CVs: What recruiters want vs what they get

Candidates who think putting volunteer work on their CVs will give their careers a boost are in for an unpleasant surprise, according to a new research from Michael Page.

The survey polled 2,000 people living in the UK who were aged 18-years and above. Additionally, 481 PageGroup employees were surveyed to find out what candidates continually get wrong on their CVs.

Michael Page commissioned Mortar London to conduct the survey.

While 70% candidates may believe that having been at a company for a decade will make their CVs stronger, only 36% of recruiters think this was important. Boasting about running the London marathon won’t do candidates any favours either as only 41% of recruiters thought personal interests were important.

The survey also dispelled the common myth that recruiters will bin any CV over two pages long. While 83% of candidates thought it was important to keep the summery of their careers to two A4 pages, only 32% of recruiters thought it was vital to keep resumes shorter than two pages.

Candidates highlighting their volunteer work experience aren’t doing themselves any favours either, as only 11% of recruiters thought it was important, compared to 54% of the public.

Instead, what recruiters want is for candidates to be clear, professional and informative.  100% of recruiters thought it was important that candidates avoid spelling errors.  92% of candidates thought the same.

100% of recruiters thought it was important that jobseekers avoid grammatical errors, compared to 93% of candidates.

95% of recruiters believed it was essential that candidates list specific details about what they have achieved in previous roles. 91% of candidates thought this was important.  98% of recruiters thought it was critical to use a professional tone, compared to 91% of candidates.

95% of candidates thought it was imperative that candidates listed their previous responsibilities, compared to 91% of jobseekers.

Surprisingly, soft skills are not as high up on recruiters’ wish lists according to Michael Page’s survey. Only 55% of recruiters thought it was it was important, while 89% of candidates thought it was vital for their chances of securing the role.

These results go against a survey conducted by the employer branding experts Universum. When the organisation polled 2,000 CEOs and HR professionals in 2015, it revealed that personality and communication skills were at the top of business leaders’ wish lists.

Nevertheless, this is not the first time that candidates who put volunteer work on a CV have heard that it may not do them any favours. 

Sandie Okoro, Global Lead Lawyer for HSBC Global Asset Management, said in June that candidates should forget about "going to China and changing the world or whatever."

Instead, she wanted candidates who had real work-life experience. 

Comments (3)
Mon, 25 Jan 2016 4:28pm GMT
Tanya Ferris - Carte
I don't disagree with any of the findings in this survey. A candidates CV should be clearly presented (no spelling errors or grammatical mistakes) and two pages is probably going to be enough, and certainly not a deal breaker if more skill/experience needs to be recorded. Real work experience is key and the time spent doing it is entirely relevant, plus Education is still very much explored by this recruiter. I also believe our clients like to see a degree of interesting soft skills and interests too for that matter, it creates a window into a candidate's personality.
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Mon, 25 Jan 2016 4:26pm GMT
recruiter Ben@ Steve Playford
It's the difference between what's on a CV and what happens in an interview. A CV needs to clearly demonstrate your suitability for a job - recruiters see 100's of them and believe me most are not even remotely relevant to the role advertised. Listing soft skills won't get you anywhere as they tend to be generic mush.
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Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:47pm GMT
Steve Playford
This is a very interesting article but doesn't it tell a story about the vast disconnect between recruiters/headhunters and their customer base ie. candidates and clients. The footnote mentions that Business Leaders are keen on soft skills yet the recruiters are generally ignoring them preferring to sift potential candidates in a more traditional way ie. previous job experience and the tasks performed within those roles. It wasn't mentioned but I wonder if Education is also a key area that recruiters explore or if this becomes pretty irrelevant once a candidate has had 5 years or more work experience?
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