Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

Six scientifically validated tricks to make recruiters love your CV

Win recruiters with your semantic matching

Something is wrong with your CV. You are dispatching it for hundreds of job applications and you are getting nowhere fast.

Before reworking it with in Comic Sans with a fancy border (inadvisable), you might want to tweak your approach as per the points below. Based upon academic studies of job applicants' success, they might make all the difference.

1. Game the new 'semantic matching' technologies 

The 'recruiters' who look at your CV may not be human. They may be machines acting upon human recruiters' behalf.

The use of these so-called 'applicant tracking systems' is nothing new, but it's worth bearing in mind that they're becoming increasingly sophisticated.

In the past, it used to be enough to load your resumé with key words used to describe the roles you were applying to. These days, the most sophisticated ATS systems operate on a 'semantic basis'. It's not just about searching for those particular words, but searching for related words and skills. For example, if a job requires Java programming skills and you mention SQL, you could still get picked by the machine on the grounds that people with SQL often have an aptitude for Java.

In other words, don't just restrict the language in your CV to 'keywords'. Mention as many skills as possible within your particular cluster.

2. Project the right personality

If your application is successful, a human being will review your CV at some point. And humans are prone to bias in their screening procedures.

Research published last year by academics at Central Michigan University and Wright State University in the U.S. found that recruiters make inferences about your personality from your CV and that these inferences influence their hiring decisions.

For example, academic achievements are seen as indicative not just of mental ability, but of conscientiousness (a benefit). Long work experience and time spent supervising others are seen as indicative of mental ability, but also of low agreeableness (a negative). Extracurricular activities are suggestive of extroversion and high levels of emotional stability.

Although actual personality was found to be unrelated to hireability, the researchers found that perceived personality - as inferred from your CV, does influence your likelihood of getting hired.

Therefore, if you have mediocre academic grades, you will need to project conscientiousness through consistent work experience and supervisory roles. If you describe a lot of managerial roles, you need to make yourself seem more agreeable with some interesting team-based extra-curricular activities. Be aware how recruiters might make personality judgments based upon your résumé. Seek to balance these out.

3. Use negating prejudices 

Human beings can be prejudiced. Sometimes you can use these prejudices to cancel each other out.

For example, research by a sociologist at Princeton University found that people who might discriminate against black men or gay men didn't discriminate against men who were both black and gay because stereotypes of gay men as 'femine, weak and sensitive' counteracted 'negative stereotypes often held by whites that black men are threatening.'

There is an, ‘‘intersectionality’’ of social prejudices argued that sociologist. By being aware that these prejudices exist, you can sometimes play one off against the other on your CV.

4. Add your photo, but only in these circumstances

Adding an inappropriate photograph to your resume will not enhance your employablity but in the right circumstances, the right sort of photo will warm recruiters to your cause.

Research suggests that photographs of applicants who are above averagely attractive enhance employability when combined with high quality qualifications and work experience. If the rest of the CV is mediocre, an attractive photograph will make no difference.

5. Mention big-name schools, even if you only attended a summer course

Some applicant tracking systems are designed to give a stronger weighting to target schools. For this reason, it makes sense to add target schools to your résumé even if you only spent two weeks there in the summer.

6. Engage in U.S. and U.K. friendly 'politeness strategies'

Finally, research has shown that job applications in the U.S. and the U.K. are frequently mediated by formulaic 'politeness strategies'. This applies more to a covering letter or introductory email than to your actual CV, but is still important - especially if you're a foreign candidate trying to penetrate the City of London or Wall Street.

Acceptable phrases in English-speaking job applications should demonstrate your 'willingness to take responsibility for actively pursuing further contact', say the researchers. They include statements such as, "I am looking forward to discussing the opportunity to join your organization’, ‘I am very interested in becoming a part of this project...' 

Writing an English-speaking cover-letter is about showing interest while not imposing on the reader, say the researchers. Anglo-Saxon recruiters are not looking for deference to social rank. Letters or introductory emails are completed with short utilitarian phrases such as, ‘Your consideration of my qualifications is appreciated, ‘Thank you for your consideration, ‘I look forward to hearing from you soon’.

This is in contrast to Asia, where deference to rank is culturally important, or to France where job-related communication typically includes phrases to flatter the recipient and indicate the applicant's submission ( ‘je reste à votre [entière] disposition’).

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • ge
    1 July 2015

    Job matching based on the resume will likely be the last corporate practice to yield to technology. Resumes are part of the dark ages and it's a phenomena that the business community still refuses to employ a host of superior technologies to match talent, aptitude and purpose. Even online dating, with all its faults, continues to evolve. The job market is stuck in the past in the model of Central Casting and ultimately it cost dearly in both productivity and job satisfaction. As my career draws to its end, I think of all time wasted and untapped talent that could have been - if I had only made the cut. I just hope a new generation of decision makers will be assertive enough to flip off the resume and demand a better way.

  • MD
    MD in Westport
    30 June 2015

    Firstly, if one is applying to a firm in the U.S. for a job, do not, repeat NOT, include a photo of any kind; that is the easiest way to get your c.v. tossed in the bin. In order not to be accused of any type of discrimination, c.v.s with pictures are discarded before being reviewed by any manager.

    Second, if one includes any "big-name schools," the classes (if one does not earn a degree) most certainly must pertain directly to the job / career path one is seeking. And, do NOT list an assortment of summer-school classes (even if taken at the "big-name school"); such résumé padding is an obvious ploy, and quickly discounted.

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Get advice to help you manage and drive your career.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Recommended Jobs
Goodman Masson
Senior FP&A Analyst
Goodman Masson
London, United Kingdom
Avis Budget Group
FP&A Analyst
Avis Budget Group
Bracknell, United Kingdom
Financial Analyst
London, United Kingdom
Financial Reporting Analyst
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Finance Business Partnering Associate
London, United Kingdom
PMO Analyst
London, United Kingdom

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Get advice to help you manage and drive your career.