immature sales people to solve your long term strategic goals

  8. good advise. lets see it makes a difference.

  9. …The most important thing is to lie as convincingly as possible. I have little understanding of “my industries”, but it hasn’t stopped me earning a packet from it!

  10. good stuff, keep posting

  11. If you don’t like recruiters, don’t use them – no-one forces candidates to do so. I agree though that some are young and expereinced – we all were at point or another at the start of our careers – same applies to all industries.
    Secondly, I would strongly advise candidates to call the employers directly themselves. Very advantageous as this will omit the recruitment fee from your hire and you can build some rapport before they review your CV. In the end, that is exactly what recruitment consultants are doing on your behalf in the first place.
    Good luck to all

  12. Recruiters are parasites

  13. You have great insight and knowledge ,Good work and keep it up

  14. Steve and other people who write “Recruiters are parasites” have no understanding of the recruitment market, you have mass market contigent firms which are full of young recruiters learning their trade and are generalists who rely on ad responses and head hunters in executive search who activley head hunt candidates for specific roles and are product specialists. To just say “Recruiters are parasites” shows your lack of understanding about an industry you choose to comment on, very sad indeed.

    Search Consultant Reply
  15. I have a issue at the moment with agents, firstly I agree with the point about agents not reading your CV as I seem to be rejecting loads that I have no skills for, unless of course I lie as best I can when I get into the interview, but thats just not me.
    My main grudge is agents not giving feedback when you attend interviews that they beg you to attend!!
    It never used to be like this – I only ever had to have one agent for my past 20 years career but that is no longer the norm now as we have all these CV databases. Why can’t they just have a maximum of two databases so that no-one misses out on roles, that way, maybe we won’t have to add in key words just so we get a chance of the interviewer seeing us and making up their own minds.

  16. @ Search Consultant-So you are a parasite?

  17. There’s good agencies and there’s bad agencies.
    There’s good candidates and there’s bad candidates.
    The article was titled “Special tricks..” and that’s all they are – tricks/tools to help. They’re not the be and end all.

    Respect, tolerance and professionalism are virtues which we all want – on both sides.
    Ultimately a recruitment process is all about dealing with people – how well or how poorly you do it.
    Today’s placement is potentially tomorrow’s client.

  18. Steve – I presume you work in a role that you hate and you need to vent your frustation towards head hunters, given you’ve probably never recieved a head hunt call. Please give me your details and I’ll head hunt you if that will make you feel better and maybe we can also address your anger issues.

    Search Consultant Reply
  19. I concur with Billie. “My main grudge is agents not giving feedback when you attend interviews that they beg you to attend!!”

  20. @ Search Consultant-Are you that short of work? Im fine thanks, I avoid people like you at all costs!

  21. Sam and Sarah:
    thank you very much for this information.
    Just a technical detail, that I’ve already stated: for some time now you seem to have disabled the possibility to fill a form for our CV. Instead, the only way to have a CV online seems to be to upload an already formatted Word document.
    Let’s be clear: I have no time to spend formatting a nice Word document. So I have stopped updating my CV on efinancialcareers since this time. Instead, I use LinkedIn, which is much simpler, and seems to attract as many recruiters.

    Fixed Income Structurer

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