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What Employers Want to See on Your CV

Farhan Yasin, President of CareerBuilder EMEA
Your CV is designed to do one thing and one thing only: to get you an interview. Yet the average recruiter will only spend between 20 to 30 seconds glancing at your CV which means that you need to make an impression quickly and sell yourself.

But with some employers receiving literally hundreds of unimaginative and uninspiring identikit applications for each advertised vacancy, how do you know what they are really looking for and how can you make your CV stand out from the crowd?

Acting as your own personal advertisement or shop window, your CV enables buyers (recruiters) to see what you have to offer – luckily most people actually get it wrong. If you get the key components of your CV right, you will have the advantage over your competition.

Personal Statement

This is your first opportunity to make an impression, get it wrong and your chances of being invited to interview are drastically reduced.

Employers need to have a reason to continue reading the rest of your CV because it is their job to attract and retain the best employees for their businesses. They have little or no interest in what you want out of your career. They want to know what you will do for them, how will you benefit their business? But most CVs fall into the trap of being too self-orientated.

For instance, phrases such as “Results-orientated professional seeking the opportunity to develop my career” or “Looking for a challenging opportunity…” should be avoided at all costs because they are focused on ‘me, me, me’.

Instead, your statement must make the same assumption that all good adverts do: “If you buy this product you will get these specific benefits”.

Employment History

Employers spend more time looking at this section than any other part of your CV. Consequently, this section needs to quickly convince a potential employer of your suitability to the advertised role and effectively market you.

This section needs to answer the following: Why should they hire you rather than another candidate? How can you provide added value to the company? What is unique about you? How can you fulfil their needs? Get the picture?

Max Bygraves famously said, “I want to tell you a story”. That is exactly what you are going to do here – tell recruiters your career story without sounding like a machine. Start with your most recent position and list in reverse chronological order.

Your most recent positions need the most attention because it is your skills and experiences gained in these roles that will determine your suitability for the role. Show your start and finish dates in years only – it looks better and helps hide any gaps when you may have been ‘in-between’ jobs.

But whatever you do, do not bluff or tell white lies about your capabilities because they have the nasty habit of creeping up on you. You may get caught out which could cause some embarrassment at a later date. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by employee screening specialists The Risk Advisory Group found that 50% of all CVs in the UK contained at least one ‘falsehood’ or lie. The authors of the survey wrote that the findings “brought to our attention how unscrupulous candidates can be when applying for jobs, and highlight their apparent lack of conscience towards potential new employers”.


Job hunting is a buyers and sellers marketplace. You are the seller and employers are the buyers. To make yourself more attractive than your competition, you need to use all the tools in your armoury.

If you graduated from a highly regarded university, obtained excellent academic results or are currently studying towards a professional qualification relating to your chosen career, then position this section near the top of your CV.

However, if your career history is your strongest selling point then place the Education section towards the end of your CV.


This section highlights your unique selling points as a prospective employee.

Make it easy for employers to spot your talents and be clear about what you are offering. Employers refer to this section to determine what they will get in return on their investment in you.

Therefore, you need to sell yourself and demonstrate your skills and achievements. Show how you are going to be a positive addition to their workforce.

And, because the National Resume Writer’s Association reports 80% of CVs are placed directly into keyword-searchable databases, be deliberate with your choice of skills.

If you are unclear about what skills the job requires because the job advert gives little information, then search similar job titles on CareerBuilder and note what those positions are looking for. Once you have done that, create a list of your matching competencies in terms of transferable, job-related and adaptive skills such as communication, technical or problem-solving abilities.

Always remember your audience

Employers will quickly scan a number of CVs and they do not want to be reading a list of skills or an employment history that reads like the guest list to Elton Johns’ wedding.

Keep your list short and tailored to the position that you are applying for — a targeted list will be more effective than one that’s overlong. And remember, your CV is designed to market YOU to a potential employer. Make it clear, uncluttered and appealing, and address the three key questions that employers want answered: What can you do for me? What have you done before? Can you do it for me again?

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