Recruiters – should you alter a CV before submitting it ?

Monday morning I received a call from a client who I had recently shortlisted some CVs for:

Client : Thanks for the CVs, but can you send the candidate’s original ones please.

Me: Why ?

Client:: Why not ? You can take their personal details off if you are worried we will contact them directly and go behind your back. Their original CV will give us a better insight than your edited version.

I could see his point. A recruiter can tweak or add things to a CV so it matches the key elements of the job spec and makes their candidate look better. Similarly things can be hidden or removed that might have a negative impact on how that candidate is viewed. It basically allows a recruiter to control how the candidate is presented and perceived. Even if a recruiter is just correcting a small spelling mistake, any editing is only going to show the candidate in a better light. When there is ultimately a big fee on the line, is this not a bit disingenuous ? My client obviously thought so.

However…

A lot of CVs for one reason or another don’t really do the candidate justice. Sure, some are just plain awful and deserve to be rejected in two seconds. If your CV is littered with spelling mistakes or has dates that don’t correspond, I have little sympathy. More importantly you are clearly not going to be right for my client. But some candidates who would be good for a role never get to an interview because of their CV. It might be too long and hiring managers, justifiably can’t be bothered reading it. Or it is too short and there is simply not enough information to assess their suitability. Sure, you could argue that it is up to every individual to ensure their CV is just right, but what is right is often a matter of opinion. When I was last looking for a role, I spoke to someone who classified herself as a professional resume writer. She advised me that my CV should be at least 6 pages long and include every job right back to when I was fruit picking as a backpacker. If I was sending that around town…..well I still would be ! Luckily as an experienced recruiter I knew that was rubbish. I also know that having a photo of yourself and listing ‘clubbing’ as your hobby makes you look pretty naff; and saying you are a Collingwood fan will be an automatic rejection for many people !

A ‘bad’ CV should not necessarily be an automatic rejection, but understandably it often is. It means potentially suitable candidates are rejected before they get an interview and ultimately the client misses out. This is why I format my CVs before sending them to a client. If you are sending out candidate’s original CVs, or just putting a pretty cover sheet on the front, then I question whether you are doing you client or your candidate any favours.

I take the time to read the CV that is really too long and would probably be discarded. If that person is suitable I will present a more succinct and relevant version to the client. Equally, if there are things that come out of my interview with the candidate that are not on their CV and key to the role, I will add it. I will change a few things around to highlight the most relevant bits. I will put all the CVs in the same format so it is easier for clients to compare candidates. And yes, I will change a spelling mistake because none of us are perfick !

Yes, it is all part of the professional service, looks good, protects privacy and covers ourselves from companies back-dooring our candidates. But there is a more important reason. The bottom line is that it makes it easier for my client and ensures that they don’t miss out on good candidates. Which, after all, is essentially the job of a recruiter.

Luke Collard

30 thoughts on “Recruiters – should you alter a CV before submitting it ?”

  1. I agree with your client – I always want to see the original resume. For me re formatting a CV is like re writing a cover letter. The way a candidate writes and presents a resume says as much about them as the content of the resume.

    1. Not sure I agree with you there Brett. A resume is a marketing document – a huge amount of information is uncovered, drilled down upon and expended on in the interview with the recruiter. The recruiter has a responsibility to get this information to the hiring manager/client…
      A quick analogy… A writer has everything checked, reviewed and modified by their editor before it gets to their target market. I think we need to provide the same service to our candidates – particularly as we know their target market better…

