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What do recruiters really want to see on your CV?

RSA student

Putting a CV together for the first time can be daunting, especially if you’re not sure where to start and what to include. On top of that, recruiters often receive hundreds of applications for just one role, so if your CV and cover letter fail to stand out you could quickly be rejected.

With this in mind, we recently asked our Apprenticeships recruitment team to reveal what they’re really looking for when they read your CV and cover letter, and what things should be avoided to help you create your perfect CV.

What are the first things you look at in an application and why?

The first thing I look at is how much information the candidate has written. This often represents how much effort has been put into the application and how interested they are in the role. Making your application as clear, concise and accurate as possible will help recruiters to understand what kind of role you are looking for so they can help make your application stand out.

I also look for desire and genuine interest in the industry as I want candidates to make informed choices about the company and their career path which helps to minimise drop-offs during their Apprenticeship.

What is the most important part of a CV?

This varies depending on the recruiter, but the main thing for me aesthetically is the format. I see a lot of CVs and a professional, easy to read format goes a long way and shows they value and care about the impression they make.

In terms of actual content, it’s very important for candidates to clearly state the qualifications they have as well as any work experience. All work experience is good to put on your CV even if it’s in a different sector.

What are your tips for getting yourself noticed and making a CV stand out?

As already mentioned, make sure your CV is easy to read, in clear sections and your experience and education stands out easily for us to see. Keep the content concise and to the point (no more than 2 pages) and do your best to make it interesting so that the recruiter wants to read on to find out more about you. You can find CV templates online to make it easier to create.

Additionally, whilst education and qualifications are considered important, showing you are involved in extra-curricular activities will make you stand out, for example participating in team sports, the Duke of Edinburgh, obtaining work experience or perhaps even undertaking voluntary work. When you're looking for a job, spending the time to make your CV stand out could be the difference between being shortlisted and not so it’s important to get this right.

What common CV mistakes should be avoided?

Aside from the obvious spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and using multiple fonts and sizes, you should also avoid making your CV too wordy – whilst it’s good to give the employer information about yourself you should only include the details that are going to add value to your application. You can sell yourself more in your cover letter.

You should also avoid using the same CV for different job applications. Instead try and tailor each application to the role and industry you are applying for, e.g.  you wouldn’t send a CV describing your passion for becoming a chef to a finance company! Think about what information they will want to see and what skills are transferable into this industry.

What advice can you offer anyone who is about to start applying for a job?

Firstly, take the time to prepare a good CV, and think about what information you can include to highlight what you have to offer and your suitability for the role. You should also make sure your CV is kept up to date when you find a job.

Secondly, research, research, research the industry and company you are applying for. With an Apprenticeship you will be committing to at least 12 months of work / study so you need to make sure the company is right for you and meets your requirements. We want you to be happy where you work and in an environment that you can flourish in. Make sure you have looked into the qualification you will study and the progression routes you can take. Apprenticeships aren’t an easy route into a good career – they take a lot of hard work and need full commitment.

For more in-depth CV guidance, download our ‘Factsheet to creating the perfect CV’!