Screening the Curriculum Vitae (CV)

When hiring you'll more than likely be inundated with CVs, read our guide and learn how to pick out the best ones

Screening the Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Last time, we discussed how to attract the right candidates for your role. The next step in our recruitment process is identifying which of the applicants from whom we receive CVs we will actually invite in.

Name: Neil Shorney
Current employer: Naturally Sales Ltd
Relevant skills: Extensive knowledge of astrophysics, fluent in mandarin and accomplished ballet dancer

Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on a CV to be an accurate summary of a candidate’s experience and skills. We need some techniques to identify which CVs are accurate, which are exaggerated, and which are simply untrue. We also need to decide what our tolerance is for inconsistency or elaboration on CVs. Just because people exaggerate their experience doesn’t make them unsuitable for the job, but we need to use a combination of CV-screening and interview techniques to get the real story.

Step 1: Presentation*

The first step is to consider the overall presentation of the CV in the file you receive. Does the document look nice? Is it structured in a logical way? Do the format and layout keep you interested? The layout of a CV can tell you a lot about how innovative the candidate will be and how much care has been taken, and will be taken in future. You might not want something too “far out” (like, for example, a Manga CV), but within the bounds of a professional image, the CV should be interesting enough to grab your attention.

*Be aware than some recruitment consultants add their logo or remove contact information from CVs, and this exercise can negatively impact the overall presentation yet is outside of the candidate’s control.

Step 2: Attention to detail

Look through the CV for errors. In these days of spell-checkers and grammar-checkers, there are no excuses for mistakes. Look particularly for errors which can’t be picked up easily by software, such as in punctuation, or incorrect use of plurals. A good candidate should spend a lot of effort in crafting their CV, and should also be asking other people to proof-read. Errors illustrate very poor attention to detail which could be a sign of things to come.

Step 3: Inconsistencies and unusual employment patterns

When you recruit, you’re most likely looking for someone who will be with the company for a reasonable period of time, and any history of “job-hopping” should ring warning bells. There are various patterns to beware of. If someone has more than two jobs which have been held for less than a year, beware that this person might get itchy feet quite soon. Perhaps the reason for leaving was a bad job rather than their own desires, but if nothing else, this shows that perhaps the candidate doesn’t have a track record of considering job fit. Another pattern to beware of, particularly in salespeople, is only one job on the CV, but leaving that job after a year. It’s possible that the candidate is not a very good salesperson and jumped from this first job before being pushed.

Whilst regular employment changes can be a bad sign, so is staying in the same job for a long time with little career progression. This could be a sign of someone who lacks ambition, or who never shone enough in their previous company to warrant progression.

Step 4: Relevant experience

Unless you’re recruiting for an apprentice role, you’ll expect the candidate to have relevant experience. Most will indicate this if you specified this in the job description, but the candidate may be looking for a bigger leap than they should be, so if you require previous experience, make sure it’s on the CV, and make a note to check at interview stage that the experience really is as the candidate has indicated.

Step 5: Preparing for the interview

So… you’ve screened the CVs and hopefully now you have a selection of candidates you’d like to invite in for interview. Your task now is to convert any concerns from the CV into interview questions to put the candidate on the spot and satisfy yourself that they really have the skills and attributes which they claim. Within your general interview framework, you should ensure that you address all these points to maximise your chances of recruiting the right person for the job.

In the next installment, we’ll look at interview technique and how you can be sure that the person you’ve read about is the same as the person you meet.Neil Shorney, Director,

Neil Shorney is the director of Naturally Sales Ltd

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