How A Professional Executive Search Consultant Reads A CV

job interview tips

A professional search consultant will look at the subconscious story that your CV or resume is telling.  Here are five markers that they will look at as they quickly take a first pass over your paperwork.

  1. Length

One of the psychological markets of a top performer is focus.  The top performer has a clear direction in which they are building their career.  They move from one role into a larger role with an increasing span of control.  They have a succinct value proposition.  They know who they are, who they want to become and where they are gong in life.  Their CVs are short and to the point.

Underperformers on the other hand are unfocused, they lack direction and tend to be opportunistic.  They will cast a wide net and then hopefully look to see what the market will offer them.  Their CVs are long winded, and their sentences run on.   They try to include as much as they can in their CV in the hopes that they will qualify for some job, they don’t care what it is as long as they get something.

Candidates with long winded CVs display a lack of focus, direction and vision.  A professional search consultant will disqualify candidates applying for leadership roles based on these markers.

  1. Consistency of Format

The detail orientation of a candidate can be seen in how they format their CV.  Candidates who lack the ability to manage detail will have different font sizes in places, they will lack the proper use of capital letters, in the worst of cases we will find spelling and grammatical errors.  The famous good Manger or can speak English and Spinach.  These candidates are not detail oriented and if their CV is their best attempt at being professional, they have failed.  Search consultants will often disqualify candidates who display a lack of attention to detail.

  1. Results Orientation

Is the candidate results oriented?  Will they generate results above and beyond the market average?  The CV of a person with high results orientation will be empirical and will be peppered with numbers, metrics and measures of success.  They will not only state their results, but they will compare and contrast their results against their competitors in three areas; locally, regionally, and globally.

The underperformer will state their results in nebulous generic statements such as we delivered significant growth in the past several years.  A top performer will be specific, empirically inclined and time dependent.

Here is an example of two CV bullet points, one from a top performer and one from an under performer;

Top Performer

  • Exceeded the sales budget by 200%, achieving the annual target within the first 6 months of the year. I was ranked as the highest grossing sales team in New York, number two nationally in United States and globally we were in the top five.

Under Performer

  • Delivered significant sales growth exceeded all budgets and sales targets.

Notice how the high performer is not just referencing the measure of their success, e.g. 200%, they are also highlighting the time in which they delivered the result.  On the other hand, deadlines and doing things faster than the competition is not a priority for the underperformer. The top performer is also benchmarking their performance and ranking themselves.  Underperformers do not keep track of where they rank, as they will never rank number one and if they do it is not because of them.

The search consultant will read your CV to see the subconscious expression of a natural results orientation.   Generally, a failure of the candidate to state any significant results expressed in numbers, against certain deadlines and timeframes, without any ranking in the CV will indicate a low results orientation.

  1. Education

Candidates who have top education qualifications tend to understate them.  For example, a candidate with an MBA from Harvard will just have one line in the CV stating “MBA Harvard Business School”.  They most often will not put MBA after their name and will generally not bring their school up unless you ask them about it.

In many cases candidates with world class PhDs will also not put Dr. or PhD on their names.  For example, you do not say Dr. Jack Welsh the iconic ex CEO of GE, although he had a PhD.  You do not see Andrew Grove former CEO of Intel being called Dr. Andy although he has a PhD from Berkeley.  Of course, someone has the right to use the title Dr. if they have a PhD from a credible school.  My point is that smart scandidates from the top schools will understate their academic credentials.

Candidates who have an inferiority complex will overstate their educational credentials.  They will use the title Dr. and will have a penchant to use the acronym MBA after their names and any others they can get their hands on.  They will also list every course they have ever taken on their CV.

Often the search consultant is bombarded with a list of executive courses and certificates that the underperforming candidate has completed.  This is often a red flag of poor education or that there is an unaccredited degree lurking somewhere on the CV. The candidate is trying to compensation for their unrecognized university by buttressing their education section up with a litany of courses they have taken.  This type of display is another red flag for the professional assessor.

  1. Stability

Top performers are stable, reliable, loyal, and conscientious. Their experience spans the full strategic cycle and they will spend a minimum of five years in a role.  In some cases, they can spend their whole career in one company. As a search consultant we view the strategic cycle as four to five years and have a high value for candidates who have led three to four strategic cycles in their careers.

That is candidates who have overseen the process or have been part of the process of creating a concept, or new product, or service to championing its roll out, to the time it is generating revenue. Year one is creating the strategy and getting it signed off by the board.  Year two is building the team, product and service, and year three is in operations and execution.  Year four is fine tuning the machine and maximizing your net profit.  This cycle can be exaggerated for some industries like real estate, or private equity.

Candidates who move after one year or two years have never led the full strategic process.  They are also not resilient.  The first sign of pressure they quit, they move on and they do not have the tenacity to push things across the line.  They are quitters and will be disqualified by professional assessors.

A search consultant will not interview a candidate who has a jumpy CV.  The thinking is that there is no need to listen to their excuses as to why they are so jumpy as losers are great at making excuses, while winners are great at getting results.


That is a quick view of what a professional search consultant digests in about 30 seconds as they take the first quick glance over your CV or resume. Make sure you build a CV that does not fall foley to the five markers above.  Your CV and other professional branding documents must hit the mark in 30 seconds or less, so make sure you have the subconscious markers of success.

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