What to look for in a CV

What to look for in a CV

Scanning CVs is time-consuming and can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re a business owner trying to recruit whilst running the company. Effective CV scanning can save you time and effort in interviewing the wrong people and help you find the most suitable candidates. What should you look for and how can you pick out the best candidates in the most efficient way?

Chronological order

Work experience should be listed with the most recent first with clear dates company name/location and a brief outline of the role. This makes it easier for you to read but allows you to get a snapshot of their career path so far. It also helps you to spot any gaps (see below). Make sure the dates add up and make sense, if they don’t it could be that the candidate’s attention to detail isn’t great or that they are hiding something.

Look for gaps

This is nothing to be concerned about in itself, so long as they have explained the gaps (such as a career break/studying / sabbaticals etc). Unexplained gaps will need to be addressed if they reach the interview stage.

Attention to detail

Good CVs are neat and professionally formatted correctly and should have no typos or grammatical errors. Badly proofed CVs are a sign of someone with no attention to detail.

Career progression

Looking at their employment history, have they been progressing their career from role to role? If not, then why not? Ideally, you should clearly see a progression from their first role up to where they are currently. Does your role fit in with their development? Are they at the right level?

Look at the skills listed

The skills highlighted under each role should relate to your role which will also demonstrate that the candidate has taken the time to consider your job spec and adapt their CV to highlight why they are relevant. Do the skills listed back up anything they have said in the personal statement? Check for clichés or generic skills, do the skills match the role they are listed against?


Great CVs include stats and evidence to back up claims of success in their career, such as “achieved targets by increasing sales by 50%” for example. This makes it easier to pick out the facts about their experience and gives you something tangible to discuss at the interview.

CV length

Ideally a CV should be no longer than two pages – anything longer suggests that the candidate is not able to be concise.

Is there a cover letter?

The ideal candidates will have taken the time to include a cover letter that is tailored to the job, explaining why they are suitable and how their skills match. So many candidates no longer add this to an application now that most vacancies are advertised online, however, our recruiters are always more included to look at an application that has come with a covering letter.


Whilst this is usually the smallest section of a CV, and we recommend candidates don’t list too many things here, it can be useful to see whether they have any relevant training or qualifications for your role.

Final tip: If you’re sifting through multiple CVs it can be useful to ask candidates if they are uploading a file against a job ad to save their file as their name. This way you can keep track of CVs and candidates more easily.


For support with your hiring processes from our team of HR consultants, you can find out about how to work with Bespoke HR here. 


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    Written by:

    Marketing Team
    Marketing Team - We are a team of HR and business consultants based in Guildford, Surrey and work with hundreds of clients across a range of industries ranging from healthcare, hospitality and finance to media, manufacturing and IT.