Step 4: How to interpret a CV

By Tayo Leigh

 20 Apr 2015     Comments

Knowing how to interpret a CV is not common sense. It is an exercise that has crucial importance in your hiring process as you could potentially miss out on great candidates by wrongly adding them to your reject pile. Here are some tips to help you conduct this first screen successfully:

A good CV should be well presented, formatted in a way that makes it easy to read and should not contain any spelling or grammatical errors. Errors indicate carelessness and that the person is not detailed oriented. Other than this, try to focus on content rather than appearance. Look for clear evidence of the candidate meeting your person specification. You want to hire the person who is most suitable for the job and not the person who is the best at selling themselves on paper.

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Look for the positive not the negative. Scan each CV with a view to seeing if you have a reason to include it in your shortlist, rather than looking for a reason to add it to your NO pile. This will alter your attitude and help ensure that you don’t miss out on good candidates with less obvious potential.

Focus on Critical Requirements

Have a focus. Know exactly what you are looking for, a critical set of skills , experience and attributes that match your person specification.

Technical skills: knowledge, education, training.

Transferrable (soft) skills: teamwork, initiative, problem solving, driving change.


Read this section in chronological order i.e. starting with the first job they had. Reading in reverse order will enable you to more easily identify any patterns in their career history. Do they have a record of promotion? On average how long do they stay in each job? Look for trends of increasing responsibility and commitment.

Red flags!

  • decreasing responsibility
  • lots of short term employment
  • more than one shift in career path
  • unexplained gaps in employment
  • omission of employment dates
  • boasts without evidence of achievements


Did they attend a reputable institution and complete the course? Have they included their grades? Did they achieve any awards or scholarships? Awards indicate that they are the type of person to go that extra mile and put in the work it takes to excel at something.


Look for evidence of accomplishments. Success is usually repeated. If a person has the drive to achieve success in one job, they will usually be able to replicate this elsewhere.

Lastly, consider an initial telephone interview to screen candidates, especially those you are unsure of. You can get answers to questions about their CV without the time and expense of scheduling face-to-face interviews.

So, in conclusion, make sure that you approach CV screening with a clear focus, bearing in mind the points above, and hopefully you will be successful in shortlisting some great candidates.

Check out the CV's of thousands of experienced professionals in our free talent pool. Visit today!

Click here to read about the next step, Step 5: Who do I take to the SHORTLIST?
If you haven't seen Step 3 before, read here for better understanding Step 3: Great Sources of Talent


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