Why a Good Candidate can have a Bad CV

Why a Good Candidate can have a Bad CV...

As a recruiter, a candidate’s CV is often all you have to make a decision on their suitability for your vacancies.

However, good candidates do not always have exceptional CVs that jump out and grab our attention; sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to unearth a candidate’s true value.

Whilst you could argue that a strong candidate should always possess a quality CV; it’s also true that good recruiters should be able to read between the lines and discover hidden talent.

Some poor formatting or a minor grammar mistake doesn’t always mean that a candidate should be rejected.

So why do some good candidates have poorly written CVs?

They don’t have much job market experience

If you are dealing with an experienced candidate who has been with one company for most of their career, then the CV you are looking at, may be the first CV they have written in years… It may even be the only CV they have ever written, so give them some leeway.

Candidates with plenty of work experience, but little experience of the job market don’t always know about modern CV best practice and don’t have a full understanding of how recruiters want the information presented to them.

As these candidates are usually senior professionals, they often struggle to squeeze their years of experience on to 2 or 3 pages. So sometimes you may have to wade through a lengthy CV to extract the important details.

Online CV advice varies hugely

With very little reliable career advice being offered in the British education system, most job hunters will turn to the internet for CV guidance.

The problem here is that online career advice differs from site to site, and much of it is written by completely unqualified authors.

From job site career sections, to purpose built career progression websites; articles are often vague and seldom written by credible recruitment or HR professionals.

With lots of conflicting advice spread across the web, it’s understandable that some candidates are confused about the guidelines of writing a good CV.

They have never recruited before

When you work in recruitment and sift through hundreds of CVs every week; it can be easy to forget that some people never have to read CVs.

Whilst management candidates will have plenty of experience of reviewing CVs, many candidates will not.

This makes it a little harder for them to understand how they should present the information in their CV and which elements should be highlighted.

So when dealing with junior candidates especially, you may often find that their CV isn’t perfectly structured and some of the important skills and knowledge may be buried a bit deeper in the CV.


There are numerous reasons why a good candidate may have a bad CV, so be careful not to reject a candidate on the basis of one or two small mistakes.

Whilst you should always take CV quality in to consideration, you don’t have to use it as the ultimate deciding factor in your hiring decisions.

Many other elements come in to play such as telephone screening and interview performance; as well as the tools recruiters have at their disposal such as LinkedIn.

So make sure that you are giving all candidates a well-rounded assessment before deciding whether to shortlist them or not.

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter having recruited within the banking project management space for many years. He is also the founder of CV writing service StandOut CV and author of The Ultimate CV Writing Guide.

Posted: Wed 20 Jun 2018
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