In his blog, The Real Cost of Recruitment and Retention, Jonathan talks about the expense of recruiting the wrong person (and as this article from Forbes illustrates, it may be much more than you think!). So how do we minimise the risk of ‘bad hires’? Let’s start by looking at some recruitment tips and skills aimed at getting the right candidate through the door and into the interview room – how to read a CV.

There must be a hundred articles online about how to write a CV (very good some are too). But from a recruiter perspective this wealth of advice can cause some difficulty. Why? Because the better candidates become at writing CVs (particularly if ‘better’ means ‘more creative’) the more challenging it can be to get the right person into the interview. So, what can we do? Firstly we need to get crystal clear on what we are looking for – the CV selection criteria – and then look at some simple strategies for assessing the CV against those criteria. Here are some tips


Crucial to the success of the CV selection process is the accurate identification of the relevant selection criteria. Typically, selection criteria will be identified from:

  • The Job Description and Profile
  • The discussion with the client or manager who has commissioned the recruitment (if you are recruiting your own staff this could be you!)

Let’s take a look at some examples of selection criteria


These selection criteria provide you with the verifiable facts such as:

  • Job roles undertaken and at what level
  • Specific responsibilities
  • Experience of the organisation (internal candidates)
  • Experience of the sector
  • International exposure
  • Team working experience
  • Management/supervisory experience.



These selection criteria define any essential qualifications needed for the role.

Essential Skills/Competencies/Attributes

As outlined in the Job Description/Profile and including both technical skills and interpersonal skills, these selection criteria look beyond the facts to assess if the candidate has the qualities you are looking for.

Visa status

Your business may have policies regarding recruitment from other countries, in which case visa status would be selection criteria.


As I’ve already hinted, all CVs are not created equal! Some are accurate and factual; others are ‘creative’ and/or misleading. Generally the facts (experience, qualifications, nationality) are your starting point, as these are easily verifiable.

More challenging to verify from the CV are the ‘qualities’ required for the job and the ‘fit’ of the candidate to the organisation.

Let’s take a few examples. Here are three qualities I’ve seen clients looking for again and again:

  • Work Ethic
  • Results Oriented
  • Achievement

Let’s look at what we might see (or want to see) on a CV as indicators of these qualities

‘Work Ethic’ Indicators

  • Working while going to school
  • Financing own education
  • Involvement in volunteer activities
  • Participation in projects outside normal responsibilities (e.g. task force member)


‘Results Oriented’ Indicators

  • Specific results and accomplishments
  • Mentions of reducing costs, increasing profits etc as appropriate
  • Descriptions of recognition based on performance (e.g. salesperson of the year)


‘Achievement’ Indicators

People with established patterns of past success are most likely to succeed in the future. Some indicators of achievement are:

  • Career progression
  • Increasing responsibilities
  • Increasing income (if known)

Of course, the qualities and fit you are looking for might be quite different from the examples I’ve given above. The point is you need to spend the time identifying what these qualities are and then how you would expect those qualities to be evidenced on the CV.


Reading CVs is as much about discipline as anything else – clearly describing the selection criteria for the job then accurately assessing the CV against these. Time consuming? It is. But much, much less time consuming than putting together and implementing a whole interview process only to find that the candidates who arrive just don’t fit the job.

Of course if you need help in finding the right candidates (and you don’t have the time to read CVs) Jonathan would be delighted to talk to you.

Author: Joan Henshaw

Joan is a management development trainer, author and presenter of the video management training series ‘The 10 Minute Management Toolkit’. She has spent the last 25 years helping business owners, leaders and managers improve their effectiveness, including building their skills as recruiters.

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