I’ve Personally Hired Over 1,000 People – This is What I Look for In Your CV

Fifteen years ago, internal and external recruiters were sent CVs through the post. They would manually review each CV and decide whether to show it to the hiring manager or not. If your CV wasn’t relevant for today’s role, it was either put in the bin or stored in a file related to your career experience that allowed the recruiter to refer back to at a later date.

Times have changed, even if there are a few recruiters that will still manually review CVs, they’ll typically spend less than six seconds reviewing yours. 

Candidate Sorting Software

Today, most recruiters will use scanning software to separate the good CVs from the bad. The use of scanning software has exploded in the last few years because the internet has made it very easy for candidates to apply for hundreds of jobs each day.

Recruiters will often have 1000’s of CVs for every position. Most candidates are either trying their luck or think they could probably do the job. Recruitment scanning software works in a very similar way to a search engine such as Google. The software scans your CV for a selection of keywords that have been chosen by the recruiter. If your CV has the right keywords, it will be reviewed.

The downside of using software to scan CVs, unless you’ve got the right keywords in your CV, is that it will most likely be missed.

So What Am I Looking For On Your CV

The focus point when writing your CV needs to be the relevant keywords. These are the keywords that explain your skills and knowledge to the hiring manager and quite frankly, this is what we’re looking for. Remember, recruiters are not specialists. They generally don’t know the ins and outs of every job and, therefore, rely on specific keywords.

Every candidate search begins with a specific set of keywords that relate to that search. The keywords usually depend on the hiring manager and their needs for that position. This begs the question; how do candidates figure out what keywords should be on their CV and what keywords to leave out? Honestly, it’s very easy and just requires you to do a little bit of preparation to tailor your CV for each application. 

What’s on the Job Advert

When I write a job advert, I’m usually looking for someone with a very specific set of skills and experience. I will use keywords to explain the role and what experience you require.You need to take this on board and make sure that these keywords are on your CV.

A great example: recently I recruited a role where the candidate was to be based in the middle of Russia. I placed a few job adverts making it clear that this role included permanent relocation. After a couple of days, I started to call candidates. The problem was that 95% of them hadn’t bothered to read the job description and did not realise the relocation prerequisite.

From this point forwards, I set my scanning software to make sure that the word “relocation” was included in the candidate’s CV. If the word relocation did not exist, the CV was automatically deleted. The moral of this example is to read the job advert and make sure that ALL the KEYWORDS that are written in the Job Advert are on your CV. 

Related Generic Keywords

When you’re writing your CV, it’s important that you add generic keywords that are related to your career path. An example can be found in another recent search that I’ve just completed. This search involved finding a sales manager for a client.If you’re a sales manager and writing your CV, head over to your favourite job board and run a search for sales manager jobs.

What do you notice? Nearly all the job adverts will use very similar words to describe what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. These words include Acquire Customers, KPI’s, Sales, Management and amongst others, Tradeshows. These are all relevant Sales Manager related keywords. If a recruiter is running a search for a sales manager, they’re very likely to be using these keywords within their search. 

Make sure all these keywords are on your CV.

Company Website

If a company has provided their name, then you’ll be able to find their website. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A LOOK, especially at the about section, the careers section and the front page.

Very often you’ll find there are industry specific keywords that will help to separate your CV from the competition. Hiring managers love candidates that have relevant experience and you can guarantee these keywords will be used in their scanning software to distinguish the relevant application from the masses.

Position or Job Titles

President, CEO, Managing Director are all great job titles. Personally, I would one day love to have one myself, however, it’s important to remember that a job title can work against you as well.

Let’s imagine I’m looking for a software engineer. Within my scanner, I’m likely to exclude such keywords as President, CEO, MD, Head of, Team Leader. Why? Well, clients want a candidate that they can work with, train and develop over a long period of time. They don’t want a candidate that will join and use them as a stepping stone for a future career.

Candidates who are unemployed and taking a step down in career will often carry on looking for a better role that they feel is more suited to their experience. Over the years, I’ve often seen the situation where a candidate has taken a step down in job status and within six months, left for a more senior role elsewhere.If you’re applying for a job, make sure that it’s a step up or at worst a step sideways. 

Job Applications

The Number One rule, if you don’t have the right education or experience, do not apply. It’s important to remember, each job you apply for creates an application record that is stored on the company’s application tracking system.

If a recruiter looks at your application history and sees that you’ve applied for 100’s of jobs in the last month, instantly they will move onto the next candidate. Why? Applying to 100 jobs in the last month tells me you’re desperate. If you were any good, someone would have already taken you on.

Who watches the TV show Suits? It’s one of my favourite TV shows and gives us a great example. If you’ve not been to Harvard, don’t bother sending your resume to Harvey Specter, as they only hire from Harvard.


Within this section you need to make sure that you’re detailing the right experience. Remember your achievements. If a hiring manager is manually reviewing CVs, they’ll know what each position does. Look at a couple of thousand CVs and you can quickly skim responsibilities and find the keywords you’re looking for. Achievements on the other hand differ with each person, and recruiters will look at these.


The greater number of relevant keywords that you have in your CV, the better the chance that your CV will be reviewed. However, be careful not to overuse keywords to the extent that your CV doesn’t make sense.

Also keep in mind that scanning software is software and by no means perfect. No short words, acronyms, or industry specific words please. My software gives me a choice of words and they’re all full words, not the short-version. Good CV writing and separating your CV from the crowd is still important to get those interviews.

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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