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Effective CV Screening – Top Tips

Recruitment Process
Effective CV Screening Process– Top Tips

Screening CVs (or screening resumes) quickly, whilst ensuring that you don’t miss out on that perfect candidate, can be a daunting and time consuming task for the most seasoned recruitment professional.  Sometimes the sheer volume of applicants can leave you feeling bog-eyed and even reluctant to face the challenge.  

Here we face the following questions head-on and fill you with top cv screening tips:

How do you create a CV screening process?
How can you use tech and recruiter screening questions to your advantage?
How can an Applicant Tracking System help you screen CV's?

One thing that is important to remember about screening CVs and developing your CV screening process, is that you are looking for applicants who would be worthy of an interview and not someone who you can offer the job too.  Sounds simple?  

Picking the meat out of every “CV bone” and spending time deliberating the worthiness of an application is not the aim of the game.  It can be time-consuming, so if an applicant ticks most of the boxes but you have a question about something on their CV, don’t dilly-dally! As we mentioned in point 5 below, arrange an interview or have a quick phone call and then move on.  If an applicant is not suitable then you can reject.  Be confident in your decisions and consistent in your approach to CV screening.

With this in mind, we have put together some great CV screening process tips that should give you the confidence to screen CVs in a timely manner. Of course, if you have another tip please let us know [email protected]

1. Know what you’re looking for

It may seem an obvious tip, but we often see clients who advertise a role, get lots of applications and then at the end of the campaign realise they don’t actually know exactly what they want in their new employee. It is essential you do your homework first to enable a concise shortlist of qualified candidates at the end of your process.  Ensure that you understand what kind of person your organisation requires and what you want this person to do before you set out recruiting.

The last thing you want is a pool of candidates at the end of a campaign which you stare at blankly. An additional drain on time and resources is to be in a position where you have to screen a vacancy several times as you change your mind about the kind of person or job details.

It may take a little longer, but creating well thought out job descriptions and person specification and involving the relevant team managers/directors throughout this process, will vastly improve the whole recruitment cycle.

2. Create screening criteria

Once you have outlined the kind of successful candidate you want, to save yourself time and administration, set out some simple CV screening criteria.  Identify what you’re looking for from your applicants at the outset.

This means you can go through each applicant in your pile and quickly tick or cross the relevant boxes. You will find that this simple process will quickly help guide you to a relevant and rich shortlist of qualified applicants that you can take to interview.

Top Tip – Screening Criteria: In the initial screening process you should be looking for the ‘must haves’ i.e. the correct years of experience, skills and qualifications but you may also want to screen against practicalities of the post too i.e. location, driving licence and vehicle, salary expectations etc.

3. Ensure your advert is attracting the right person

Creating the right job advert can be more complicated than you first think. Yes, there will be applicants who are too quick to apply and probably won’t read your advert, but by ensuring that your advert appeals to the right candidate, you will reduce the amount of CVs you have to screen in the first place. For more information speak to one of our team or check out these articles on writing the perfect advert.

4. Get organised

Many companies don’t have HR departments to manage their recruitment process or screen CV's, but CV screening CV's is recruiting and even if you are part of an HR team, effective time management is probably at the top of your agenda.

Being organised will certainly help you make the most of your time. Allocate enough time and diarise when you are going to work on your recruitment campaign/s. Think about and create workable recruitment processes that are communicated effectively throughout your organisation.

What recruitment systems do you have in place that can help you streamline the process? Do any of the suppliers provide recruitment software to help you manage the hiring process and create more effective CV screening methods? At Flat Fee Recruiter, we offer 24/7 access to our Applicant Tracking System This simple and easy to use tool will help you manage your time and resources more efficiently. It will allow you to quickly track, screen and move candidates between various stages in your recruitment process i.e. Shortlist, Arrange First Interview, Unsuccessful etc. It also means your inbox isn’t inundated with CVs so that you gain more control over your time and can quickly see how much work is required too.

