Do CVs Matter? - 29th March 2017

Recruitment for any job is tough. Hiring for the best sales people is even tougher. Where do we even begin? Of course, in most cases it involves wading through a mighty stack of CVs. There’s an obvious pressure to be looking for perfection, a close as possible match, as you read through countless career histories and personal summaries. It can be a slog. The biggest problem with judging and shortlisting candidates from their CVs alone is that it is almost invariably unreliable. Salespeople are, ironically, among the worst when it comes to selling themselves on their CVs.

At Sales Talent, we make a point of meeting our candidates. We meet hundreds of standout top salespeople who really impress us when they come in for a face to face appointment – but often these people have lacklustre CVs that really do them no favours whatsoever. The CVs can’t on their own convey their professionalism, their energy or their personality or more importantly the cultural match.

In fact, it seems that when sales candidates come to market themselves as individuals, their Linkedin profiles have much more thought put into them. They can potentially be a better gauge of suitability. Better visibility too. Endorsements, mutual connections, accomplishments and what articles they’ve posted are all useful. On the other hand, we see some dazzling CVs from salespeople who, when we meet in person, turn out to be disappointing and underwhelming. No energy. No charisma. No obvious sales ability. When this happens, it reinforces our belief that we need to meet all prospective candidates – be it face to face in our London offices or remotely over Skype.

This reminds me of a recent story. We had been working with a client on an exciting, but also quite tricky, role. The location was very picturesque, but quite out of the way for many applicants, and the name of the company not widely known either. End result:  interest from candidates was lower than we’d normally experience. We really struggled. Making matters worse, the client poured over every CV we submitted. Scoured each of them from top to bottom and picked out dozens of reasons not to interview some of the most suitable candidates. In fact, one candidate who was an almost perfect match for that client, was dismissed solely on the basis of him having had three different roles in the last two years. The reason? The poor chap had been made redundant – twice. No fault of his at all. They shortlisted some reasonable contenders but had missed him out – the clear favourite. We knew this as we had met all the candidates. The client hadn’t. So, what happened? As any good recruiter would do, we highlighted to the client that they were going to miss out on the best candidate purely down to them overanalysing CVs. Although a little sceptical, they trusted us. They interviewed the candidate they’d initially ruled out – and they loved him! The client and candidate hit it off straightaway.  An offer was swiftly despatched and an acceptance from the candidate soon followed. Happy client and happy successful candidate. The client admitted that they had become too hasty to dismiss a candidate based on their CV alone.

Our job as a recruiter is to do a lot of the leg work and vet candidates. We root out those who don’t suit the brief from our clients and we shortlist those who make for strong contenders – this saves our clients valuable time. Admittedly, there are lots of recruiters who are nothing more than CV ‘factories’. You know the ones, they bombard their clients with hundreds of CVs from candidates they’ve never met or got to know. In cases like this, the onus then falls on their clients to do their own CV checking. They don’t trust the recruiter, usually for good reason, as they see that they’re not doing any kind of vetting. These types of recruiters give the industry a bad name.

Understandably CVs have their place before a sales interview. They highlight if a candidate has the right industry experience and how long they’ve stayed in various jobs. They can also reflect a candidate’s attention to detail – or lack of. Careless spelling mistakes reveal a lot. You do need a basis for the conversation and the CV helps you to formulate your questions about the candidate and their career history. Beyond that, for sales roles, they can be quite limited. CVs do matter to a point, but they should not be the sole reason for judging a candidate. Finding a trusted and reliable recruiter to help you see the candidate behind the CV is much more valuable.