How To Maximise Your Time Reading A CV

Reading a huge stack of CVs

There’s a million slants to creating a great resume, (in fact if you google ‘CV’ you’ll find over half a billion hits), but very few on deciphering one. From some rough calculations I’ve read the better part of 100,000 CV’s in the course of my career. As I’ve delivered to roles in virtually every sector across IT, Engineering, Construction and Finance; I’ve read CV’s for people at all levels from graduates to CEO and Directors. Despite the variability there are still only a few key things that I and others look for in CV’s. This approach may be helpful to you to get what you want in minimal time.

It’s unlikely that you will need to scan a CV the way I do as a recruiter, so I’ve picked tips that are useful for a hiring manager, talent spotter, or budding something or other.

When reading a CV you need to look for things that are in it as well as those that are not. From personal experience this is something done in 10 seconds before deciding to drill down further to gain deeper insight.

Look for consistent work history – Look out for gaps or overlaps without an explanation of why they are there. The CV should explain what they have been up to, if there is a gap of 6 months without work they should explain what they were up to for example they were off on their OE rather than they simply couldn’t be bothered working.

Relevance in qualifications/courses – When reviewing their education consider whether their education decisions were based upon professional objectives or were they keener on a black belt in macramé.

Career progression – Do they demonstrate an expanding capability, skills and (ideally) some ambition. Is it in a logical and linear fashion or do they look to have been an opportunist who takes anything thrown their way?

Role variance - Have they had quite different responsibilities in the same rough domain? For example, an individual who has been both a developer and a business analyst – this is a useful combination for the right role, but if you’re looking for a strong developer this individual might not be quite right for you. Random jumping around into different roles can show indecisiveness, a lack of stick-ability and possibly, they have not found a role that they are good at.

Pay attention to their use of words such as ‘involved in’, ‘knowledge of’ and ‘experience in’. If you are looking for an expert, these words indicate that the individual is not at a senior level for those particular skillsets.

Watch out for poor descriptions of a role or one that doesn't really match the title. This may mean that the function they were operating in was a very different one than what you need or worse, they're making it up.

I hope the above gives you some food for thought next time you are reviewing a CV for a potential new team member.