Perhaps like thousands of others you have posted your CV onto an online job board. Registration is free and easy, and it almost seems too good to be true. You invest 10 minutes of your time, post your CV, and then sit back and wait for the phone and the emails.
This is a great way to minimise effort and maximise exposure to jobs you might never have heard about. However, if you don’t consider what happens to your CV once you post it online, you might have to wait for a long time for the interview call or miss out on plum jobs.
To improve your chances of success, it is worth knowing what happens to your CV once it lands in the online database , how a job board actually works, and how a recruiter uses this resource to find their candidates. Job boards generally operate by charging recruiters to search the database, that’s why it’s free for you to register. The recruiters will invariably be in a hurry and often under pressure in their candidate search, because the only way a recruiter will get paid, and their company profits, is by placing successful candidates with their clients.
How does a recruiter find my CV?
Recruiters will input combinations of search words to find the exact candidate they are looking for. Their search will be quick depending on how specific their search terms are: the number of CVs returned from a search may vary between just a few and several hundred. If the exact words for the skills, qualifications or experience that they are searching for do not appear on your CV in a narrow search you may never be pulled from the pack, or at best in a wider search you might appear so far down the results list that your recruiter has logged off and gone home before they even get to you.
In practice, a skilled recruiter will typically scan their target job description to look for search terms including the sector, job title alternatives, key skills, specific software packages or the technical, professional or academic qualifications which are essential criteria for the job.
They are looking for as close a match as possible, and will use a technique called Boolean or logical searching to mine the candidate database. Boolean searching uses “operators” which include the terms ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ to find the candidate with the right combination of keywords in their CV.
You can visualise a Boolean search by imagining a Venn diagram, for instance a Boolean search for engineer and graduate will find all the candidates who overlap in the group in the middle on your diagram, and who are both engineers and graduates. Alternatively a search for engineer or graduate will find all the candidates who have the either of the terms graduate or engineer on their CV.
The important point to remember is that if you don’t have the same terms that the recruiter is using in their Boolean search, you stand no chance.
To illustrate how critical this is in practice as an example, it means listing specific software packages, for instance: Excel or Powerpoint. If you have simply written on your CV, “good knowledge of Microsoft Office”, while clearly the semantics demonstrate that you have the skills required, the Boolean search performed by the recruiter does not have the logic to understand that “Microsoft Office” actually means Excel or Powerpoint. Consequently and disastrously you might be completely missed on a search for someone with Excel or Powerpoint.
Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes
In order to optimise your CV you need to put yourself in the place of a recruiter, and imagine what search words they might use to find someone just like you for your target job. Don’t presume that because your previous company used one job title, that there’s no other term that could describe it, or that the recruiter will have sufficient knowledge or skill to use the various alternative phrases to describe your job title in their own search. As a rather tenuous but illustrative example, although a recruiter is highly unlikely to be looking for a beverage trading assistant, let us suppose that they were, and that they had only used the exact phrase “beverage trading assistant”. This is your forte, you have years of experience multi-tasking tirelessly in aiding and assisting others to imbibe alcoholic beverages, washing glasses and ejecting those who have become a little too boisterous. You dream endlessly of landing your next beverage trading assistant, and this one is paying £50 per hour. However you have exclusively used the term “bar tender”, and unless you have also peppered your CV with various descriptive terms including the term “beverage trading assistant”, then sadly you will never appear in that particular search, your CV will continue to languish in the depths of the database and your return to the days of working behind a bar will continue to evade you.
My advice is to invest some time now, reappraise your CV for an online job board, think like a search engine and let your CV spiral its way up to its rightful place on the desk of your future employer.
Originally published here: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/how-to-optimise-your-cv-for-an-online-database/