Assessing a CV

How to Spot a Great Candidate

These days it’s easy to find yourself inundated with CVs for the jobs you advertise. With people working longer than ever before, and with an increasing number of graduates entering the job market every year, it seems like there are more candidates for each position than ever before.

Keith Beekmeyer, from Newpoint Capital Ltd, says: “These days you can find yourself overwhelmed with CVs for every job you advertise. There’s an obvious risk there, which is that an otherwise excellent HR professional might accidentally miss one or two great candidates in each job round purely because they’re overwhelmed by the numbers. It’s therefore vital you have someone ‘CV sifting’ who knows what they’re looking for, and who understands who could be a great fit for the company.”

We all know finding that one great candidate who is the right fit for your company can be time-consuming. However, if you perfect your shortlisting strategy early on, this can be a much smoother process.

Learning how to shortlist candidates is a huge part of creating a more efficient recruitment strategy. There are some fairly simple, standard practices that you can implement to make your life easier when wading through that mountain of CVs. Our top tips include:

  • Review the position description before reviewing the CVs
  • Review the advertisement for the vacant position to remind yourself what the candidates saw
  • Make comments, notes, or other observations on the CV about each candidate. This will be a useful reminder when you start to interview people
  • Avoid the applicant’s name, address, gender or other personal information to limit subconscious biases
  • Compare your desired education and experience requirements with those listed on the resume
  • Ensure that the candidates are still employed in the most recent position by checking dates
  • Compare employment history and its applicability to the position for which the candidates are applying (e.g., positions in similar industry, similar responsibilities, etc.); length of time in each position; promotions or awards received; and reason for leaving each position
  • Note gaps in employment but do not assume they were due to negative reasons
  • Look for an excessive number of jobs in a short time
  • Note whether changes in position appear to be promotional, progressive, lateral moves, or simply changes
  • Notice whether there is a career pattern, and industry pattern, or a random collection of past jobs
  • Note special skills or intangible characteristics or experiences not required for the position and add these to comments (e.g., familiarity with certain computer software, different degree, etc.)
  • Group résumés into piles of yes, no, and maybe candidates
  • If you have too many “yes” candidates, you might review the “yes” pile to narrow it down to a more manageable number. In addition, if you do not have sufficient “yes” candidates, re-review the “maybe” pile to see if you can increase the size of the pool of those considered

Your key considerations when reviewing the CV’s should be as follows:-

Identify essential and desirable criteria:

Assess key criteria that you feel are needed for the role and categorise these into ‘essential’ or ‘desirable’. For example, if you were hiring for a developer position within an IT department, they will need to be proficient in certain areas in order to be successful in the role. This would, therefore, be an ‘essential’ requirement.

On the other hand, ‘desirable’ criteria could be that the candidate needs to have a degree in a subject or to have a certain amount of experience in your industry. While you want to find the perfect candidate, being too strict could prevent you from hiring someone with great potential. Therefore, it’s all about striving for the right balance.

Be vigilant when reviewing the CVs:

Poor attention to detail is a red flag with any candidate; sift out those whose CVs appear to use poor grammar and are riddled with typos and errors. After all, this shows that they haven’t proofread their CV properly. Other issues, such as poor formatting, should be a focus if you have a lot of CVs to work through.

You may also want to watch out for inconsistent fonts, a poor structure, and an overall un-professional feel. These mistakes may show that your candidate isn’t taking the role seriously.

Look into any inconsistencies:

We’ve all come across the professional job hopper. While moving jobs more frequently is becoming increasingly acceptable in today’s working world, it’s worth watching out for those with unexplained gaps or inconsistencies on their CV. These could indicate an uncommitted attitude which is best avoided if you’re seeking a long-term reliable asset to your team. Taking a proactive approach to this ensures that you’ll have the confidence to put them in your ‘no’ pile.

Think about how many candidates you want to interview:

Having a clear idea of how many people you want to interview is important when perfecting your recruiting process. This ensures that you won’t be left with too many, or too little, candidates at the end. Think realistically about how many people you can feasibly meet with and consider what’s worked well in the past.

Be strict with this number, but don’t limit yourself too much if you’re bombarded with candidates who all seem like they could be the right fit. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss out on someone simply because you set yourself a cut-off point.

Screen candidates before face-to-face interviews:

Interviews can be time-consuming so it can be helpful to have a short Skype chat or a phone call before you commit to a face-to-face meeting. This could not only save you time but also enables you to address any burning questions you may have for the candidate. The phone call doesn’t have to be long. It could be five minutes or so for you to check that they’re worth inviting in to meet.

Following these guidelines will help you to make the best decisions for your company, and you’ll find it makes your life a whole lot easier too when that mountain of CVs suddenly doesn’t seem quite so insurmountable.