As recruiters and hiring managers, we can’t get away from CVs. They are a crucial part of the recruitment process.

However, the CV should not be the ‘everything’ within each hiring process.

What do I mean by that?

I can guarantee you that I have placed people in jobs where they have by far been the best candidate for the job, but they’ve had the worst CV ever known to man. It takes a bit of to-ing and fro-ing from a recruiter or a head-hunter and a candidate to really finesse a good CV because the clients, the companies, the business owners I work with expect a good CV.

They expect good grammar. They expect the spelling to be correct, and they expect to be wow-ed by what’s on this piece of paper or an email attachment which we call a CV.

However, if we tinker too much with the CV or if we don’t do enough work on the CV, that person, that candidate is not going to get the job. They’re not going to get the job because they’re not going to be invited for an interview.

Conversely, if too much work on the CV is done, then a document has been created purely to secure the interview and then the candidate who walks through the door is about as close to the CV as an alien!

I helped a lady back in February of this year where her CV was up against 82 applications. It was for a part-time role based in London, a really lovely role with a fantastic, growing company and ambitious business owners. They needed a couple of part-time staff to join their team, plus it was the first time they were hiring.

This lady’s application was poor on all fronts. No cover letter, never mind a cover letter tailored to the role for which she was applying. And as for her CV, well … not sure it could be called a CV.

It was a one-page document, which is fine. But the content was … minimal.

All it had on there was her name, surname, email address, mobile phone number, address and her current job title, the name of the company she was at, plus the date she started with that company and one bullet point about her current role. That was it.

These words do not a CV maketh!

At least I had her postcode so I knew lived literally a mile from the office of this company who were hiring. She’d applied for the job. Taken the time to apply. Something was making her apply, and she’d also been working with her current company for the last five years. I could therefore tell from this scant info that she was a steady employee. I had to ring her. I had to invite her for a telephone interview with me, and find out a bit more about her, and work out whether she was a good candidate for the job. I would not be doing my client, these lovely business owners, who trusted me to find the right person for the role any favours if I only shortlisted for

I would not be doing my client, these lovely business owners, who trusted me to find the right person for the role any favours if I only shortlisted for a telephone interview with me based on a beautifully crafted CV. I knew, however, I was doing the candidate a favour as I’ve worked with many a recruiter across the years, and most would never pick up the phone. They’d move on the next CV in their Inbox and press delete quicker than you can say dele…

Yes, you’ve guessed it. You’re already ahead of me. She was good for the job.

Her personality was spot on to fit well with the current team (in this case, two established business owners) plus her experience within her current role was quite close to what was needed for this new role. In fact, she was so good for the job, not only did she go to the interview, but she was offered the job and started soon after. She’s still employed there today, and she’s still doing really well and adding value to that growing company.

Had I been a normal recruitment consultant, there was no way I would have interviewed that lady. Not a chance. It’s a lesson that, yes, there may well be a couple of spelling mistakes on a CV; or if there’s a little bit of grammar that isn’t quite right, if there’s something that doesn’t quite sit right on a CV but they’ve taken the time to apply, perhaps read between the lines.

Literally, read between the lines and call them.

Invest 15 minutes of your time just to find out. If you click with them and they do have the right skills, but they don’t know how to sell themselves or write a CV, then you are missing out. You’re missing out on what could be a tremendous employee to join your team and they’re missing out purely because they don’t know how to sell themselves.

You may well be thinking this is a crazy thought as surely no one has time to call candidates who want to work for your company. CVs are the way we cut down the number of suitable candidates to a more manageable list so there’s no way to invest an extra one or two hours to explore and dig a little deeper.

I’ve been writing CVs now for 18 years both as a recruiter and as a CV writer. I can tell you that even C-level / board level people may not know how to sell themselves; some of the CEOs I’ve worked with honestly do not know how to put a CV together. It’s not just the case of them using a CV writer like myself because they don’t have the time. It’s because they don’t know how to put it together and sell themselves so that someone like me with my recruitment head on will sit up and pay attention to them.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t rest everything on the CV.

The CV is just a part of the recruitment process. It’s a crucial part but it’s not the most crucial part (unless you’re hiring a CV writer, that is).

There is a human being behind that piece of paper that we call a CV. Sometimes a bit of investment of time and effort on our part as recruiters, business owners and hiring managers is the difference between hiring the right person for the job or hiring the person who can write the best CV.


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