Blog post

Share this post:

This article was posted within the following categories:

Career Advice

How to get your CV past any agency recruiter!

Nowadays the vast majority of jobs, temporary or permanent, are handled by agency recruiters - there is just no escaping this.  This article is to help you understand how to work with recruiters in the UK.  Even though you might believe you are the best match for the job that has just been advertised on your favourite job board, when you try to apply you will usually find your application will need to be processed (hopefully) by one of the many thousands of recruitment companies in the UK.  Many of these companies are large, national operations employing hundreds of recruiters others are one or two “man” bands - but they all have one thing in common…  No Time!  The pace of recruitment in the UK is extremely fast and many applicants for jobs are often confused by the number of agencies working on what appears to be the same job (it usually is, by the way).  Because of the intense level of competition, recruiters have to get your CV over first before another recruiter beats them to it.  Whoever gets a good CV over first will usually be the one who will represent the candidate.

As the well-known saying goes… “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” and in this case this means your CV.

As a matter of interest, how long do you think the average recruiter spends on reviewing a CV?  5 minutes? 10 minutes? Try 10 seconds (and for some recruiters even this is too long!)

You only have about 10 seconds to make an impact, that’s all!

So I hope I have now convinced you that your CV has to be the next best thing to you.  If you want the interview and, hopefully, the job then the only thing that is going to help you is an outstanding CV that a recruiter feels confident in putting forward to his/her customer. 

So let’s go through what makes a winning CV.  You may be surprised by some of my recommendations.

No photographs!

Despite the fact that your mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, dog etc. thinks you are the most good looking person on the planet, your photograph on your CV is a definite No No.  On LinkedIn it is a definite “Yes” as people like to see what you look like before meeting up for a coffee etc.  But on your CV - definitely not.  I cannot say why a photo on a CV is a No No here in the UK whereas it may be acceptable, say in the USA?  I believe it's just a cultural thing and I am sure all UK based recruiters would agree with me.  If they really want to see what you look like they can always look you up on LinkedIn.

Above the Fold

When you open any document (including your CV) or web page on a computer what you see immediately without having to scroll down is known as “above the fold”.  This is an old newspaper term and it's where the headlines and the lead stories were placed for maximum impact.  So start thinking about your CV like a newspaper and you will soon realise that the most important information, which will merit about 10 seconds of a recruiter’s “valuable” time, must be in this section.

Look at the following example of a great “above the fold” CV: Curriculum Vitae Example.png

All of the text is “above the fold” - take a few minutes to read it.  Do you find it easy to read with not too many long, complicated words?  Even if you are not sure what it is all about do you think it clearly indicates the type of area that this man specialises in and how senior he is?  If you were looking for someone with the sort of skills and experience that the above person has would you be interested in meeting him?  Possibly offering him a job?  Well I am pleased to say that the above individual (real name withheld) worked for my recruitment business 3 - 4 times over a 3 year period and all his contracts were extended.

Why this CV is so good is that it is clear, simple and says exactly who he is and what he is.  This is a winning CV and one which would encourage any recruiter to read fully.

Let me try to explain the mind of a professional recruiter, especially a recruiter of Contract Staff.  

As we said before “time is money” and the modern recruitment industry works at a very fast pace. The simple rule is (especially for contract recruitment which is by far the largest part of the industry) - Get a contract requirement - find suitable CV’s - fill the role - start again.  It's a never ending cycle and doesn’t leave much, if any, time for relationship building.  So if your precious CV does not grab the recruiter in the first 10 second reading “above the fold” then it will just go into deleted items - it's as simple as that.  And it is no point ringing up the recruiter to see how your application is progressing.  Believe me if you are any good for the job AND your CV shows this, the recruiter will be in touch with you very quickly because he/she doesn’t want you to be represented by any other agency.  So stop thinking about your CV in some long winded, “war and peace” sort of way and please start thinking about it as a unique selling document - selling you!  It’s a bit like when hopeful contestants first appear on the X Factor and sing their hearts out.  You have to make an impact, a big impact and you have to make it quick or you will hear the “Simon Cowell” of recruiters saying “no good”.  But the difference between the X Factor and recruitment is that you won’t have to hear it from the recruiters because they will just not contact you!

Your CV as a Selling Document

So let us look now at how we turn your CV into a sure fire selling document that is guaranteed to get the recruiter reading more and, we hope, getting in touch with you.
First of all the lessons we learn from the above CV are:

1. Keep it simple - Just state your name, address and preferred method of contact (telephone, email).  Keep these to one line each as shown above.

2. Go straight to Profile - this is the most important part of your CV and should give the average recruiter (with about 10 seconds to spare!) a quick, clear understanding of exactly what you are (not who you are, what you are).  At this stage your personality doesn’t come into it - just your raw skills and experience.

In the above example, John says:

I am an experienced Information Technology Services Manager/Project Manager with over 15 years experience of managing a highly technical IT Support and Development team.”

Says it all really!  This is exactly what I was looking for at the time so naturally I read on….(and he got the job!)

