5 Tips for Understanding a Candidate’s CV

17/08/2017 < Return to blog

If you work in recruitment or HR, the chances are you know the pain of wading through hundreds and thousands of CVs in search of that perfect candidate for your role. Reading over CVs can be a long and arduous task, and it’s deceptively easy to get caught by ‘tunnel vision’, risking passing over a potential candidate.

Luckily, the whole process can be made so much easier simply by knowing what to look for. This may seem obvious, after all, if you’re looking for candidates you probably already have at least a general outline of what you want. However, this doesn’t mean you should simply ignore the things that don’t seem immediately relevant. We all know that even though all the information on a good CV should be important, you just don’t have the time to read every single line of every single CV.

To help out, we have provided a list of 5 important things to look out for on each CV that will streamline the searching process and help you gain a better understanding of the candidate.

Keep an eye out for bespoke / personalised CVs

To begin, let’s address the issue of personalised CVs. You may have encountered discussion on whether CVs should be personalised for each job or whether those applying should save themselves time and use the same one. As it can be rather time consuming, it’s not surprising that most people don’t personalise their CV, which means that those who do can stand out to you and really appeal to your business. Try to keep an eye out for signs that the CV has been personalised for your role, as it shows the candidate has made an extra bit of effort to show their interest.

Don’t be put off by those who don’t personalise their CV though, it’s not always necessary as many people choose the option of attaching a cover letter. If possible, always pay attention to any cover letters that are included, as it gives the candidate a chance to show you what they understand about your company and the position in a helpful, up-front manner. It also lets them directly tell you why they believe themselves to be suitable for the position, as well as show you that they have took the time to appeal directly to your needs..

Consider all experience, not just most recent

When you’re reading through countless CVs, it can be easy to fall into the trap of only really considering the candidate’s current or most recent role, and not paying much attention to the rest. Of course, it’s understandable why one would do this, as it can save a lot of time, and an individual’s current job is often the most relevant. However, it’s almost always worth taking an extra few seconds to look over the candidate’s experience as a whole.

This can be especially important if you come across a candidate who has worked in multiple industries or sectors. You wouldn’t want to pass over a candidate because you see that they’re currently only 2 years into a job in a different industry, without noticing that they previously had 5 years’ experience in a relevant role.

Not only can this give you an indication the different skills and experience they’ve acquired, but it can also show their adaptability. For example, a candidate with no experience in your sector, but who possesses experience in jobs around various related sectors may show levels of adaptability and flexibility that would be transferable to your advertised position.

Analyse how they describe their roles

Everyone knows that an individual’s previous roles are important, but many people neglect to take a look at how the roles are described. How a person describes their roles, job descriptions, and responsibilities can tell you so much about them as an individual and as an employee. When you read through countless CVs, the process becomes automatic, and it can be easy to forget that what you are reading was written by a human, not a machine.

The way that someone describes the details of their involvement in a role is indicative of the way they view themselves, and their attitude towards work. For example, in job descriptions individuals will often write more about what they were particularly invested in, or what they perceived to be the most important part of the job.

It can also be a good idea to make note of how many different job titles or responsibilities the candidate names. Listing multiple responsibilities or titles per workplace can show great self-awareness, as well as understanding of what makes different roles and responsibilities unique. Awareness of one’s own abilities, contribution, and responsibilities is a great feature in a potential candidate, but one that is perhaps not immediately obvious if you aren’t looking for the signs.

Identify evidence and proof

So you’ve established what the candidate’s roles and responsibilities were and how they perceive them, but a question still remains; where is the proof? If someone can reinforce their influence and abilities by giving concrete examples of their actions and the positive effects, that’s a sign of a good candidate.

Often when reading through CVs, employers will simply take what the writer says at face-level, which is fine, as not everyone has the space on their CV to explain everything. However, it’s of course much more reassuring for you, the reader, if the candidate can clearly and concisely tell you;

  • What they did
  • Why they did it
  • How they did it
  • What effect this had

Obviously this is quite a lot to convey without getting too wordy, but you’ll find that when someone is able to include these things in their job overviews, they demonstrate a high level of understanding. This doubles up as evidence of not only writing ability, but also their ability to communicate, convey, and prioritise information in a concise, straight-forward manner, a skill that is of course highly valuable in many senior roles.

Find the candidate’s motivation

Perhaps the number one overlooked factor in CVs, motivation essentially influences an employee’s entire work ethic and enthusiasm for what they do. Unfortunately, you’ll rarely come across a specific ‘Motivation’ section, rather it has to be inferred.

Often you can get a sense of an individual’s level of motivation, as well as what specifically is a source of their motivation by looking for things such as;

  • Examples of situations where they showed significant drive in the workplace (e.g. implementation of unique or original strategies)
  • Volunteer work, or examples of going the extra mile
  • Impressive amounts of experience/dedication to non-workplace activities (e.g. second language learning, significant achievements in hobbies)

As we know, everybody wants their employees to have the drive to work hard and hit targets. As such, finding a CV that shows strong motivation to achieve something, whether it be in the workplace or as a hobby, is a fantastic indicator that the individual has the capacity to independently work hard to get results.

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope to have highlighted some of the often overlooked yet undoubtedly important features of a CV, and provided some useful tips that you can utilise when searching through candidates. With this in mind you may be able to more effectively and efficiently analyse CVs and identify the best candidate for your role.

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