Updated 20 January 2014

How much do CVs tell you?

You have a heap of 75 CVs to go through and the big boss wants a shortlist on Monday. But then, there are some very simple ways of weeding out the no-hopers.


You have a heap of 75 CVs to go through and the big boss wants a shortlist on Monday. Where do you start and how can you still manage to make it to your child's netball game Saturday afternoon?

There are some very simple ways of weeding out the no-hopers. Their CVs usually tell you all you want to know. So what are the signs that a CV can be put into the no-hoper pile?

It doesn't adhere to the requirements. If you asked for typed CV's of no more than 2 pages and someone hands in a handwritten one of 7 pages, into the bin it goes. Same goes for professionally drawn up CV's, if you specified you didn't want them. If someone is incapable of following your first instruction to them, they will not manage well with the second or the third.

There are spelling/typing errors in their CV. This is the most they will ever care. A CV is supposed to be window-dressed and a showpiece. If a candidate cannot even get that right, how much will they care about their work late on a Friday afternoon?

It misses essential information. You need to know things like qualifications and working experience. If someone has omitted either of these, they are either negligent or they are trying to hide something.

There is no covering letter. This is just a polite thing to do. Covering letters should be short, to the point, give merely address, name, name of the company applied to, position applied for and basic contact details.

The CV is full of frills and gimmicks. Fancy illegible fonts, family photographs and elaborate border decorations make it look like a primary school project. This candidate has no sense of what is appropriate under the circumstances.

No references are mentioned. Either this person just forgot to include these, or they don't want you to contact anyone who knows them, for fear of what they might say.

The CV is untidy. If something is not easy-to-read, or the pages are dirty, or it is printed on paper containing the letterhead of their present employer, or it doesn't have a frontpage, into the no-hoper file it goes.

It is thicker than the Hong Kong phone book. You asked for two pages, no certificates and you got a whole wad of things that look like the initial research efforts of an amateur biographer. Who cares whether the aspiring admin assistant came third or fourth in the primary school cross country run 12 years ago?

It is handed in late. The only excuse for not making the deadline is if you yourself asked someone to apply for the position after the application date has passed.

The person has a chequered career. If someone has been in twelve different positions in the last three years, there is a problem with the applicant. Sometimes if you are unlucky, you could strike one or maybe even two really grim working environments, but not twelve. Smell a rat if someone has moved around more than a pawn on a chess board.

It contains unnecessary personal information. Sometimes people think they will twist someone's arm into giving them an interview, by giving details of their ill-health, sorry family circumstances or level of their desperation. This is not good, as an employer wants someone who is going to work hard, not be constantly distracted or on sick leave.

The candidate does not fulfill the requirements. You asked for someone with a degree and ten years of experience and the candidate has Grade 12 and worked in a fish shop for three months.

Right, that should cut the heap down to about seven or eight – and there you have your shortlist.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)


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