The CV Sift

This Is Where Applications Go To Die

The first stage of assessing an application is often the CV sift. This is where someone reads the CVs that have been received for a vacancy, and decides which applications are worth considering further … and which ones to bin.

It is incredibly difficult to get past the CV sift, but if you do, you become a person that the employer is interested in getting to know better.

Who Does The CV Sift?

It varies from employer to employer.

In smaller firms, the CV sift might be done by the recruiting manager or a company director, perhaps with help from his team leaders or senior technical staff. In larger firms, the employer may have a HR team who will do the first CV sift so that the company’s technical staff don’t waste time reading CVs that don’t demonstrate the job requirements.

You can’t assume that the person who screens your CV is able to understand all (or any!) of the technical terms that you put in your CV. They may be simply searching your CV and covering for the keywords in the job description. You need to make sure that the key words from the job description are easy to find in your application.

Does Every CV Get Read?

Not always, no.

If an employer has found enough candidates to interview, he’ll probably stop reading the remaining CVs at that point. Sure, he might find better candidates further down the CV pile, but he can’t be sure of that. He might come back to the remaining CVs if none of those candidates get hired, but that doesn’t always happen.

Later on in your career, when you’re applying for senior roles, this is much less of an issue, but during your first years in the industry when you’ve got lots of competition, it can happen a lot. All you can do is to do you best to make sure your CV gets through the sift if it gets read.

You’ve Got A Minute To Catch Their Eye

Whether it’s a pile of CVs to be processed in one go, or a drip-drip-drip feed of CVs coming in every day, a firm normally ends up looking at tens of CVs for a single vacancy. There often isn’t a lot of time to dedicate to a single CV to make a decision one way or the other, and things tend to blur very quickly for someone who is reading CVs one after another.

You can assume that you have their initial attention for no more than one minute before they get distracted or they lose the will to live. If they haven’t found anything that they’re looking for inside that minute, your application will probably get binned. It’s your job to make sure that you catch their eye quickly, so that they keep on reading.

The best way to catch their eye is to show how good a fit you are for the role that you’ve applied for. The best place to do this is in your covering letter.

How CVs Are Assessed

CVs are assessed against the requirements listed in the job description. In some firms, this assessment may be strictly scored, with points awarded for each requirement that the candidate meets. In others, it might be done more informally, with the employer trying to get a feel for how good a fit you’ll be for the job, and how much you’ll be able to do from day one.

The more requirements a candidate meets, the more likely it is that the candidate will make it through to the next stage.

Some employers are also trying to assess the potential of the candidate, especially where the candidate scores low against the requirements in the job requirement. Sometimes a candidate can get through the CV sift because they have other experience which shows that they might be able to learn the job quickly enough to be worth hiring. Ours is a rapidly changing industry, and many employers are looking for people who have the potential to keep up with the rate of change.

That said, there’s usually a baseline set of skills required, and if an employer can’t find those on the CV or covering letter, the application normally gets binned.

Why CVs Get Binned

CVs are also assessed for reasons to reject the application. The employer has two main motives here.

The remaining stages of the recruitment process are expensive (they take up a lot of time), and employers can’t afford to waste too much time interviewing candidates that they don’t feel will be successful. If there’s any doubt, the employer might use a telephone interview or send out an online assessment to gain more information, but he’s just as likely to bin the application and move on to the next one.

The employer is also thinking of his existing workforce. He has worked hard to recruit the people who already work there, and he doesn’t want to employ anyone who isn’t up to the standards that have already been set. Hiring people who aren’t good enough is one surefire way to convince good people to resign and find jobs elsewhere.

Employers will be looking at the effort that you’ve put into your application, and at your wider stated skills and experience, and using that to build up a picture in their head of who they think that you are. Most of the time, that picture doesn’t tell them anything one way or the other (this is where your covering letter can make all the difference!), but if the picture they build isn’t a positive one, your CV will probably get binned.

Employers aren’t just looking at who they think you are. They are also comparing you to bad hires (people they’ve hired in the past who didn’t work out). Some of the requirements you’ll find in the job description’s “About You” section will be intended to avoid repeated hiring mistakes; the rest will be characteristics and behaviours that the employer feels make a positive contribution to his firm.

To protect you against unfair discrimination, there are many things that employers in the United Kingdom aren’t allowed to take into account when considering an application, and the list changes from time to time (normally to add additional protection to employees). If you believe that you have been illegally discriminated against, you should consider taking professional legal advice on whether you have a case that you can bring against the employer.

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