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How to read a CV

Published on: 10 Dec 2018

If you want to recruit successfully, it helps if you know what you’re really after before you plough through that heap of CVs piling up in your inbox.

‘Think through what you’re looking for. Be honest. Bring them in because you’re really interested in what they’ve done, not just because it's a good-looking portfolio,’ advises Mike Lawless, director of Brighton-based LA Architects.

Avoid using different people in the practice to assess different batches of CVs.

‘Ensure that the same person is seeing all the applications – we find that this is very useful for consistency,’ says Ann Lakshmanan director of Shepheard Epstein Hunter. ‘Bear in mind what role you’re recruiting for and be clear about what skills you need to look for to suit that role.’

This means checking for appropriate experience in terms of project type and longevity and for relevant skills, as well, of course, as liking the look of the extracts they’ve included from their portfolio. If your practice is highly specialised, keep a look out for those with relevant experience in your sector.

You’re more likely to get what you want if you’ve been clear in your advertisement.

‘We’re very specific in our adverts when it comes to technical skills and experience required for the role. If we need a leader, we’ll say we need someone with good interpersonal skills and the ability to manage a team - someone who’s able to build good relationships at all levels in the organisation, able to listen and direct the team and to understand the financial aspects of the project,’ says Erika Rudinska, human resources manager and associate of Perkins + Will.

Be wary of CVs with mysterious holes or a succession of short-lived jobs - there needs to be some explanation, she adds,

‘We like to see their employment history starting from the most recent job. If the candidate has had short-term employment, the reason for leaving should be explained,’ she says.

Warning bells should also ring if the CV is sloppily organised, hard to navigate in terms of content, or simply poorly designed - this could be symptomatic of their general approach to work.

‘It’s important to consider the presentation of the portfolio. I had a candidate recently with lots of experience but their portfolio was very poorly presented - not properly aligned and scrappily done,’ says Ann Lakshmanan of Shepheard Epstein Hunter. ‘I do want some care and attention shown to presentation.’

Whether you immediately rule candidates out for spelling or grammatical errors on their CV is down to individual tolerance. It is certainly reasonable to expect the applicant to make use of a spell check and to be able to communicate understandably in writing. Where English, however, is a second language, it may be worth relaxing a zero tolerance policy, or risk missing out on some of the best talent out there.

Perkins + Will’s Erika Rudinska says the practice will overlook the odd mistake in those circumstances if they like the look of the rest of the CV.

‘We’re not really put off – we are a very diverse employer and we have people from all over the world and some don’t speak perfect English. We find there are people who might not use all the right words but are really talented, motivated and ambitious.’