Top Tip – Time Management: We suggest you set aside a certain amount of time per day to review applications and create a shortlist of candidates as you go. Don’t leave it all until the campaign is finished.  CV screening little and often will mean you only need to pull away from your duties for a short period each day and you will be more motivated to keep on top of the campaign but you will also be able to take the best candidates out of the market before your competition. 

5. Use technology to CV screen

Online screening questions, killer questions, video screening, psychometric or skills testing tools all have their place within the right recruitment campaign.  They should not be the only decision-making tool, but used effectively they can certainly help you filter a recruitment campaign much quicker than the human eye.  A couple of recruiter screening questions (like those you identified in point 2) could be incorporated into an application form or maybe you want to add a killer question?  A killer question will stop that applicant from getting into your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) because s/he doesn’t have that specific requirement.  It may seem a bit ruthless (see below about our tips on ruthlessness) but used in the right way, they can help you manage the applicant’s expectations and vacancies where you expect a high volume of applications.  You can also request cover letters to aide the resume screening process too. 

6. Be ruthless

When faced with a large number of CV's to screen and your criteria is easily met (i.e. you want a Graduate who could have a 2.1 or above in X, Y or Z) you may find you have hundreds of applicants going through to the next stage – the shortlist. The clue is in the name, this list needs to be concise, there’s no point in having 100 applicants in a shortlist as you’re going to have screen the role again and again to get this down to a manageable number, especially if you’re only recruiting for 1 or 2 people.

Top Tip – Being Ruthless: If your screening criteria aren't all that difficult to meet, what else could you look for that will reduce numbers and leave you with top quality candidates? Have another look at Tip #2 and see if there’s anything to prompt you.

7. Unsure? Quick telephone interview

Sometimes when you screen CV's you are faced with a chunk of ‘may be's’ that perhaps don’t meet the criteria but have very similar experience, or maybe their CV is a little ambiguous and you could do with knowing a little more before you interview so that you can be sure as to whether they can fulfil the criteria or not. In instances like this, it is worth putting them on one side and coming back to them if you need to (if you have a perfectly suitable shortlist, you may not need to return to them).

Top Tip - Telephone Interview: As we have previously mentioned, a quick telephone screening call (let them know it’s not an interview) to clarify some information on their CV will help you move on with those “unsure” applicants very quickly.

8. Communicate with applicants

Regardless of where you are in the CV screening process, you should bear in mind that you are not the only party casting judgement; applicants also make opinions about your company. Let’s not forget that the applicants are potential employees (and customers) of your organisation, so you want to start on a good note. If you don’t meet or exceed their expectations it could have a knock-on effect for your future recruitment campaigns and your employer brand. I am sure you will want to screen the best applicants next time too. Rapidly growing sites like can quickly make or break your recruitment brand with bad reviews.

Top Tip – Keep in Touch: Something like a confirmation of receipt of CV goes a long way.  It is also encouraged to communicate with applicants regarding the status of their application throughout the recruitment process.  Perhaps after a week, you can send an email saying that you are still reviewing applications and will be in touch in due course. An Applicant Tracking System will help you communicate with candidates as you are screening their CV's.  Any communication is good communication, applicants will appreciate the feedback and think better of a company who doesn’t just keep them waiting in the dark.

9. Be confident and consistent

As we outlined in the introduction of this article, being confident in your approach will naturally make you quicker at screening and will ensure consistency in your approach. Consistency is vital throughout all parts of the recruitment process. Ensuring that you have valid reasons for accepting or rejecting applicants based on non-discriminatory facts will also ensure that you are legal and compliant with your recruitment activity.

Top Tip – Keep Records: It is important that you can quickly produce records that specify your criteria and the reasons for accepting or rejecting.  Keep this information attached to your recruitment campaign in case you should need it.

We hope that these simple but effective tips will help you screen CVs quicker and have a manageable pile of qualified candidates to contact.  Of course, Flat Fee Recruiter is always here to help. As part of our service, we can provide CV screening facilities, just mention that you would like this to be included in your next recruitment campaign and let us put together the shortlist of applicants for you.

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