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How to Spot a Bad CV - Managers Resource

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

When it comes to recruiting to a senior role in your organisation, the shortlisting process is a pivotal part of the process, and being able to spot a bad resume is absolutely key.

Without an idea of what makes a bad CV, you could end up interviewing someone who doesn’t have the right skill, experience or attitude for the role you’re advertising for.

So, it couldn’t be more important to be able to identify a bad CV early on.

To help you and your hiring managers, we’ve pulled out all the key red flags you should be looking for when you’re on the lookout for a bad CV.

Recruiters looking through potential bad cv's.

What does a bad CV look like?

As you’re shortlisting through your applicants, keep an eye out for the following signs you might be looking at a bad CV.

There are common errors

At any level, an application with a poorly written resume, where there are spelling or grammatical errors throughout is a bad sign.

Not only does it potentially show someone might not have the communication skills needed for the role, it also shows that their attention to detail is lacking too.

If someone is serious about applying for a role with you, they will have looked over the application a couple of times to ensure it reads well and uses the correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Particularly if you’re looking for an executive hire, this is an immediate bad sign. It shows a sloppy approach with a lack of effort and commitment. This isn’t something you want in a hire.

spotting a bad cv

It doesn’t reflect your advert

If an applicant is serious about working with you, their CV and application will be geared towards ticking off the essential and desirable criteria you’ve outlined in your advert.

While this is obviously dependent on the applicant also having the relevant skills and experience, it’s still very obvious when you get a generic application compared to one that has been written with your role in mind, even if not every single box has been ticked for you.

Lack of detail

Throughout an application, you want to see evidence for the claims made by the applicant. Even if, at this point they can’t be substantiated until the interview or referencing stage, you can get a better idea of where their experience comes from and how previous roles have benefited them in the past.

What’s more, if they’re including that level of detail, and it reflects the requirements outlined on the advert, it’s a sign they’ve paid attention to your advert and that they’re invested in working for you.

It’s also a great sign about their attention to detail in general. If you’re looking for someone to fill a role at any level, an eye for detail is a very important and valuable trait.

When you’re looking out for a bad CV, examples might include any or all of the issues we’ve outlined above, so keep an eye out for any of them. Obviously the more you have of these, the more concerning it is for you and the

How to Avoid Receiving a Bad CV

There’s nothing more disheartening for a recruiting manager than having a desk piled high with CV’s only to discover they don’t have the potential you’re looking for.

As such, you might be looking at ways to ensure this doesn’t happen again. To help managers avoid this difficult situation, and ensure the recruitment process is as smooth as possible, we’ve written up some top tips on how to filter out those bad CV’s before they even reach your desk.

Review your job advert

If you’re getting quite a few applications across your desk that aren’t meeting the requirements of the role you have advertised, then it might be time to look at your advert.

It may be that the job description you’ve advertised or the advert you’ve put out isn’t specific enough in terms of what you need from an applicant. For example, instead of writing that you’re looking for experience in an industry, consider explicitly saying how much experience you’d require.

Stating you’re looking for 5+ years in industry is likely to filter out more inexperienced applicants and leave you with a smaller, more focussed pile of CV’s.

Consider using an executive search consultant

It can be incredibly difficult to find an appropriate applicant when looking to fill senior leadership positions. Even with a very specific job description and advert at your disposal, the chances of that perfect individual with high-level experience and expertise ending up with their CV on your desk is pretty small.

So, if you find you’re consistently receiving applications from unqualified, inexperienced candidates, it might be time to look at utilising the skill and network of an executive search consultant.

They will actively search the best possible candidates out for you, so you don’t have to go through the CV-sifting process, and can instead ensure you’ve got the right person, with the right qualifications on your desk.

SPS International specialise in doing just that. If you’re interested in finding a top-tier candidate for your organisation, get in touch with us today via our contact page.


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