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Writing a Stand-Out CV and Understanding Recruitment AI: An Interview with Ben Pearson

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What does it really take to write a CV that’s going to catch the attention of recruiters and help you on your way to landing your dream role? Our very own Ben Pearson recently spoke to the NZ Herald about what makes a great CV and offers his advice for candidates looking to ensure their applications stand out in today’s market.

NZ Herald: What can candidates do to make their CVs stand out in the pile? Design or content or both? Photos in CVs?

Ben: It’s important to remember your CV will be viewed on-screen, not printed out. A recruiter will be quickly reviewing CVs, so rather than graphics and bling, you need to state right up front why you are suitable for the role you are applying for. A recruiter will focus on your most recent work history, so clogging up the first page with subjective material such as personal statements and goals is not advised. 

Keep your contact details in the footer or header of the page (again to give more room for the key suitability information). A few bullet points stating specific, evidenced suitability for the role followed by work history (on page one) is the best way to be noticed. Ensure you tailor your CV for each role – we understand this can be a hassle if applying for multiple roles, but it is time well spent. As for photos, our advice is not to include them.

NZ Herald: Is AI helping candidates? If so, how?

Ben: AI is proving quite useful in the job search phase. Platforms such as Seek, LinkedIn and Indeed are using sophisticated algorithms to suggest better-matched opportunities to job seekers. If you register on a job seeker database and give permission, your details are shared with recruiters, so you are likely to find recruiters contacting you proactively. The AI helps the recruiter find you in the crowd. 

At this time, the technology is still immature and imperfect, so some candidates are getting unwanted approaches from recruiters and others are not seeing the interest they would like. Once your CV has arrived at the recruitment agency, there is usually little AI intervention. Your details are automatically “parsed” to the system, but recruiters tend to run more specialised search and reference methods to assess your suitability.    

NZ Herald: What can candidates do to get through the AI system? Use the same words in their CV as in the job advert? But does this ‘cheating’ help in the long run?

Ben: The AI noted above revolves more around the candidate’s behaviour rather than CV wording. For example, if you are searching for a Business Analysis role, the AI may present you with jobs that other candidates looking for similar jobs showed interest in. It may also ensure that you get to see roles that are called something different but are, in fact, BA roles.

Similarly, the recruiter who is seeking BA candidates may be presented with your CV based on your past searching for such roles. You can’t really cheat the AI.  

NZ Herald: Is it the case that an agency might select the best 10 CVs that come up first and not look at the remaining ones? Are early applicants selected before last-minute/deadline ones?

Ben: No – unless filling the role is urgent, a recruiter will normally be keen to see CVs right up to close-off. Recruiters are also looking at candidates for other roles that they are aware of but may not be live yet. 

NZ Herald: Many older people are facing job losses as firms target younger and sometimes cheaper staff. How can older workers compete with younger job applicants?

Ben: What we see more is roles changing as businesses transform, requiring a completely different set of skills. For example, an Accountant may no longer be required because the organisation has moved towards using a SAS platform for accounting. The original role may be lost from that organisation, but it is often “reincarnated” elsewhere – as a Software Developer, say. 

That said, diversity is a major focus for many employers currently, and generational diversity is quickly emerging as important for many organisations. You can’t replace the knowledge and wisdom of an older-generation worker. However, these workers need to be accepting of organisational change, which is ubiquitous at the moment, especially digital transformation. Those that resist and hold onto the “old ways” may be at risk. Those that embrace forward-thinking and can adapt their irreplaceable depth of knowledge and wisdom to a new way of operating are likely to be highly valued in a very talent-short market.         

If you’re looking for more CV tips to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when applying for jobs, visit our website for further advice and a downloadable CV template.

To read the full NZ Herald article, click here.