A few months ago, I spoke to Maria, a recruiter who confessed that there is indeed a communication black hole in many recruiting processes.
Candidates spot a job description that is a perfect fit. They diligently and painstakingly write their resume and cover letter. They send it or upload it. Then they wait…and wait…
…and wait for a response that never comes. Often not even an automatic response: “Thank you for submitting your CV.”
“We are working on creating friendlier processes that don’t leave candidates hanging,” Maria admitted. “After all, I know as well as anyone what it’s like to be on the other side. Job hunting is part our modern professional human experience and it’s an emotional roller coaster.”
Write for People as Well as for ATS
She paused, seeming to ponder what she was going to say next. “But how about this: We, the recruiters, are human too. Beyond understanding how we work, and that even with the help of ATS we have lots of candidates to sort through on tight deadlines, I think it would be helpful if candidates wrote their CV and cover letter knowing that a human being is going to read it.”
I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this or how it would be helpful for candidates.
“Once a resume makes it through an ATS, I read it, with my own two eyes. I will skim over it first, and if it catches my eye, I will read it thoroughly. I am always surprised when an applicant doesn’t put him or herself in my shoes. Who can or wants to read large blocks of text in tiny font? Or a CV in which little effort was dedicated to readability or the organization of the information?”
Communicate Your Value Immediately
She went on to say that she loves it when a person communicates their value immediately, at the top of the page or towards the top of each section, responding to the exact needs of the position, with carefully selected bolding, and efficient use of meaningful words.
For example, she emphasized that wordy, round-about sentences that she has to re-read make her lose the thread of where the person is going. She recommended to get a friend or professional to read it and give you feedback about the content. “After you’ve been writing for a while, it’s hard to pick up on the confusion that some sentence structures and superfluous words can cause,” she observed.
What to Avoid When Writing Your CV
I asked her what the biggest no-nos were that made her feel “unhuman” when she was reading. Here is her list and comments:
- Font that is smaller than 10.5. I shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to read a CV.
- Tiny margins to cram in text.
- Exceeding 2 pages with no real value added in the extra space taken up. (I normally won’t read what is on page 3 or 4.)
- The lack of bold text. When I am skimming, it’s great to read a sentence with a few key numbers or relevant words bolded. My eye can quickly do a first read and take in the essence of the candidate’s profile.
- Too much bold text so I don’t know where to focus my attention.
- Too many adjectives. Things like “successful” or “trailblazing” are a waste of space if unsubstantiated. Showing how you are successful or trailblazing says a lot more than merely using the terms.
- Long blocks of text. Just like the candidate writing the CV, I live in the same world where nowadays I only read blocks of text when I am leisurely reading a novel. On a CV, paragraphs that are no more than 3 lines are better. Say as much as you can in an easy-to-read list of bullets, for example.
- A format that is hard to read. For example, I see a lot of CVs that use a two-column design with the less relevant information in a narrower column to the left. Generally, people focus a lot more on the left, or beginning of a sentence, so I find it hard to move my focus to the meatier content to the right.
Write the CV You’d Like to Receive
Her main message to candidates: Indeed, job hunting can be a bear, and recruiters and HR departments could do a lot to improve processes. However, don’t forget that there is a person doing the reading on the other side. Just put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you’d like to receive a CV like the one you’re turning in.