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Reading between the lines of a CV

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

In your hunt for the highest-calibre Candidate, you could literally spend hours analysing every CV. Days could be lost to digital stalking as you seek confirmation of a prospective Employee’s job history.

In truth, no one has the time nor the patience for such activities.

With the pressure mounting to recruit the right person, you pick out the few that catch your eye and meet your criteria. Yet, upon conducting interviews, it quickly becomes clear that the applicants you have selected are not best suited for the role at all.

Had you known how to read between the lines, you could have saved yourself a great deal of time. Of course, we live and we learn: the next time you need to fill a vacancy, you’ll take on board the following tips to find a Candidate that fits the bill:

First impressions

Research has shown that in person, first impressions are formed in 30 milliseconds. While it may be a small degree longer when reviewing a CV, your first impressions will certainly form the basis for decision making. Layout can often be divisive when industry professionals are consulted, with many preferring a traditional format in comparison to the more flamboyant templates on offer.

Spelling mistakes, generic cover letters and unsuitable fonts are easy-to-spot warning signs that are unfortunately still very commonplace. It may not be an exact science, but you should be able to get a feel for your Candidate’s attention to detail, creativity and just enough personality from a first read through.

Career objectives

Attempting to gauge a Candidate’s career objectives simply from their CV may seem like a minefield at first – however, there are a usually few clues in most CVs that illustrate a Candidate’s professional aspirations.

If a Candidate has risen through the ranks at their current workplace, you can quite rightly assume that they are ambitious by nature. That said, just because a Candidate hasn’t climbed the corporate ladder, it doesn’t necessarily mean they do not have the drive to do so in the future.

Keep an eye out for personal development milestones and relevant industry qualifications Candidates may have achieved: these can be indicative of their desire to develop their skillset and improve their employability.

Employment history

The employment history section of a Candidate’s CV should provide an insight as to their level of experience and time in the industry, but it can also tell you a lot about their willingness to commit to a company and ability to be patient, even when a job is not perfect.

Hopping between several jobs in a short space of time may indicate that the Candidate either gets itchy feet and looks for greener pastures, or even worse, cannot hold down fulltime employment. However, you shouldn’t be too quick to assume a lengthy commitment to the same Employer is a sure-fire sign of a great Employee. They may have performed well enough to hold down employment for a long period of time, but if they spent years stagnating in the same role, it’s likely that progression and professional development do not rank high in their priorities.

Fear of change can be just as bad as fear of commitment: in order to read between the lines of a Candidate’s employment history, you must focus on quality, not quantity. An Employee who only stayed in a role for a year but managed to positively impact the business is better than one who stayed for several years and left no mark at all.

The best Candidates will usually go beyond stating what they did to explaining the outcome and providing examples: these are the applicants you should be focusing on, regardless of how long they stayed in a role.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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