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What’s important on a CV and how does this vary in Europe?
What a candidate should or shouldn’t include on a CV is influenced by many factors, from job position to sector, and of course the country. We surveyed over 4,245 job candidates and 619 recruitment consultants across Page Personnel to help identify the key elements that applicants should include on a CV when applying for a job. Previous employment for a well-regarded company or brand, demonstrating more relevant experience than specified in the job description, and including a photo are just some of the items that are considered important throughout Europe. Read on to find out how the results vary across 12 countries – some of them may surprise you.
Should you keep your CV under 2 pages or not?
In Southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal, where employers receive a high volume of job applications for every position, most recruiters say it’s vital to keep your CV under two pages. An astounding 98% of Italian recruiters say that a CV should be under two pages – with 92% of Spanish and 85% of Turkish consultants agreeing. This is in stark contrast to the German market, where it doesn’t even make the top 10 list of priorities as only 26% of recruitment consultants consider it important.
- Italy: 98%
- Spain: 91%
- Turkey: 85%
- Switzerland: 54%
- Poland: 50%
- Germany: 26%
Do you need to include a photo on your CV or not?
In spite of their country’s strict privacy laws, all German recruitment consultants expect to see a professional photo included on a CV – in fact our study discovered that 100% agree it is essential. Poland and Switzerland follow with 79% of recruitment consultants confirming the same. Adding a photo is a great way to personalise your CV, making you memorable and unique to the recruiter when going through the selection process.
However, in Belgium and France, a photo is considered a CV extra that will have very little effect on a candidate’s chances when applying for a job – unsurprisingly, only 34% of Belgian consultants see a photo as being a necessary component. In France (50%) this figure may well be influenced by a news story from 2010/11 when an anonymous CV sent without a photo, name or address was used to first highlight, then fight against workplace discrimination.
- Germany: 100%
- Poland: 79%
- Switzerland: 79%
- France 50%
- Belgium 34%
Experience abroad: a selling point or just an extra?
Experience abroad is more important to recruitment consultants in the Mediterranean area than it is for other countries in Europe. Italy tops the scale with 91% of recruiters agreeing, confirming it is something they actively search for, followed by Spain with 83% and Turkey with 80%. This is probably connected to the competitive job market for candidates and the volume of international companies establishing themselves in these countries. For markets such as Spain, this will also be related to knowledge of additional languages – which is commonly validated when someone has certification and experience working and living in another country.
Knowing how to best sell your experience abroad can be a valuable asset and demonstrate applied experience when showcased effectively. In addition, it can show that you have cultural understanding which can positively impact communication skills in a workplace and help with problem-solving.
We see the opposite in Northern Europe, with only 26% of recruitment consultants in Belgium saying is important and the Netherlands with 37%.
- Italy: 91%
- Spain 83%
- Turkey: 80%
- Switzerland: 61%
- Germany: 40%
- Netherlands 37%
- Belgium 26%
Employment gap of less than 6 months
In countries where unemployment has been at high levels for the last decade it is considered an advantage not to have any employment gaps on your CV, placing Italy at the top of the list with 50% of recruitment consultants confirming this, followed by Spain with 31%. Minimising employment gaps helps candidates appear more active, which is a key consideration if looking for a position in a saturated market.
However, inactivity isn’t deemed as important in France, where only 4% of consultants said that an employment gap of less than 6 months is important. The Netherlands is also low with just 7% agreeing, which may be due to the cultural attitude they have towards flexibility in the workplace where part-time work, retraining, and sabbaticals are a well-accepted and deeply ingrained element of working culture.
- Italy 50%
- Spain 31%
- Netherlands 8%
- Switzerland: 7%
- France 4%
Can you “stretch the truth” on your CV?
The Dutch and the Belgians are far more understanding than the rest of Europe when looking at whether or not candidates should exaggerate a little on their CV. In fact, 44% of recruitment consultants in Belgium and 43% in the Netherlands state that you can be somewhat creative regarding the truth.
What might be more surprising is that the least understanding country is Italy with 7%, indicating that they expect your CV to be 100% accurate. France is slightly more with just 13%.
- Belgium 44%
- Netherlands 43%
- Switzerland: 31%
- France 13%
- Italy 7%
How personal should you get?
If you want to apply for a job in the Netherlands 74% find it important that candidates include some details on their personal interests in their CV. The same is true for Portugal with 68% and Germany with 64%. Including such details gives an indication of your character prior to an interview, and helps recruitment consultants in identifying if a candidate is well matched to the culture of a given company.
This isn’t as appreciated in Spain, where only 26% state that personal interests are important or France with 28%.
The same is applicable for including your personal motivation when you apply for a job. In the Netherlands, 90% rank the inclusion of a personal motivation as important, as does Belgium with 78%.
This information on a CV allows candidates to convey who they truly are. Paired with personal interests and demonstrating proven experience and skills makes a CV more competitive, but not in all countries.
In Spain, just 1 out of 5 consultants consider the personal motivation on a CV to be important. This could be influenced by the high volume of CVs received by recruitment consultants, making it a topic that isn’t a priority when going through the selection process. It is instead more valid during the actual interview.
- The Netherlands: 74%
- Portugal: 68%
- Germany: 64%
- Switzerland: 43%
- France 28%
- Spain 26%
- The Netherlands: 90%
- Belgium: 78%
- Switzerland: 54%
- France: 51%
- Spain: 18%