  2. Great article again Luke. I always ask for a candidate’s consent when altering their CV and advise them to not be shocked at client interview when it looks nothing like what they have submitted to me – template, format and my pet hate, Times New Roman font – yuk! Ok, so font may not really contribute to the debate here… However!, I would say that 90% of resumes that come in require work, be it an executive or a recent school graduate. But then, I guess it depends on the type of recruiter you are too: are you are looking for the tick the box, in and out interview for the quick flick and stick, fingers crossed, hold your breath for the guarantee period to pass type of placement, or whether you are actually trying to extract the skill set of a candidate and ensure the person you present is actually going to be able to forge the next step in their career, as importantly as your clients human capital succession plan? I feel, it is not as simple and shallow as just changing a few words and spelling errors on a CV. Other external factors can make an impact on what they have, or not have, in their resume – eg: 10 years in a job, haven’t updated their resume, made redundant then have a mental block on what it is that they have been doing all these years, but must write a CV so slap down a few bullet points, forget the roles they have actually had within the business let alone their actual duties, responsibilities and most overlooked, achievements. I feel, it goes much deeper, and if you really want a career in this industry, then you take the time and you re-write it. But hey, keep on doing the basics, it just helps my bottom line and reputation as a recruiter and career coach 😀

    1. Are you a complete asshat? Reread your second sentence. Thanks for sending me to an interview so I can be surprised by your changes.

      Moron

      1. Hey Craig, where you ask me if I’m calling you a moron or signing off as a moron…that was the most creative thing you said in this whole thread. Attention recruiters: if you are altering anything on anyone’s resume without their consent then you are appalling. There is so much WRONG with this entire web page that I wrote my own rebuttal page. http://www.davewentzel.com/content/recruiters

        To the recruiters reading this: don’t follow the advice you find on this page if you value your professional relationships.

        –dave

        1. Hi Dave,
          Thanks for taking the time to comment again and dedicate an entire blog to it… Trouble is I think you mis-read the initial blog… NO WHERE & I repeat no where, does it say that a recruiter should alter a resume without consulting the candidate first… this is part of the service and part I strongly advocate.
          Are you suggesting that if a recruiter meets a great candidate, who interviews well and is brilliant for the role, we should allow a sub-standard resume that doesn’t reflect the requirements of the role be presented?
          If you have had some negative experiences with a recruiter I’m very sorry. But champ, it doesn’t give you the right, or the mandate to label me with offensive labels like ‘asshat’ or ‘moron’… or over-generalise a fantastic profession that only wants to help you get a job!

      2. Well Craig, now you are just lying. I did a “search” on your page for the word “consent” and it only appears thrice, and never by YOU, only the comments. I CAREFULLY scanned the entire original post for any reasonable synonym for “consent” and found nothing. Nothing.

        Please tell me where you or Luke mentioned anything remotely in the spirit of “we only change a resume when we have the consent of the candidate”? What am I missing?

        So my contention is NOWHERE, and I repeat, NOWHERE, do you say that you get consent. That is intellectually dishonest of you, champ.

        And nowhere in MY blog post did I ever say you, as a recruiter, should submit a substandard resume to a client. I specifically said you should get the CONSENT for the edits, or you should NOT submit the candidate. I’ll repeat, why would you as a recruiter want to submit an edited resume to a client when the candidate is just going to show up for the face-to-face interview with the same god-awful grammar and communication skills? Get consent for edits, and help with coaching. So, again, your argumentation ethics are lacking.

        Your closing sentence ends, “[I] only want to get you a job.” Again, lets be honest. You don’t really want to get any of your candidates a job, you want to get the commission for filling the vacancy from the client. If it’s me that gets you the commission, great, if it’s Joe Blow, that’s great to. That is your goal. To be clear, I’m perfectly fine with that, I just want YOU to be intellectually honest with yourself. As I mentioned in my blog post, your responsibility is to the sell-side (client), not the buy-side (the candidate). There are recruiters who are buy-side. They are very specialized and only deal with the best of the best. Usually execs. You aren’t apparently one of those. (no offense intended, just stating a fact). Those recruiters are agents and have an agency responsibility to ONLY the candidate.

        So don’t try to pawn off altruism to a candidate for why you edit a resume, you do it to get the sale.

        Said differently if YOU really wanted to get ME a job then you’d ask ME for consent of YOUR edits.

        Finally, yes, I’ve had bad experiences with recruiters. Apparently you didn’t read my entire blog post else you’d have read my horror stories…not just as a candidate, but also as an interviewer making hiring decisions.