I am not too worried about the tense - first person or third person.  Some people advise everything in the third person which works well - the fact that John had used “I” didn’t worry me a bit and if you have a strong story to tell then it shouldn’t worry you either.  A professional recruiter will not “bin” your CV just because you didn’t write it in the third person.  Try both styles - see what you are comfortable with.  It’s easy to switch to the third person - compare the paragraph above with the one below:

An experienced Information Technology Services Manager/Project Manager with over 15 years experience of managing a highly technical IT Support and Development team.”

By simply dropping the “I am” you switch the paragraph from first person (singular) to the third person (singular).

3. In the second paragraph John brings out the important point that he has worked in the health sector:

My focus whilst employed within the Health organisations has been on creating and managing the businesses local infrastructure including the management of local and wide area networks facilities.”

If you have health sector experience then please mention it straight away - GoToJobBoard only promotes jobs within the health sector and the majority of the jobs listed will be looking for some existing health sector experience.  Given a choice, the majority of health sector employers will choose someone with existing health sector experience over someone from outside the sector, even if their skills and experience are equal.  Having existing health sector experience will always give you the edge in these situations.

4. Mention relevant qualifications in your profile - please note I stress relevant qualifications.  As a highly experienced Project Manager, John knows that the NHS in particular is a big user of the Prince Programme Management methodology and states that he has “achieved success with those products by the use of Prince Programme Management methodology”

5. Give examples to back up your opening paragraph.  In the third paragraph above, John says:

“I have negotiated contracts for the supply of I.T. services and been the responsible supplier of I.T. technical detail during the preparation and delivery of a major Hospital redevelopment project.”

And in the fourth paragraph he mentions key organisations he has worked for:

“..... I was engaged within NHS Connecting for Health I developed Quality Assurance advice both to Local Service Providers and NHS Trusts”

I noticed he deliberately avoided blank lines in his opening profile, guaranteeing more text above the fold - good move.

6. Bullet Points - always good to have in your opening profile and his highlight, in particular, the key attributes of a good project manager

● Strong negotiation and interpersonal skills

● Solution orientated, resourceful and performance assured under pressure.

● Excellent communication skill at all levels, including Management Board.

● Capable of independent initiative and strategic planning.

● Proven motivation and developmental skills

Notice he has included words such as strong and solution and excellent and capable and proven.  These are powerful and eye catching.

Remember, all we are trying to do at this stage is to get the recruiter to take notice of us and be prepared to read the rest of the CV.

7. What you don’t see… 

Congratulations - you’ve got your CV past the recruiter - how do you know that?  Simply because he/she has called or emailed you to discuss the role in more detail. If you are contacted by a recruiter about the role you have applied for then they are usually interested in getting you to go through them for the role. 

So what happens next to your CV?  Well, despite all your long hours of hard work, recruitment companies all have their own specific “style” of presentation or “prepping your CV” as it is known in the trade.  This usually includes removing all personal information - home address, email address, LinkedIn address, telephone numbers and copying your CV on to their in-house format with all their company details included. 

They may also include a cover sheet with a brief summary of your skills and experience together with their rate for you to do the job along with availability

So, to summarise, let me give you a series of NO’s and a series of YES’s which, if followed, will help you get noticed and get that interview!

Here are the NO’s

No photo’s, no graphics showing qualifications or membership of professional bodies, no boxes surrounding the text, no complicated formatting of the document, no PDF files.

All of the above complicate the process of copying your CV over to the recruitment business template for presentation to their client and recruiters hate complications!

A big one is - NO GAPS in your CV - you must explain any gaps otherwise a recruiter will think the worst!  It is acceptable to say “renovating my house”, “sailing/cycling around the world”, “taking care of a sick relative”.  Whatever it is, it is much better to explain up-front on paper any gaps in your CV before you have to explain these to a recruiter.  The client will always spot gaps and will expect the recruiter to be able to explain these.

Here are the YES’s

YES to a simple introduction with a powerful profile as shown above. 

YES to simple, easy to read words. 

YES to simple formatting in a Word format (not PDF)

YES to keeping your CV to around 3 to 4 pages maximum

YES to a simple MS-Word format in a popular font (Arial is good)

So, best of luck and I hope this little guide to getting your CV past any agency recruiter helps! 
Now that you’ve learnt how to create a successful CV, take a look at our job listings and apply for the latest non-medical/non-clinical vacancies in your area, or register with GoToJobBoard to get new jobs sent straight to your inbox before anyone else sees them. Still feel concerned about your CV? Request a free CV review today.

If you have been affected by anything in this article and would like to share it with me please email at either or

Story by Don Tomlinson, founder of max20, the only specialist recruitment business dedicated to non-medical recruitment in the NHS and founder of GoToJobBoard - the only non-medical job board dedicated to the NHS and the wider healthcare community.

Visuals by Tatiana Prichislenko, Marketing Manager at GoToJobBoard

Other Resources from GoToJobBoard:

You may also want to read:

Share this post:

Sign-up to get the latest job alerts via email.


Connect with us on social media.