Here’s why candidates look better on CVs

You’ve seen this happen before, or probably experienced this yourself. A CV impresses you greatly, but the candidate… doesn’t quite match up.

A common recruitment mistake is placing too much emphasis on the Curriculum Vitae (CV) and having the belief that candidates will actually be as good as their CV makes them out to be! Having said that, there are indeed some outstanding CVs representing outstanding candidates – but how can you be sure?

When searching for the ideal candidate, it is necessary to go beyond just the CV and actively consider screening steps. The CV may display excellent communication skills, an impressive work history, and even better qualifications. Is this enough to assess the person’s fit to the role, team and organisation?

In many cases, the CV will be a good indicator if the candidate Can do the job in terms of their knowledge, qualifications, experience, skills and abilities. However, two other important factors are often missing – Will they do the job and are they are a good Fit? Critical screening factors like an applicant’s personality, interpersonal skills, work ethic or their ability to be a team player are missing. ‘Will the candidate Fit into the culture of the work environment (their customers, team and job)’, is often overlooked as a screening step in the recruitment process. Thus, if these attributes are important to you, then making hiring decisions based on a CV alone just isn’t enough.

Recently, after reflecting on an interview experience, both the employer and candidate completely agreed that the CV was outstanding. The first part of the interview, concentrating on ‘Can the candidate do the job?’, continued to be outstanding too. It wasn’t until both discussed ‘Will you do the job’ and ‘Are you a good Fit to this company’, that both employer and candidate came to the realisation that the future benefit to both parties was in question. The hire did not proceed.

Good hiring decisions should be based on a balance of the Can, Will, Fit principle of screening. This principle is a strong predictor of the candidate’s success in a new role. The following tips will help you build a strong hiring process and improve the chances of a successful hire:

CV + Screen = Successful Hire!

    1. Use the CV and questions as the initial screen. Consider adding questions to the application process. Including 5 – 10 open-ended questions (not yes or no responses) will help screen and assess candidates who best meet your job requirements.
    2. How will you approach the interview? Determine how you will ‘meet’ the candidate for an interview. How many interviews are required? Who should be involved in the interview process? Preparation for an interview(s) can ensure the right questions are asked to make sure the most suitable or talented person is selected.

Keeping the Can, Will, Fit principle at the centre of your hiring process will definitely help. Specific questions regarding Can are critical to validate a candidate in fact has the knowledge and experiences they said they do on their CV! Consider using video conferencing/Skype for first round interviews as a cost and time effective approach to shortlisting candidates.

  • Ask to see original documentation While the applicant’s CV may present an impressive array of qualifications, awards or portfolio examples, it is important to see the original documents to ensure they are indeed legitimate. While the majority of candidates will be upfront and honest in the record of their qualifications and documentation, there are others who won’t. It is best to check.
  • Assessments and tests are great to validate knowledge and skills recorded on a CV! Depending upon the role, the number of candidates shortlisted and your organisational recruitment processes, it may help to consider additional assessments. Assessments can include role plays, on-the-job tests, psychometric assessments and cognitive ability tests. An additional assessment step in the screening effort helps to ensure that the ideal applicant is selected.


One additional assessment step in the screening process, one giant leap in hiring better!


  • Background checks are a must. Past performance is a good predictor of future performance! Like Interview Guides, it helps to be prepared. ‘Tell me about this applicant,’ results in general responses. Instead, have specific questions set for referees highlighting exactly what it is you are looking for. Look to include the candidate’s referees/reviews from the most senior positions. If a referee/review from the current employer is not evident, make a note to investigate further. Remember the referee’s credibility is on the line and therefore it is in their best interest to provide honest, professional opinions and evidence. Depending on the role, other background checks like Police and Security Checks may be required.
  • Remember you have the safety net of a probation period. Sometimes, even with all the planning and preparation to ensure the most meritorious candidate is placed in the role, the safety net of a probation period is encouraged. Chances are that the new employee will flourish in their new role but this can never be guaranteed. To protect the joint interests of the employer and employee, trial periods are highly recommended. Suggested common probation periods can last from 3 to 12 months stipulated in the offer letter.


We all want that long-term perfect fit employee. Doing the groundwork will give you the best chance to find this treasure that will ultimately enhance your organisation. A ‘top of the range’ CV is a great start but only one step in finding the right talent.

Authors: Bronwyn Honey and Kylie Wright