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How can I read between the lines of a CV?

How can I read between the lines of a CV?

Everyone wants their CV on the top of the pile. If they’ve added a few fictitious interests, or lied about their debating society days to help them get there, how can you tell?

It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that, now, more than ever, you must be vigilant and not too trusting. Some estimates say that in today’s tougher job market, around a quarter of applicants lie on their CVs. The more typical embellishments include: improved qualifications, inflated job titles, increased salaries and benefits, shortened sick leave and stretched lengths of service.

So, how best to read between the lines?

Overall impression
How legible is the CV? Is it well laid-out? Does it have lots of mistakes? Does it lead you logically through, rather than leave you searching for relevant information? CV’s that flow clearly show painstaking preparation. CV’s that are difficult to read may have something to hide and, at least, indicate a lack of care taken over this important self-presentation document.

Tailored targeting
Has the candidate taken the time and trouble to tailor his or her CV to the position you have advertised? Does it demonstrate compatible skills or experience as asked for, by you? Does it highlight how they are relevant to your needs? The cover letter is often used for this purpose but a tailored CV may well signpost a candidate willing to be thorough and to go the extra mile.

Contact information
Look at the address, phone and email details. Given this is for professional scrutiny, is the email address appropriate or frivolous?

Academic qualifications
Does the position you are advertising require a specific qualification? Degrees and other qualifications should be weighted by the reputation of institution that awarded them. Do the dates add up with the overall time span of the CV? Be certain to verify all stated qualifications essential to the job, before hiring the candidate.

Look for clear evidence of stability and commitment. If the CV omits dates for previous employment, ask for them. Ascertain valid reasons for changes in employment. Equally, don't disregard a candidate for circumstances that made changing jobs necessary such as take-overs or legitimate personal reasons. Be alert though, to any pattern. Dig deep for verifiable evidence of necessary experience. Look for specific accomplishments such as ‘increased sales or reduced costs by x%’ as measurable evidence of a candidate's worth.

Space filling
Beware a CV full of fluff and superfluity. Memberships, inappropriate personal data and so on usually pad out a weak CV.

Hobbies and interests
No doubt, what candidates list under this can give you an insight into them. But, of course, they know that too and can rewrite history accordingly! If they have made it to interview, ascertain they can speak cogently and with enthusiasm about one of their stated interests.

Unfortunately, no matter how diligently you read a CV, it’s hard to avoid letting a determined fraudster slip the net – without the application of thumb screws or administration of sodium pentothal, that is!

That’s precisely why an ever increasing number of employers are turning to outside help in the shape of candidate screening specialists. To prevent against horror stories of candidates being hired to do jobs they are simply not qualified to do or covering up a criminal history. Employers now ask candidate screeners to devise application forms designed to get to the truth of areas such as job history, qualifications, financial integrity and criminality. Candidates applying for these posts are warned their answers will be vetted.

So can a candidate ever be too truthful?

1984 – 1987: Southend Higher Polycollege (now renamed the Joe Coral University at Shoeburyness), developed more broadly-based substance-investigations, faked glandular fever and falsified death-certificate of grandmother (obiit 1963) just in time for finals, given compassionate pass-degree by senior tutor (quite coincidentally in same beaver-lodge and golf-club as father) [Extract from: At last, the totally truthful CV. http://www.danon.co.uk/humour/cvspoof.htm]

We leave that to you to decide…