A study completed in August 2011 by Careers expert Zena Everett, of how recruiters evaluate CVs shows that recruiters do not screen CVs in chronological order. They skip past the personal profile section to go straight to the current or most recent employment. They will then choose to read on only if these details are of interest to them.

The study was conducted as part of an MSc project at Birkbeck College, University of London and 198 recruiters (in direct hiring organisations and recruitment agencies) participated. A control group of job-seekers overestimated the importance of the personal statement section on the CV in comparison to the importance of their most recent employment history.

The personal profile section was shown to be important, but not as important as the most recent work experience. Recruiters preferred short personal statements and recommended that job-seekers avoid waffle such as “works well individually or as a team” at all costs. The ideal personal statement should comprise of a summary of the applicant’s career to date, a statement of their career objective and a reference to the skills that bridge the two. The rest of the CV should back-up the profile with evidence of the applicant’s previous achievements. A really good statement, pulling the candidate’s career history together, might have a mitigating effect on a weaker CV.

The study has important implications for job-seekers in a highly competitive market. If your job title does not match the requirement of the recruiter, then don’t expect them to read on to discover your transferable skills: your CV will be discarded in seconds. Equally they may be interested in the company you have previously worked for, so be mindful of the “employer brand” of your organisation. People make assumptions about you based on where you work. Job-seekers who aren’t working might want to bridge the gap with some temporary or voluntary work which continues to develop the skills which will be of most interest to a potential employer.