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What is this CV really telling you? How to smartread CVs

What is this CV really telling you? How to smartread CVs

A few weeks ago, we published a general guide for screening through Microsoft Dynamics CVs efficiently. Today, we want to tell you more about reading CVs in depth – or more specifically, about how to read between the lines of a CV.


Reading CVs in depth – what does it entail?

There is a lot that goes into making the decision of hiring a new employee. As an employer, you need to ask yourself many essential questions about each candidate: do they have the right education for the role? The right skills? The right experience? Do they have the right personality to be a good fit in your team? Will they be able to learn and adjust as your business grows? Will they be a reliable team member?

There will always be a certain amount of uncertainty when hiring a new person. However, there are ways you can reduce this uncertainty by setting up a careful screening process and making the most of the information you are provided during it. This starts with properly reading CVs. The below list will help you to spot some very useful clues during your CV screening process.


1 – The formatting – how much does it matter?

The formatting of a CV is important – but not necessarily in the way you think. The amount of thought and skill that went into designing the resume you are holding can tell you a lot about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses – which doesn’t mean that a badly formatted CV is always a bad thing.

Before analysing the formatting, ask yourself: what soft skills are really important to the role you are hiring for? Do you need somebody with good design skills? Somebody who knows how to use Microsoft Office? Someone who is well-organised? Someone who is good at communicating information clearly and simply?

You then need to look at each CV’s formatting in light of the criteria you have deemed most important to the role.

For instance, if you are hiring for a role which requires a high degree of creativity, CVs with highly unusual designs will be a good sign.

If you need someone who is process-focussed and able to adjust to an existing institution or system, you should aim for CVs which are well formatted but keep to a traditional kind of design.

Finally, if you are hiring for a very technical role, the candidate’s ability to format a Word document isn’t very relevant, and you might want to focus on their technical skills rather than the way they are displayed.


2 – How is the information shared?

There are many different ways for a candidate to tell you about their experience on their CVs. This can reveal a lot about this person’s communication skills.

Check how the CV is organised: is the information methodically shared in a way that makes sense? Has the candidate highlighted their main skills? Ask yourself if it is easy for you to find and understand the information which is relevant to the role you are recruiting for.

You also should pay attention to the way the candidate’s work history is described, and what clues it gives you about them. Do you need an analytical employee who can go straight to the point, or someone with the ability to elaborate on an idea? These two mind sets will be reflected in how their past responsibilities are listed.

It’s important to distinguish between a short and effective description of responsibilities and a vague and unspecific one. Short and unspecific lists of responsibilities are a red flag: they suggest that either the candidate hasn’t spent much time on their CV, or that they might have the wrong experience entirely.

Finally, if this is relevant to the role you are hiring for, take a look at how good the candidate is at selling their skills.


3 – Is the CV customised for your role?

Another important point is the way the CV answers the requirements listed in your job spec. Do the skills and responsibilities most relevant to your role appear before the rest, or do you have to screen for them through lists of irrelevant tasks?

If you can easily find how the CV meets your requirements, this shows that the candidate is likely to have gone through the effort of customising their CV for your role. This demonstrates a high level of motivation and interest in the position.


4 – Does the career history make sense?

There are three important points to check in a candidate’s career history.

First, does this candidate’s career progression make sense? Does it show a regular increase in responsibilities and/or skills?

Second, are there any unexplained gaps in this candidate’s work history?

Third, has the candidate been through many recent and radical role changes?

While it’s not a good idea to disqualify a candidate solely on the basis of this, it is something you will be wanting to ask them about during your interviewing process.


5 – Have application instructions been followed?

If you have provided application instructions, check how well the candidate has followed them. A candidate who has followed your application instructions properly demonstrates that they have read your job spec thoroughly, and that they are able to follow simple directions.


6 – Is there a summary section?

The summary and personal goal section of a candidate’s CV is often very interesting. If done properly, it will allow you to find out what the candidate thinks his strongest skills are. You can compare this to the requirements of your role and check how well they fit together.

Most candidates will focus on what they can bring you in this section, and explain what their career goal is in their cover letter or during the interviewing process. If the candidate has stated a personal goal which describes their ideal role, check how well your position matches their criteria. If there’s too big a gap, it’s likely that the candidate hasn’t read your job advert properly and isn’t the right fit for you.


Take this further – download your CV screening guide

If you’re interested in how to read CVs and screen for good candidates, give your CV screening guide a try! This free downloadable document will help you to set up an efficient CV screening process.

Download your CV screening guide


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