The CV journey – what happens to it after you send it?

You have painstakingly prepared your CV or application form and clicked send. You imagine an employer receiving it, perusing what you’ve written and then emailing you back. You wait. You wait. You hear nothing.

Sound familiar? It’s a common experience and a frustrating one. So too is the experience of sending in an application form you have spent hours over, then receiving a rejection almost immediately.

So what’s actually happening to you CV or application form once you click send? We’ve done a survey amongst a small sample of employers to get the inside perspective and combined this with known trends in recruitment to bring you the following insights.

Once you click send…
Your CV or application form lands in a (probably very) busy recruitment team. It will join a large number of others awaiting screening. It’s unlikely that someone will look at it straight away.

If this is the case, why did you get a rejection reply so quickly?
That’s where technology comes in. The employer may be using screening software to sort applications and reject automatically those that do not appear to meet key criteria (e.g., academic results, technical knowledge and employability skills). This software is being used in more and more cases, although not all. None of the employers in our survey were using software for the first stage screening. However, all are using specialist software to store and process applications through the recruitment process.

Aren’t employers missing some great applicants by automating screening?
That may well be happening, but with large numbers of strong applicants and pressure to reduce recruitment costs, that may be a risk worth taking. To avoid being the one who gets missed, make sure your CV contains terms which directly link to the competencies and qualifications needed for the role. These will match the search terms in the software and make your selection more likely.

So it’s just about matching some key words really?
It’s much more than that. The full content and presentation of your CV and application matters a great deal. As one recruiter fed back to us “I believe candidates do not feel that attention is paid to their CVs…This is not true… some do spend the time both at screening and throughout the process to read the CV fully.”

Impact matters.
How long do you imagine a recruiter will take to read your CV fully? A trained eye may view it for 60 seconds (or less!). You need to make an impact in that time. The same goes for application form questions which are often competency based. “We … read through the answers to the competency based questions to look for good examples that the candidate has given and score these”. So it’s not just about having an example, but having a good and clearly set out example (e.g. of team working) to make sure that your evidence can score as highly as possible.

Is it only Human Resources who read my CV?
No. Our survey showed that people from the business line (i.e. those working in teams you may join) are also involved both early in the selection process and, of course, later if you proceed through to interviews. They will be sent copies of your application materials and have read them, so expect to be able to back up what you said!

What happens to my application once it’s all over?
“If the candidate is successful then the CVs, application forms and any other information about the candidate will be passed over to HR to store in their personnel file. If the candidate is unsuccessful, their details are stored separately to the main database as we sometimes find that candidates may come back to us in future to be considered for other positions. All candidates are informed that their details will be kept on file for future vacancies.” This survey response is typical of many employers. A couple of points to note. Firstly, remember that a previous application may be looked at if you apply to the company again. Be consistent. Secondly, when successful for a role, your application information will be kept on file and could be referred to at any point, so think twice about being ‘economical with the truth’ in your content.

To get advice on increasing the impact of your CV and applications, contact Careers.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal about the journey of a CV from a US perspective at:


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