Employer Branding Talent Acquisition

5 Red Flags to Look for in a Candidate’s CV

As a recruiter, it’s essential that you are able to screen CVs effectively and shield hiring managers from any potential disaster interviews (or even hires). In order to ensure that you are only sending the very best candidates through the application process, you must be able to quickly spot red flags in CVs that identify unsuitable candidates.

These common CV irregularities can be great early indicators that a candidate might not be suitable for your role or brand, so spotting them early can save a lot of time for everyone involved.

So, what should red flags should recruiters be looking out for in CVs to avoid forwarding unsuitable candidates to hiring managers?

1. Sloppy Formatting

If a candidate submits a CV that has poor formatting it can highlight a number of issues with their suitability and professionalism. Firstly, it can show that they take very little care in what they do and how they present themselves. For any hiring manager, this is a huge red flag because every job or task regardless of its importance or size will require a level of care and attention.

Along with this, a CV that has messy formatting will make it almost impossible for a hiring manager to pick out the important information that they need, in the short time they have available to review CVs. And as you probably know, hiring managers have to focus on running their business, and not deciphering CVs.

2. No targeting

Every job is different and that means that a general CV will not cut it when it comes to applying for a broad range of roles. As hiring managers are looking for very specific skills, qualifications and achievements for people to perform in their roles, it is crucial that the CVs contain targeted information. This makes it possible to determine whether an individual has the required skills for the job in question, as opposed to just being a good general all-around candidate.

A CV has to be focused towards the role that the individual is applying for and so it has to show exactly what they offer and how it relates to the job. If a CV fails to contain this level of focus, then there is every possibility that the individual is not suitable for the job.

3. Lack of achievements

Responsibilities and duties are an important part of a CVs role descriptions, but they are almost meaningless if they are not backed up with the results achieved by these actions. A candidate’s CV must be packed with achievements, with facts and figures to back them up. They might have managed a team, but ask these questions too:

  • How did that team perform?
  • Did they meet deadlines?
  • Save money for the business?
  • Did they reach financial targets?
  • Perhaps an individual managed a project, if so, how much was the project worth?
  • Was the project completed on time?
  • What benefits did the projects deliver for the business?

If a candidate has failed to include such achievements in their CV, then you should be very reluctant to pass them on to a hiring manager.

4. CV is too long

A lengthy CV can not only be a horrible reading experience, but it can also demonstrate that the candidate in question has poor written communication skills, and doesn’t understand their audience properly. If a candidate doesn’t understand the need to keep their CV short and sharp in order to hold the attention of busy recruiters and ensure that their CV is read properly, you have to question their general communication abilities.

A candidate who delivers a 7-page CV with chunky unreadable paragraphs of text and huge quantities of superfluous information, might not be able to deliver concise reports to stakeholders or send brief update emails to clients.

If you are reviewing a lengthy CV, you should certainly carry out some due diligence into the candidate’s communication skills before considering to put them forward for any roles.

5. Unexplained gaps in employment

Gaps in employment are not necessarily a red flag in themselves. Many successful candidates take career breaks to travel, study, spend time with family, and plenty more positive constructive reasons.

However, unexplained gaps are in instant worry for hiring managers because they provide no explanation as to what the candidate has been doing during the time in question. For hiring managers, this throws up all sorts of worries, “have they been sitting around doing nothing?”, “are they hiding something?” As a recruiter, you need to clarify what the candidate has been doing during these gaps before you think about shortlisting the candidate – or you may face some very awkward questions from hiring managers.

In any case, candidates really should have the foresight to pre-empt this situation and give a detailed account of their time away from work.

About the author: Andrew Fennel is an experienced recruiter and founder of CV writing service StandOut CV. He also contributes to a number of leading career pages such as The Guardian, Business Insider, and Huffington Post.

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