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Hiring An A-Grade Candidate, Not An A-Grade CV

Hiring An A-Grade Candidate, Not An A-Grade CV

Posted on 11/07/2019 by Will Tilley

Hiring A Candidate, Not a CV

Before I go any further, a little disclaimer… Of course, someone's professional experience, and their salary expectations are important factors in shortlisting potential candidates for an opening in your organisation. This article isn't to suggest otherwise. However, a CV or resumé is never a complete picture and ruling out candidates based on a CV and a number can lead to your organisation missing out on an A-Grader.


As a recruiter, I have seen a lot of CVs over the years. Some are great, some are awful, and there are a lot in between. There are absolutely A-Grade performers out there who have average looking CVs, oftentimes because they don't find themselves searching for a new role. On occasion I come across a great candidate who has never had a CV in their career - they are where they are because they perform at a high level and have utilised networking and referrals to get where they are today.


On the flipside, there are some exceptionally average candidates who have fantastic looking CVs. They've worked with great companies, have a solid work history, and have a detailed explanation of their roles, responsibilities and achievements. This makes it easy for a recruiter or a hiring manager to see what their experience is, and will most likely get them in front of me or a hiring manager for an interview.  The A-Grade performer though sometimes misses out on an interview with a client, even when a recruiter goes into bat for them with the hiring manager.


In addition to the content within a CV, hiring managers generally also look at the salary expectation of the candidate early on in the piece. I have tried leaving desired salary expectations off of the cover page of a candidate's CV, but like clockwork, the first question from clients is "what is their salary expectation?" so we include it. However, sometimes this scares a client off of a candidate. From looking at the number, and the CV, they decide the candidate is asking too much for their ability or experience.


A resumé or CV tells part of a story, but it is not the full story. It doesn't give you an independent view of the candidate's performance in their role, nor does it show you their "soft skills" - things like emotional intelligence, leadership and teamwork. Clients often tell me these are some of the most important things they are looking for in a candidate, along with the "hard skills" required to undertake the role.


Of course, you have to narrow down your search for the right candidate somehow. You can't possibly interview everyone, and reviewing CV's is one way to narrow your field. If you're working with a recruitment consultant (or recruiters plural - that’s a story for another day) the implication is that you have engaged them to search for, shortlist and provide you with the pre-qualified candidates. These pre-qualified candidates (should) have been interviewed, vetted and qualified by the recruitment consultant.


I digress… If you haven't engaged a recruiter, find one who knows their stuff and build a relationship with them - otherwise, you may be missing out on vast swathes* of top quality candidates. They're not looking at job boards (like Seek) or your website every night. They're not looking for a job at all. They probably haven't updated their CV either.


If you have engaged a recruiter, and you don't trust their judgement, or you don't believe they are pre-qualifying the candidates for you and they're just "sending what they have" let me ask you this… Why are you working with them? And when you do hire one of their candidates, what is it you're paying for?


Whilst third party recruitment gets a bad rap at times, it exists for a reason, and when done well is very successful. Recruitment done well is a service, and your recruiter will work to understand what you are looking to hire and will use their knowledge of the market, their networks, and referrals (amongst other things) to find the most suitable candidates for the role. This won't necessarily be the candidates with the best CV, the highest salary expectation, or the most experienced. It will be the candidates who tick the most boxes in both the hard and soft skill sets and fits the culture of your organisation. The A-Grade talent that you are searching for.


Don't miss an opportunity to build upon your reputation and your career by missing out on A-Grade Talent based on a CV or a salary expectation you think doesn't match the CV. Work in partnership with your preferred recruiter, and trust them to deliver.


Anticipated FAQ's:

Are you saying I should interview candidates outside of my budget?

No. Not unless you're prepared to stretch your budget for the ideal candidate. However, if you're not interviewing someone because you think their salary expectation is too high based on their CV (even though it's within budget), you may be missing out.


Recruiters just want to sell me their candidates, how can I trust them?

If you don't feel that a recruiter is interested in really understanding your business and your needs, and just wants to put their candidates in front of you to make money, maybe the question should be "am I working with the right recruitment consultant?" The word consultant is key - you should be working with a recruitment professional who is a consultant to your business and represents your business in the market - not a CV slinger who seems to represent the candidate.


Why should I trust my recruitment consultant's judgement?

  1. You've set them up with a job brief, they understand your needs, the role, and the market in which they operate. They're a professional. They will go away and do what they do (search, interview, qualify) and bring you what you're looking for. That’s what you pay them for.
  2. You are still going to interview the candidates and make the final call on who you hire.


What If I don't want to engage a recruitment consultant? How do I narrow the field then?

Great question. If you don't wish to engage a consultant and you are using internal resources only, whilst you are definitely limiting your reach you can still apply the same principles.

  1. Rule out those who just don't fit at all (there's bound to be at least one who has applied to your ad)
  2. Conduct a 10-20 minute phone screen with candidates to further qualify them.
  3. Talk to people within your organisation who may know the candidate, see what you can find out about them as a person and their performance. Just make sure you're careful who you speak to - if word gets out that the candidate is looking it may turn them, and others, off your organisation. Some are very good at this, others not so much.


What if I trust the recruiter to deliver and they can't?

There could be a few reasons for this. Maybe your job brief is too specific, or you want too many boxes ticked. Maybe the candidates you're looking for don't exist within your budget. Or, maybe the recruiter has taken on more than they can handle, or they don't know their niche well enough to find the talent you're after. How you deal with this situation depends on the cause. Of course, sometimes it will be the recruiter, but don't be afraid to listen to feedback from candidates and your recruitment partner.


*I read the term vast swathes in an article about fracking recently, and really wanted to use it somewhere. Success!