Recruiting for HR - Raising the standard of CVs

I've had an interesting time of late while recruiting a HR Director for a client of ours.   It has been a very enjoyable process and I have spoken with and interviewed a large number of extremely competent and professional HR people.

What surprised me most is the quality and content of some of the CVs.  Yes, everyone is different.  Yes everyone has lots of experience that they want to display.  Some have fabulous strong written skills, others not so much.  

But was the CV succinct?  Did it reflect the professional skills of the individual?  This was not always the case and this is what surprised me.   I had to lower the criteria of what I expected to see in a CV produced by a HR professional and conduct telephone screenings in order to ensure that the people that were shortlisted for interview were of the correct calibre.  

What were my criteria?  

  • Did the applicant provide a cover letter when this had been requested?
  • Was the information requested by me provided in the cover letter?
  • Did the cover letter show that the candidate had researched the organisation and its people?
  • Was the CV presented well?
  • Did the CV flow?
  • Was the professional experience structured in such a way that it was easy to read?
  • Did the candidate provide relevant professional experience to the role? (e.g. was the CV tailored to the Advert/Job Description to reflect the relevant experience?)
  • Did the CV provide enough information to make me want to follow up by telephone, or too little information (one page bullet points) or conversely did it provide too much information (6+ pages of text)?
  • If there were rapid job changes were these explained?  Likewise with gaps in employment.
  • Could I locate Academic/Professional Qualifications easily - if the individual was a Chartered Member/Fellow of the CIPD was this apparent?
  • Did the CV have spelling errors?

Don't get me wrong - I'm certainly not a perfectionist.  It can be confusing when there is so much advice around on how to write your CV, with everyone offering differing views on how it is best to produce them.  

If we can’t (or don't have the time) to write the CV ourselves then we can consult with experts in the matter who can help (HR Vision are happy to help here!).  

There really isn't a right way or a wrong way but there's no real excuse for us in HR.

But for me, (and please ignore the grammatical error of starting a sentence with "but") the question remains - if we in HR don't get our CV "right" - especially with regards to the basics - explaining any gaps in employment etc (which we are expected to investigate when recruiting people for our organisations) and providing potential employers with a good viewpoint on what our skillset is -  then how can we defend having such exacting standards when reviewing applicants' CVs ourselves?

So my call to action for the HR community is: let us in HR raise the standards by writing CVs that meet the criteria that we would expect to see when shortlisting candidates for a role we are recruiting for.

Tips to help us do this: 

  • Spend time researching the organisation that you are applying for a role with
  • Ensure that you write a good cover letter that reflects the research you have conducted. 
  • Show in your cover letter how your experience matches the needs of the organisation
  • Tailor your CV to reflect your experience that is relevant to the role you are applying for.
  • Explain any gaps in employment or rapid moves
  • And conduct a spell check!
  • Once you have written your CV then leave it for 24 hours before applying for the role - by looking at the CV objectively alongside the role profile (as if you are the hiring manager) you will be able to tell if you have tailored it sufficiently or not.

Right..  I'm off to look at my master CV and Cover Letter just to check that I practice what I preach...... 

Good luck!  Remember - if you need help drafting or updating your CV then please do get in touch, we are more than happy to help.