Why 37% of millennials are rarely or never shortlisted for the interview stage

We recently ran a survey where we asked millennial’s a series of questions to ascertain how often they have had their CV reviewed and the number of interviews they were invited to.  

The results showed 37% of millennial’s were rarely or never shortlisted for the interview stage.   

Submitting a CV is often the first stage of the recruitment process and it takes an employer on average 6 seconds to decide if your CV is worth reading. The results of our survey showed 48% of millennial’s said they had never had their CV reviewed.

If you have never had your CV reviewed by a career professional or someone who works in the industry you want to get into how do you know if it’s any good? 

As someone who has reviewed 100’s of CV’s over the last ten years, there are common themes  which would prevent an applicant being shortlisted to the interview stage, such as: 


Most relevant information first- Assuming you have accrued work experience your first line of your job history is the most important. Whilst as a general rule your CV is written in chronological order If the employer is looking for a Social Media Coordinator and you did that role 3 years ago but your most recent job was a Finance Assistant, your most relevant job title should go first irrespective of whether it’s the most recent.  

Passive language– This is not the time to be shy/humble or use words like ‘we’ your CV is essentially the first page of a magazine, you want the employer to be so interested that they have to read more by inviting you in. In the work experience section applicants often start off the bullet points with ‘Helped’ ‘Assisted’ ‘Responsible for’ which in some cases may have been the case but after a bit of probing in a 1-2-1 review we quickly find it wasn’t. Take ownership and pride over what you did and start each bullet point with a strong verb to reflect that e.g. Researched into, ‘Developed’ ‘Collaborated’ ‘Managed’ etc  

Key words match-People often write what they want to say on a CV and not what employers want to hear.  For example, the employer often has key words/phrases they are looking out for e.g. has developed marketing materials, coordinated events, analysed information, clients etc but if none of these words or phrases appear on your CV then it’s a mismatch.   Its worth looking at a few job descriptions to get an idea of what the key words/phrases may be for your industry  

Achievement focused– Under your work experience section, each statement you make should be results focused as opposed to just stating what you did e.g. instead of writing ‘managed social media channels’ you could instead write ‘Grew social media following by 50% within first 6 months of joining the company.  

Personality–When I meet with employers and I ask them what they are looking for in their next hire, what often comes up is someone who is ‘well rounded’ and can ‘get on in teams’ yet that is not always shown on CV’s, don’t just list your academic achievements and work experience. Mention your interests and achievements. Perhaps you have been involved in volunteering work or play a team sport. Don’t underestimate the importance of such activities.  

Missing information/unexplained gaps– I have found a huge number of applicants will omit information such as their degree grade. If this is omitted the recruiter can only assume the worse. It’s always best to include this information and to include a line on mitigating circumstances if relevant.  

Spelling- As a Career Consultant and previous Recruitment Manager I have found this to be one of the most common mistakes and it always makes me chuckle when an applicant has said in their personal profile they have strong attention detail but their CV is littered with spelling mistakes. For such an important document, make use of spell checker or ask a friend who wouldn’t mind glancing over it for you.  

Inappropriate structure- Your CV is not a game of ‘Where’s Wally’ don’t make the recruiter have to work hard to find the relevant information, structure your CV clearly by making use of headings, bold, bullet points etc.

Lack of experience-if you do not have relevant experience it can be difficult to grab an employers attention,  instead of using a chronological CV you can use a ‘skills based’ CV format where you highlight the skills the employer is looking for and evidence it through various ways e.g. for Teamwork you could use an example of being part of a team sport.


If you need help with your CV, you can claim a free CV review with Build Potential. Wwill provide you with a comprehensive report which covers everything from language, structure, job match, unconscious bias and more, simply email it to  


Written by Abigail Brown  


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