        So, you’ll excuse me for the ad hominem attacks like “asshat” and “moron”, champ, but it is recruiters who have a disrespect for their clients and candidates that make people like me so angry.

        I just hope a few recruiters read this, do some soul searching, and amend their methods.

        All the best,

        –moron

        1. Dave… champ… save yourself some time and energy… you have one argument that you repeat ad nauseam. That recruiters can edit a resume if they get consent for edits… and I have told you that we (and most) recruiters do that as standard. You waste a lot of words and emotional stress banging on about it. You are offensive in your attacks, and make very little if any sense.
          Although it has been interesting communicating with you… I’m going to let you get on with your life now. I hope you find a way to deal with your anger.
          Best wishes
          Craig

  3. Working in IT Recruitment for a number of years, it is fair to say that some of most technical people and highly regarded people within the industry do not necessarily write a resume that sells them very well or even includes all it shoud, also the grammar can be very bad.

    I would never change the information within a resume without the consent of the candidate but I think it is definitely part of a consultants role to advise and walk people through their resume and explain why the changes should be made.

    Some candidates have been in roles for a number of years and still believe that the standard 2 page resume is the way forward….therefore not adding enough detail.

    I think guidance is the key here and so any resume that is sent to the client is the words of the candidate but with the push in the right direction coming from the agent.

    Luke….another good article mate.

  4. @Cameron sometimes more than advice is needed and any changes are always done in consultation with the candidate – during the interview. Instruct them that they need to put in their monthly billings (if they are a recruiter/sales etc.). If there is a key competency required for the role and the candidate has a proven background in that area – wouldn’t you make sure the candidate mentions it in their resume, or if it is hidden at the bottom of a list of competencies ask them to cut and paste it to the top??
    I’m not suggesting the tone or style should be changed, but crucial information and skills which the candidate possesses needs to be in there.

  5. I think it’s on a case by case scernario you get people who are recently redundent & have never had to write a CV before terrified at the thought and don’t know where to start, there are those who are lazy and think we should do it all for them.I think all candidates should be presented in the best light so alter what you think you need to and send a copy to the cadidate explaining why you have done it and 9 times out of 10 they will thank you for your input. I have had a client ask for original CV after sending a formatted CV & then asking where the rest of the orginal CV was and after a conversation the client understood what I did for a living & why recruiters charge fees.

  6. @Kate. I agree with you totally – It’s a case by case scenario! And to all those who say resumes should be presented unedited, so they can see the style of the candidate – what about those who have their resume prepared professionally??

  7. Craig,

    I was reading the blog and also comments with great interest. Was readying a nice little pointer that many candidates’ get there CV’s prepared professionally and low and behold you’ve made that argument already!?

    Realistically speaking it all comes to down to the industry we work in. I myself have worked in an industry where quite frankly some candidate’s have never needed to have a CV before. Therefore we literally create one with them during our f2f interview. Being experts, is it not our duty to ensure that candidate’s are presenting the relevant information to prospective employers?

    And as to why the ‘professional’ resume writer told you to write a 6 page resume is beyond me!! Did they charge for each page!?

    1. It’s clear that the recruiter don’t want to submit the original because hiding the contact number and details

      It’s dose related to Privacy This related to source of income, Also companies now I could not understand there is many sourcing for Free resume download with social media

  8. I agree with Luke, think formatting a resume is important. Presenting 3 resumes for the same job in three different styles makes it look like you don’t care and looks very unprofessional. Importantly it also means the candidates don’t have the opportunity to be viewed by the client as equals, but rather on how their resume looks. This is unfair to both candidates and clients who rely on us to present people who can do the job, are a potential cultural fit and possess the right attitude.

    1. Disagree. Formatting resumes to be agency consistent imo looks like a factory, and is unfair to the client. They need to see how a candidate writes, as even font size can tell you something about a person.

