5 Shortcuts to Finding a Brilliant CV in 30 Seconds

5 Shortcuts to Finding a Brilliant CV in 30 Seconds

5 Shortcuts to Finding a Brilliant CV in 30 Seconds

When you’re reviewing CVs for a new role, it can often feel very tedious. Particularly if you’re on a tight deadline and need to find someone very quickly.

As an employer and recruiter, one of the main issues is comparing contrasting CVs when they are all very similar.

And then of course there’s the sheer quantity. According to SocialTalent, the minimum number of CVs a recruiter will receive for a UK based role stands at 54!

That kind of explains why the average recruiter only spends 10 seconds to decide whether they are going to shortlist the candidate or not.

When it comes to screening CVs thoroughly, it’s all about finding a balance between speed and precision.

If you take too long, the chances are that you’ll need a continuous caffeine fix and will miss obvious details. But if you simply glance at a CV for 10 seconds, you could be making a poor snap judgment.

With that in mind, how can you quickly but thoroughly distinguish the contenders from the pretenders?

Hopefully, this list of shortcuts will give you a few valuable pointers on how to find the perfect candidate without wasting excessive amounts of time.

Ironically, it may take you slightly longer than 30 seconds to read.

1. Keyword shortcut.

Before you start wading through all the CVs in your inbox, take the time to write down 5 keywords or phrases which are specific to the job role.

For instance, ‘proven’ could be a good choice for a position in sales, as it should (I say should) contain supporting stats to coincide with the statement.

This would then be a strong indicator that they have a ‘proven’ track record in getting results, which is an essential quality in this particular industry.

If you’re hiring for a more techy role, your keywords or phrases could consist of names of software or coding languages, where knowledge and/or experience in these areas is required.

A good candidate will analyse the job description and adapt their CV to suit.

Alternatively, you could even write a list of ‘bad’ keywords and phrases to use. This will enable you to segregate the well crafted CVs from the bad ones which contain cliché sentences like ‘I’m a good time keeper’.

If you’re unsure of how to use the shortcut/search option on your device, simply press the CTRL and F keys at the same time on your desktop or laptop and a search bar will appear. Or for Mac users, hold down Command and press C.

2. Check for typos.

Poor grammar, typos and punctuation issues are a real deal-breaker, especially if you’re searching for a copywriter, editor or bid writer.

In fact, according to CV Library, recruiters class spelling mistakes as a cardinal sin, with 71% ranking these errors as their biggest bugbear.

One mistake can instantly diminish the credibility of the candidate and make employers or recruiters believe they are careless in their work.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to encourage candidates to proof their CVs before sending them, so it’s a matter of just separating the good from the really bad.

For those that send their CVs over in PDF format, simply copy and paste the content into a Word document and see if any dreaded red lines appear.

Or for a quicker and often more reliable option, download the grammarly.com plugin for free.

You can then paste the CVs into there and see how many grammatical and spelling issues are flagged in less than five seconds.

A neat shortcut if you don’t have the time to evaluate every word.

3. Employment gaps.

Redundancy and personal circumstances can lead to employment gaps in a candidate’s career, so I wouldn’t recommend just discarding an application on these grounds alone.

Your quick shortcut here is to see if they’ve bothered to explain. If they have, this could arguably be the makings of a strong candidate.

For example, someone who was made redundant and was out of work for two months could have used this time to do something extremely productive like refurbishing their home. This demonstrates a willingness to maintain a routine and to work hard, despite having the temptation to sit around and do nothing.

However, some candidates may have packed in their job themselves and spent the time on less productive things.  Just take a few seconds to look at the dates of employment and see what you find.

If they haven’t included any information about the gap – and what they did to fill it – then you should at the very least ask them about it during the telephone interview.

4. The originality check.

This quick check isn’t essential, but could be helpful if you’re dealing with a creative position.

At the end of the day, first impressions can give you a gut instinct on someone.

While they might not always be right, smart candidates should know they need to do something different to be recognised. After all, competition for jobs is fierce today.

A brilliant candidate will format their CV differently and put a real emphasis on assembling each section in a particular order.

Are there neat columns or infographics containing valuable stats about themselves? Have they ditched standard headers like ‘Work Experience’ and replaced them with unique alternatives?

The look and feel is another sign of originality.

Have they used a vibrant background colour to make their CV stand out? Did it come in a shiny box or with a quirky and personal cover letter?

If the job you’re recruiting for requires creativity, look for the CVs that personify this.

5. Education test.

Back in 2014, the Independent published an article about how one in three employers never check their applicants’ qualifications.

The said piece also revealed that the same fraction of candidates admitted to falsifying information on their CVs.

Now, if you’re recruiting for a big position with a higher salary and only have a handful of CVs to consider, it might be worth clarifying your candidates’ credentials.

You can do this by either calling the university itself (which may take longer than 30 seconds) or use Prospects Hedd. This website allows you to simply enter the details of a candidate for £12, and in exchange, it’ll find their university/higher education files and give you the peace of mind you need.

Of course the cost may put you off, but in theory, it’s only a small price to pay when you’re trying to find the right person for the job.


The key to finding a brilliant CV in 30 seconds is to create a criteria list before you even start.

Use our list, add other checks you find important and follow the same routine for all of them.

This way, at least you’ll maintain a level of consistency throughout the process and reduce the likelihood of overlooking a top candidate.

For more help and guidance on how to distinguish a good CV from a bad one, take a look at our CV Assessment Checklist.

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