What employers want in a CV

Research led by Keele University’s Careers and Employability Team has delivered fresh insights into what employers are looking for in a curriculum vitae. Ben Simkins, Careers Consultant at Keele University and Keren Coney, formerly a Careers Consultant at Keele, undertook the research project to discover exactly what employers are looking for in a CV, and designed a rubric which can be used by careers professionals to help guide and advise students.

Funded by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) the research involved interviews with 41 employers, and the findings have now been published by Prospects Luminate.

Ben Simkins explained:

“We hoped that this research project would address the lack of research into UK graduate employer expectations around an effective CV. A rubric was created to capture and communicate graduate employer consensus that can be used by career professionals in advice and guidance and in a format that is accessible to students and graduates.”

The creation of a user-friendly rubric for CVs was informed by the views of 41 UK graduate employers. Specifically, it aimed to identify the elements of a CV that would lead to shortlisting and those that would lead to rejection. Employers were asked about their views on a variety of factors, including CV length, content, structure, presentation and linguistic quality.

The findings from the research confirmed many longstanding CV conventions, such as keeping the length to under two sides of A4, and mentioning extra-curricular activities to help applicants stand out.

More surprising were findings around the preferred narrative (employers preferred first person rather than third person) and almost 75% of employers indicated that they would like to see a personal profile on a graduate CV, to show an insight into the candidate’s personality and whether they would be a good ‘fit’ for the organisation.

The research also highlights the importance of using keywords and phrases, due to employers having very little time to go through CVs.

Ben Simkins added:

“As well as being published on Prospects Luminate, which is a major source of data, trends, thought leadership and labour market information for the higher education sector, we have also presented our findings at the most recent AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) national conference.

The CV rubric and accompanying guidance that we have produced will not only support research grounded information, advice and guidance on CVs it also has great potential utility as a learning, teaching and assessment tool for use in credit bearing employability modules within higher education.”

To read the full report of the project and findings, please visit the Prospects Luminate webpage.

For more information on how to write a good Curriculum Vitae, visit the Careers and Employability webpages or for more information on the project, contact Ben Simkins on b.simkins@keele.ac.uk