  9. Hi Luke – sorry I don’t agree on this one! I don’t format candidate’s CV’s – I always send the original with a talent report. All the key competencies, selling points, my recommendations, motivations, salary etc are in this report. I believe it is important for the original to be sent and to be honest if it is that bad CV or needs tweaking – I give the candidate the advice and tell them to update and send back to me. To avoid the rejection by the client based on the CV, I will always discuss the candidate and their details first so I already have the client’s buy-in before they see the document. I generally find when you have a strong relationship and trust with your client, they will agree to interview even without seeing the candidate’s CV.

    You must be good at admin Luke or have a fabulous assistant! 🙂

    1. Hi Nicole – couple of quick questions on your post… 1) You say that when you have a strong relationship and trust with the client they will agree to interview without seeing the candidate’s cv… What if they are a new client, or you are a new consultant? You won’t yet have built that trust and the cv becomes the conduit to the interview. 2) In the recruitment arm of your business you play in the executive space. It is a widely known stat that more than 30% of executive candidates have their resume/cv prepared professionally, so I can’t se the difference between that – and we as recruiters advising changes and tweaks?

      1. Hi Craig – even with a new client the other month I was able to organise a meet & greet before they had seen a CV. I find that this was able to happen from the meeting – being able to build that rapport and credibility. However, I do understand new relationships are certainly going to be harder and in this instance that is where I use a talent report before the candidate’s CV to outline skills & experience, competencies and motivational fit.

        As for having a resume professionally prepared – I have seen plenty of stinkers too! I always give advice and get them to tweak it themselves and re-send to me. In fact I am doing that on a weekly basis with executives and have blog coming up via TrainingPoint blog spot about what an executive CV should have http://training-point.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/swamped-by-your-workload-5-ways-to-get.html

        Whether you tweak their CV or I give advice for them to do it – we have the same goal: for the CV to be a better reflection and sales document of their competencies so the client will agree to a face to face meeting.

  10. I absolutely agree with you Luke.

    Sometimes a candidate’s resume does not do them justice and they often forget to list very important responsibilities and experiences. For example, this morning I had to add a candidate’s experience with software packages, which was of interest to the client. The candidate also did not add all of their responsibilities down. I had to put it in for them as they were relevant to the job they were put forward to. If I had not made those additions my candidate would NEVER have had a chance.

  11. Thanks for the comments everyone – I wasn’t expecting this topic to have such polarising opinions and it has given me a bit more to think about since writing the blog. It’s obvioulsy not as clear cut as saying one way is right and the other wrong.

    Nicole, you have it spot on when you say that you get committment from your clients to interview before sending a CV – that is clearly the best way and should be the goal for any recruiter to get the relationship with a client to that point.

    But I think that if you are advising a candidate to make changes to their CV, it is pretty much the same as re-formatting it yourself. Putting it into a standard format is at least being up front.

  12. No, would never alter a candidate’s cv, as it represents them and who they are as a person. However, I have often advised candidates on how to make modifications and changes.

    It is our job to then sell the candidate to the client.
    I

  13. It’s a pet hate of mine when recruiters edit my CV. There’s nothing worse than turning up for an interview only to discover that the prospective employer appears to have a work of fiction written by a ADHD-afflicted chimpanzee in their hands, instead of the well-researched and carefully-formatted CV I provided.

    These days I supply my CV in PDF format only. I’m a software developer, and it’s amazing how many recruiters will try and tell you that “their client” isn’t capable of opening PDF documents, so can they have it in Word format? Of course, the real reason is that they want to remove my contact details (including my online portfolio: my blog, YouTube coding techniques videos, gitbuh demo projects, and lots of other stuff the recruiter is too stupid to realise is actually useful to both of us in securing me the role). Removing those details is usually a sign they do not have an agreement from the employer to send any CVs, and they’re just chancing their arm. (If they did have a supply agreement, they wouldn’t be so worried about the prospect of the employer contacting me directly). I’d have more respect for recruiters if they just admitted their real motivations.

