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The Secret World of Recruiters Revealed


Fantasy Versus Reality: How Your CV is Actually Treated by Recruiters

A notification alarm dings on a recruiter’s computer. She drops everything she is doing to see the latest CV that has come through. This isn’t just any CV, though, no… this is your CV.

Tingles course through the recruiter’s fingertips as she manoeuvres the cursor over your word.doc and clicks the mouse. Your CV opens and she can almost hear choir music ring through the office.

She carefully reads your name on the header of your resume, repeats it so she can memorise it (just in case), and then proceeds to carefully read through the list of 377 skills you’ve helpfully included.

“This candidate is a goddamn gun,” she can’t help but say aloud as she meticulously analyses each page of your CV—it takes her twenty minutes, but how can she resist? You’ve polished and developed this recruiter magnet of a CV—hell, you even used spell check.

“This is the chosen one!” she says, grabs her phone and calls you right away. She has to be urgent; someone with your background won’t be in the market long. You only sent the CV through 25 minutes ago, but you’re waiting confidently by the phone. You knew you’d be getting this call…


OK, wake up time, because the scene described above happens as often as you win lottery jackpots, and it’s time to understand—right here, right now—the reality of what happens when you send your CV off to a recruitment agency or respond to a job ad. By knowing the truth, you’ll increase your chances of getting an interview and landing the job—and save yourself a lot of frustration and disappointment.

Here’s the cold hard reality:

You find an ad on an internet job board or through, tweak your cover letter to match the criteria, and send your CV through. Your email and information reaches a folder along with twenty to fifty other CVs, most of which don’t meet the basic criteria for the job as outlined in the ad.

The recruiter put the ad up only yesterday, and she has ten other jobs on right now, so going through all the resumes can wait; she’ll try to get to them tomorrow, otherwise, will let the ad run over the weekend and go through them all Monday afternoon.

Between rushing to two client meetings and skipping the second internal meeting of the day, the recruiter whom you’ve sent your CV is finally able to go through her ad response—three days after you had sent through your details.

There are 32 resumes in her folder. Because she doesn’t have any time for nonsense, she does a find word search for one of the key job requirements. If that magic word doesn’t appear in the CV, she can just skip it without having to bother actually reading any of it.

If the word does appear, she’ll take about three seconds to scan your work history. Have you worked in big companies? Are you a job-hopper? Luckily for you, the key word is on your CV, you’ve worked in the types of companies that fit with her current client, and you’ve stayed for a couple years or more in all your recent roles.

In total, she maybe took five seconds to decide if you’re worth a call. Five. Seconds.

Congrats! You’ve made the shortlist which she has narrowed down to six candidates. She’ll give you a call, invite you for a face-to-face interview, and if she’s happy after all that, will forward your CV along with three others to the client.

Recruiters are like people from any industry: some are smart, some are selfish, some are moral, some find satisfaction in helping others, some are only in it for the money.

What recruiters have in common, regardless of professionalism, is that THEY ARE ALL BUSY AS HELL. I’ve known senior recruiters with over forty jobs on at once. Some of these assignments are more crucial than others, but they all have to have candidates put forward if possible.

Ads have to be written and posted; LinkedIn and databases searches conducted; ad response filtered; candidates contacted; interviews coordinated; interview feedback sent out; reference checks made; feedback and onboarding emails sent out; pay details verified and processed; placed candidates contacted to see how they are going because if they quit within three months, the agency loses its fee, etc., etc., etc. All at once. Every day. Up to twenty or so roles at any given time.

Then you call and ask if anyone received your CV. It’s understandable. You’ve been waiting for two whole days. No response? Didn’t they see the glory that is your resume? If you chase a recruiter to speed up their processes, you’ve diminished your chances of getting any interviews, because you may be labelled a time waster and annoying. By all means call, but just leave a message, and if you do get through, have some dazzling questions ready which show you know your stuff.

So if that is the reality versus the fantasy, what can you do to increase your chances of at least having your CV looked at?

1. Read the job spec. Understand the role. Are you really a fit? If not, you’re wasting not only your time but the recruiter’s time—do that enough, and that agent will never call you, let alone even glance at any CV you send through in the future. You’ve been black marked. Use a laser beam, not a shotgun when applying to positions.

2. Find the three main key points of the role, and make sure those buzzwords and technologies appear prominently in your CV (this is where having your CV professionally written is so crucial). If you’re not a recruiter or HR professional, if you don’t understand keyword searches or hiring processes—seek a professional to help you re-write your CV.

3. Have patience. The recruiter is seeking the best fits for her role. If she fails in doing so, she’ll lose her job. If you are a fit, you will be notified. If you’re not a fit, you may not be notified for a couple weeks.

That’s because if the offered candidate drops out, the recruiter will be able to contact you—you’re a backup basically, and, sad to say, you’ll be left swinging until the role is officially filled with a signed contract. By all means, leave a message or send a short polite reminder email, just don’t expect a reply. You will be contacted if you are shortlisted.

We understand your frustration, but the goal is to get an interview; if not for this role, for one down the line. Hounding the agent if they don’t return your calls or emails will only make your goal more difficult to reach.

Having your CV formatted properly to increase the chances of being included in a recruiter’s shortlist is crucial to getting interviews. So is understanding how swamped recruiters are. It’s usually not due to a lack of care—they’re just overworked.

Have a strong CV that meets the actual job requirements, trust in the process, and have patience. Being solid, consistent, and understanding what it exactly means to submit a resume will make a frustrating process just a little bit more tolerable, and hopefully result in a positive result.

Had enough? Contact a Career Coach & CV Writer to help you out.

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