Reviewing CVs and Shortlisting Candidates for Interview

Reviewing CVs and Shortlisting Candidates for Interview

If you’ve followed the advice in part one of this series, then you’ve already saved yourself a headache when it comes to reviewing CVs, as the best way to review a pile of CVs is to start with the Job Description. You’ve hopefully already specified the skills, qualifications and experience of a suitable candidate, so reviewing the CVs is just a case of comparing them against your requirements.

Before You Start

First, take the key requirements from your job description and prioritise them. A candidate that only appears to match 2 of your requirements might actually be more valuable than a candidate that matches 4, if the first candidate matches requirements that are of higher priority. Once they’re in priority order, draw a line separating the “must haves” from the “can be flexible”. Then, as you review each CV, score the candidate against each requirement.

If you can, try to set the time aside to review all the CVs in one go. It’ll give you a better shot at fairly comparing them against each other. Depending upon the number of CVs you have to review, this could be between 15 and 45 minutes. It can be useful to scurry yourself away somewhere (a coffee shop?) to do this, away from the usual interruptions of the office.

First Pass

Give each CV an initial skim to ensure they hit all of your essential requirements. Do you require a clean driving license? Do they have one? Qualifications? Work Visa? If they don’t hit the basics, then stick it in the rejection pile and move on.

Second Pass

The second pass is the more detailed review. This is where you should compare them against your priorities and score them. Below are a few of the things you should look for in each CV and accompanying cover letter.

Is it tailored to the role and your business, or is it a generic CV and cover letter? Candidates who care enough will have made the effort to tweak their CV appropriately.

Has it been checked for spelling and grammar. There’s no excuse not to fix the red and green squiggles – Microsoft Word does the basics for you. Beyond that, if you’re hiring for a role that will involve written communication, how well have they communicated in their application?

How is the formatting of the CV? A badly formatted CV can indicate an inability to correctly use basic software, and/or demonstrates a lack of care.

Review their recent history. Are there any gaps in their employment? Is there any evidence of decreasing responsibility, or a career that appears to have plateaued? Do they stick around for long in each of their previous roles?

Do they explain how they have added value in their previous roles, or have they just listed their duties?

Telephone Interview/Screening

Once you have your shortlist, arrange a quick telephone call with each of them. The call doesn’t have to be long, you shouldn’t need more than 5 minutes. This gives you an opportunity to get a feel for each candidate and can be useful for helping you identify the right questions you want to ask when it comes to interview them face to face.

Try to have a consistent set of questions for each candidate, so you can fairly compare their responses, but dip into any specific questions you have around their CV if you feel it’s worth it. It can also be useful to record these calls for you to review again later, but make sure you get their permission to record the call. They’re unlikely to decline the request, but it’s best to ask.


Make sure you respond to all candidates, both successful and unsuccessful. As well as being discourteous and inconsiderate, not replying has the potential to damage your brand as an employer.

It’s also a good idea to keep a log of all the applications. It’s a little bit more work, but save a copy of all CVs in a folder for future reference and keep a record in Excel of some brief notes on their skills, suitability and experience. Next time you have a similar role to fill, you’ve got some potential candidates before you even begin.

Keep an eye out for the next in our series where we discuss how best to conduct the face-to-face interview.

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