    I always tell the recruiter that if the employer really is incapable of doing something as basic as opening a PDF document, then they’d be unlikely to be able to benefit from the tech skills I can provide. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll go to the trouble of explaining why defacing my CV by plastering their crappy agency logo all over it, and relegating my key information to Page 2 by slapping their own coversheet on the front, is in no party’s interest. Mostly, though, to be honest I just deal directly with employers these days (who funnily enough can always open PDF documents quite well). Because I have neither the time nor the patience to explain All Of The Above to the constant churn of technical recruiters with six whole months experience that seem to exist out there.

  14. I am a very firm believer in editing and formating resumes for the following reasons:

    – candidates are presented on a level playing field which leaves no room for discrimination of any kind
    – recruiters are experienced in formatting resumes, candidates are not. Let the experienced ones present you in the best light
    – behavioural interviews uncover more than a candidate’s resume will tell you and should therefore be added
    – recruiters understand which format results in good response (and response times)
    – many recruiter databases do not read pdf’s and candidates therefore will not be matched for skills
    – recruiters are not the only ‘chimpanzees’ going around (reference to previous post). We’re all human and candidates make mistakes, forget grammar and may think that a bright pink border may help them to stand out – recruiters are in the know and are there to help, not hinder!
    – recruiters create a brand for themselves and one part of their brand positioning is presenting clean, readable, concise material throughout their communications with clients
    – recruiters are asked daily for help with candidate resumes
    – repeating ‘I’ throughout a resume is distracting to a client, as is writing in the third person
    – fluffless resume writing is a skill learned. There aren’t many candidates out there with this skill
    – recruiters know what descriptive words to either exchange or delete from resumes from over use in the industry
    – recruiters are sales people. They are there to pick out a candidate’s best features and get out there and let the most relevant employers know
    – candidates rely on recruiters for advice, interview training, resume writing and feedback. The sooner a candidate learns to write a great resume, the better chances they have in finding their ultimate role!
    – resume formatting is such a small service recruiters perform in the bigger scheme of things.

  15. In 15+ years of recruitment, I’ve NEVER edited or altered a candidate’s CV. No one is perfect. I present them as is (even contact details untouched). I think it’s fundamentally deceptive to the client and believe they should see the candidates’ CVs warts and all. Most employers are looking for the candidate to deliver a certain result for them, not whether or not they can write a good CV. The CV will only get them the interview not the job.

  16. This was a very interesting article and i have to say that i agree with the content. As a writer, you wouldn’t present your original work for publication rather you might get industry feedback, modify it here and there and then submit a final copy. If the publisher came back and demanded that you present your original material for publication, it wouldn’t make sense!

    I personally do not modify any resume that i receive HOWEVER, when i speak to a candidate and after speaking with them, i realize that their resume does not do them justice, I do try to educate them on why they may need to change their resume. For example, many candidates may be very technical however not include a lot of their experience on the resume. If a client does not see it on the resume, they assume the candidate is not suitable. Obviously this isn’t the case, it just isn’t on the resume because the candidate didn’t feel the need to put it there at the time. Does this mean we punish them and don’t inform them of any flaws or opportunities to excel in the role even though they may have the skills? It is just the nature of work and life that people do just solely judge on first impressions.

    Essentially we are advisors. Just as we advise the client on what is reasonable as a wishlist for a position, we also advise candidates on how best to present themselves from resume to interviewing and beyond. Many candidates are also very uneducated when it comes to resume writing or interviewing. If we educate them, it doesn’t mean we are modifying anything or presenting something that is not true but rather presenting the entire picture and examining beyond just a piece of paper.

  17. I personally don’t think it is wrong to alter the CV in order to better enhance the interview prospects of your candidate; so long as you do not “doctor” the essence of what is in that original document to falsely represent that person. The fact is that CV’s are a document that describes your knowledge and experience; but different employers (and recruiters) have differing ideas as to how they should be formatted, or presented in order to attract their attention.

    To me, unless the industry itself comes up with a universally accepted template of what is required on a CV; then candidates will always be at the mercy of the personal piques of individuals…something we have no chance of knowing when creating our document.

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