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Reviewing Resumes: How to read between the lines to find the best talent

17 May 2021

Most of us have a resume (CV). A list of our experiences, qualifications and personal information to impress a prospective employer. Some spend hours writing theirs, others get it professionally done to try and stand out from the increasingly competitive crowd. Yet, despite this effort, so laborious and monotonous is the process of reviewing resumes, that a recruiter will devote on average only 6-7 seconds to the task.

You may be wondering how 6-7 seconds is enough time to fairly identify the best talent. The secret is the ability of recruitment professionals to see past what’s written on the page and read between the lines. This skill, learned by mass repetition, allows them to quickly identify subtle clues that can make an otherwise average CV stand out, or see an otherwise outstanding CV fall down.

Why is this important? Because reading between the lines of a resume helps you build a far clearer picture of the person it represents, and saves you time and money in finding your next hire by helping you settle quicker on the best option available.

In this blog, we reveal what clues you should look for when reviewing resumes to help you identify the best talent.

1. Errors

Does the resume have lots of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors? Does their work history have incorrect dates? Is there missing information, or holding text that hasn’t been replaced?
CVs are important documents, often the first stepping stone to a new job. If a candidate can’t take the time to check their errors, either they lack attention to detail, have limited interest in the role or could be lazy, all of which are traits worth avoiding when selecting a new hire.

2. Formatting

Does the resume follow a logical structure? Does it look nice? Does everything fit well within the lines? Does it have a consistent font? Does it reflect the role at hand?
Formatting tells you a lot about a candidate including their technical proficiency and ability to present information. If a marketing professional has a poorly designed CV, or a data scientist uses a non-logical structure, they’re red flags to a recruiter. CV formatting will vary per role-type, but each hints something about the candidate’s ability to perform in a particular role.

3. Writing

The purpose of a resume is to communicate a candidate’s relevance to an open role as succinctly and compellingly as possible. A candidate is selling themself to you through their writing. So how did they do?

Good writing won’t necessarily mean you’re the best candidate for a role, unless it’s a writing job. However, it does confirm to an employer that you can communicate well which is a critical soft skill in almost all jobs.

4. Personality

All information presented in a resume is fair game for analysis and helps recruiters paint a comprehensive picture of a candidates personality. From employment history to personal information, rightly or wrongly, employers will attribute particular information on a CV to the attitudes, behaviours and traits an individual may have to better understand who they are.

A candidate with many jobs is less likely to be loyal. A candidate who leaves an organisation after a merger is less likely to be adaptable to change. A candidate who has worked in multiple countries may value adventure and stimulating work more than job security and stability.

By reading through the lines of information presented in CVs, you can better understand the personality a candidate is likely to bring to your business. Information is power in the eyes of the recruiter.

5. Motivation

Do they get promoted or stay where they are? Have they undertaken additional training? Who are there referees? How old are they and what was their last position? Do they name mentors?
Answering these questions will help you understand if a candidate is ambitious and motivated. Someone with back-to-back promotions are likely to be highly proficient Conversely, someone in the same role for many years may be content with their position in the corporate ladder.

A motivated candidate is typically a more valuable asset, likely to work hard to continue their progression and development. In some cases, you may not want an ambitious employee, particularly if you’re offering a role with limited opportunities for upward movement.

6. The prominence of ‘fluff’

Does the CV include hobbies, interests and school achievement? How much information is irrelevant to the job they are applying for?

Fearing their CV is too short, candidates often use ‘fluff’ to bolster the length of their CV. While it might be a useful conversation starter in an interview, in most cases, the truth is that they are of limited value and relevance when deciding the appropriateness of a candidate to a job.

Too much fluff comes across as a lack of substance in work-related information. This might be understandable for entry-level jobseekers, but is a significant red flag for older candidates; Your time is valuable, and so is that of your candidates.Don’t waste time spending hours reviewing CV’s when you can use the 6 tips above to efficiently and effectively understand who the document represents. By reading between the lines, you will interview higher quality candidates, and make better hiring decisions to help your business thrive.

At Ignite, we review thousands of CVs everyday to find the best candidates for our clients. If you need support, our team is ready to assist.

Talk to our team to find our more!