The internet has been a mixed blessing for executive recruiters, employers and job candidates alike. Asking prospective employees to fill in an online form allows recruiters and employers to gather CVs quickly from all over the world. But it means they are inundated with applications for each job.

For candidates – no matter how senior, no matter how qualified – the problem is to get noticed among these thousands of CVs in a recruiter's inbox. Many of the rules to follow when sending your CV by post still apply, but there are specific areas where you can help your application stand out from the crowd and pitfalls to avoid.

So what exactly can you do to differentiate your CV and help recruiters jump-start your career? Here are 11 tactics to improve your chances of getting the attention you want.

1. Use the email subject line effectively. Put the position sought, followed by your name (for example, business development director, John Doe). Normally, recruiters are filling several positions at once and it is difficult to keep thousands of CVs in order. Putting the position and your name in the subject line will ensure you are assessed for the right position. If the client company's name appears in the ad, include that in the subject line, as well as any reference number.

2. Send your CV as an attachment (in a popular programme such as Microsoft Word) to prevent the loss of formatting. Different email systems will create different line breaks, so sending your CV in the body of an email could mean it is inconsistently laid out when printed at the other end.

3. Include an executive profile at the top of your CV to give the recruiter a snapshot of your experience. This is a brief summary of your skills, which the rest of your CV should back up. A recruiter faced with 1,000 CVs can't possibly read each one thoroughly, so the executive profile is an effective way to make it through the first cut.

4. Explain any gaps in employment, even if you were taking classes or raising a family. A recruiter doesn't have time to call each candidate and get an explanation for what you were doing during a time of unemployment on your CV.

5. Include a personalised covering letter detailing your salary expectations and why you would succeed in the listed position, and, where applicable, explaining any interest in relocation. A candidate from Penrith applying for a job in Bristol is more likely to be contacted if the covering letter explains that the candidate has family in the South-West and is looking to relocate there.

6. Include your current salary range in the covering letter. Pitching your salary too high for the advertised position won't necessarily exclude you from the running. The recruiter will assess the opportunity and contact you if the job seems right for you for reasons other than salary.

7. Give a brief description of each company you have worked for, stating the industry, approximate revenue and specialism in the market. No recruiter has the time to investigate every firm appearing on a CV.

8. List specific accomplishments in each of your past jobs, including numbers and outcomes whenever possible. There is no easier way for a recruiter to sell your experiences to a client company than by using specific examples and benchmarks you have achieved.

9. Tailor your CV to the position. If the company is listed in the advert, go to its website or see if you can find any related articles. Research the company's corporate culture, management team and mission
statement. If your CV is tailored to highlight the particular skills and experience the company is looking for and concisely explains what you have done in the past to realise these benefits, you stand a better chance of impressing your interviewer and therefore getting the job.

10. Follow up your application with an email ten to 14 days later. Include a new covering letter expressing your continued interest. By then, the recruiters will have a better handle on the position and will be able to quickly assess if you might fit the client company or not.

11. Be persistent without being pushy. Recruiters assess personality and cultural suitability to the same degree that they look for the necessary skills to perform the job. If you haven't been contacted, it may not mean you aren't qualified for the position. It may simply mean that someone else better fits the company's expectations. Maintain a good relationship with an executive recruiter. You never know when you'll get a call for your dream job.


  • Annalie Davies is an assignment manager at Spencer Stuart Talent Network (SSTN), a newly-launched company providing advice to middle and senior managers. This is the first of a series of career advice columns from SSTN. For details, news and articles, check SSTN's website: spencerstuart.com.