Five CV Red Herrings (and how to fish them out!)

So, you’ve got a lot of new applicants and you need to narrow the field quickly. At the interview stage you can assess if your candidate is the right person for the job, until then it’s all about their CV. A resume can tell you a lot about a prospective employee – provided you read between the lines. Here are five red herrings to keep an eye out for when screening a candidate’s CV…

1) Grandiose Titles

Beware the ‘Creative Visionary’ or ‘Master of Innovation’. These are labels people should be given by others – not claim for themselves. Further still, genuine creative visionaries will provide clear evidence of their innovation and leave you to draw the conclusion. Remember, grandiose titles – without being backed up by evidence of achievements – equate to a lot of hot air.

2) Questionable References

A candidate’s main choice of referee can be very telling. For example, have they listed their immediate supervisor or manager, or called on someone who didn’t supervise them directly? If it’s the latter, it may be the case that they have something to hide.

3) Vagueness

Vague phrases to qualify work experience, such as ‘assisted with’, ‘participated in’ or ‘familiar with’, tend to be used when the candidate does not have the required knowledge, skills or experience for the role. Just because a candidate is ‘familiar’ with the area of work doesn’t mean that they are fully competent in that area. Indeed, participation in a team doesn’t always equate to a meaningful contribution. Be sure to question the candidate on their past experience, should they reach the interview stage.

4) Gaps in Employment 

Not to be mistaken with taking time out of employment in order to look after a sick family member, travel, study or any other out of work activity for that matter. Indeed, some of the most efficient employees are those who appreciate there is more to life than work. It is a little worrying, however, if a candidate attempts to hide gaps in their employment. Multiple unexplained gaps in an applicant’s employment history may cast doubt over their commitment to work and ability to stay at your company on a long term basis.

5) Duties over Key Achievements

Anyone with any form of work experience can list a few duties, while only someone who worked well in their previous position can list all of their key achievements. Perhaps the absence of such a list suggests that the applicant failed to take initiative and only did the bare minimum? Further questioning may be required, should the candidate successfully make it to the interview stage.

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