4 Main Things that Recruiters Look for First When Reviewing Job Applications

Magnus HR
5 min readJun 13, 2022



Do you know how long it takes a recruiter to decide whether to proceed with an application or not? Weeks? Days? Hours? Minutes? The answer is seconds!

Now, you may be wondering how someone makes a decision so fast. Recruiters are trained to scan through hundreds of applications within a short time. By taking a look at a CV, they keep an eye out for what is written and, even, what isn’t written. A quick skim helps them get a general understanding of the candidate’s background. This, then, allows them to decide if they are moving forward with the applicant or not.

To help you understand how recruiters do this, we’ve picked a few key points they take into account to show how you can utilize these hacks and tricks when crafting your CV.

What do recruiters look for in a CV? Let’s view a CV as your only chance of conversing with a potential employer. In other words, it’s one-time communication aimed to ensure a two-sided conversation with the employer. Because it is so, try to keep these questions in mind while building your CV:

1. Who are you?

2. Why should you be considered for the next stages?

3. How does the job opportunity align with your skills and experience?

4. How does the job opportunity align with your career aspirations?

After you give a good thought to these questions, start thinking about what keywords to include in your CV. But let’s break this down first.

Many HR professionals use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to track, filter, and choose candidates’ CVs. This means that not only are you dealing with a recruiter/HR person but also an artificial intelligence system which is going to view your CV.

So what do you do? Allow me to introduce you to your new best friend: the Job Description.

The algorithm in the Applicant Tracking Systems matches keywords in the Job Description with those it finds in your CV. While this doesn’t mean you should try to outsmart the AI algorithm, it also doesn’t mean you should ignore its existence. One general tip for you as an applicant would be to tweak the wording in your CV in a way that matches the Job Description. This way, your chances of getting noticed by the recruiter and the ATS will be higher.

While the keywords are important, there are several other points to consider adding into your CV.

A list of things you should put in your CV

Most HR professionals prefer having CV formats that are as simple as possible with little to no extra distractions like icons, shapes, lines, etc. Generally, a CV should contain:

Personal information

- Name, phone number, e-mail address, LinkedIn profile URL.

Professional experience

- Working experience, volunteering history, internships.

- Position(s)/Role(s), employer(s) (the name of the company)

- The start and end dates/years when you were holding the position.

- Main responsibilities in that role (highlight the points that align with the new job you are applying for)

Educational background

- Name of the educational institution and the highest level of degree/certificate along with the year of study

More information

- Language proficiency, professional skills, specific projects you were involved in or leading.

Additional elements to consider

- The “Four Cs” — Concise, Clutter-free, Clean & Correct — Keep your CV as short as possible, 1–2 pages is the aim! Keep it professional, not personal. Marital status or hobbies are not necessary. Make sure the information is factual and relevant. Use bullet points, no one likes stacked lines of information.

- “Elevator Pitch” — Include a summary of your professional experience at the beginning of your CV. Think about the answers to the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What have you accomplished in your previous roles?
  • Where are you headed?

- Keep it up-to-date — Don’t let information get out of date, keep the most relevant and recent information in, mostly focus on the last 3–5 years. Use project names and numbers/results if applicable.

- Style — Your CV needs a structure that is easy-to-follow and appealing to the eye. Use fonts that are simple and non-straining (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Sylfaen or Montserrat). Font size shouldn’t be more than 12, unless there are headers or sub-sections. Use Bold, Italic or CAPITAL LETTERS to indicate different sections or highlight certain elements. Get creative, but stay simple.

- Format — Always save and send your CV in a PDF format (of course, save an editable version too).

Key takeaways

There you have it. Now you can create the perfect CV. But let’s sum up, shall we? Here is everything recruiters look for when reviewing CVs … in 30 seconds.

1. Customization — A customized CV that fits the job description, includes keywords, highlights what the company might be looking for, gives insight into the candidates’ professional values that align with the company’s/team’s values and mission.

2. Conciseness & Cleanliness — Well-written and neat CVs that clearly portray the candidates’ background,expertise, and skills. Great formating, spotless spelling and grammar.

3. Accomplishments — A well-structured story of how the candidate’s accomplishments and experience gained in their past projects can be utilized in their new role.

4. Motivation — Companies are seeking great professionals and team players. While your background and expertise are important, it’s also key to showcase how your mission and values match the company’s mission and values.

Do you know how long it takes for recruiters to decide if they should proceed with a candidate? Weeks? Days? Hours? Minutes? The answer is seconds… and now you know how to make that into minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years.

Are you still reading this?

- Dona from Magnus


Dona is an Executive Recruiter at Magnus. She is a Full-Stack Recruiter by day and a political enthusiast by night. Dona has vast experience working in the recruitment industry and possesses the knowledge and skill to source the best tech talent. Her main domains of expertise: Technical Recruitment, Career Development.



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