Using a CV Database: Best Practices for Sifting Through CVs

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You'll Learn</h2><p><ul><li>Why CV databases can be more trouble than they’re worth.</li><li>How to avoid the pitfalls of using them.</li><li>How to use Boolean logic to search them more effectively.</li></ul></p></div>

When an applicant applies for a job that is advertised on a job site, their details are automatically added to the site’s CV database. The site keeps hold of applicants’ CVs and all employers and recruiters who pay to sign up to the CV database can access the same pool of applicants. Job sites will often try to sell you access to their CV database alongside advert packages. When you put up an advert, some sites suggest possible applicants from their database. It can be useful to take a look at these as sometimes the algorithms throw up promising applicants. For more on job sites, see guide: Advertising on Job Sites.

The Disadvantages of CV Databases

I’d urge you to tread carefully with CV databases. Unless you have a dedicated HR person who really knows how to use them, they can be a bit of a hassle and may not find you many promising applicants. Here are some of their major disadvantages:

  • It’s hard to find the right CVs. Even when you use sensible search terms, you can end up with lots of CVs to trawl through.
  • Databases contain dead end CVs.  Databases often have old or unsuitable CVs, and you can waste a lot of time running after the wrong people. Job sites don’t always delete old CVs because they use their CV count to market their databases. Even if a database contains millions of CVs, many of these may well be useless because they belong to people who are no longer searching for a job.
  • Databases are overfished. Recruitment agencies constantly trawl the databases for the best applicants, leaving behind the weaker ones.
  • It’s hard to get hold of jobseekers. When a jobseeker applies to your advert they’re coming to you, but when you contact someone whose details you’ve found in a database the roles are reversed. You’re approaching them and you’ll have to work hard to sell the job.

How to Use CV Databases Most Effectively

If you really want to recruit using a database, make sure you employ the following best practices:

  • Use broad search terms – or alternatively use Boolean logic. To search broadly, enter a term such as “marketing” rather than “marketing executive” as this will give you a greater number of CVs to choose from and therefore more of a chance of finding current jobseekers suitable for your job. As mentioned, though, the downside of this is that you can end up with loads of CVs to sift through, which takes time to do properly. The alternative is to use Boolean logic to make your searches more precise – I explain how to do this below.
  • Use location and search radius. This can help focus your search, but bear in mind that some jobseekers might be looking to relocate and that radius is simply geographical distance and may be only roughly related to commuting time.
  • Only view active applicants. When searching, include only applicants who have been active in the last 60 days. This will exclude old CVs and increase the likelihood of finding relevant applicants.
  • Contact promising applicants promptly but tactfully. Warm them up with a text message and mention that you’re an employer rather than a recruitment agency, then follow up with a phone call. If you don’t manage to make contact, try sending another text or an email. Hopefully you’ll find out if the person is still looking for a job. When you do manage to talk to the jobseeker, avoid overwhelming them with lots of information about your vacancy. Instead ask them about their current job and what they’re looking for in their future career, then explore whether they might be a good fit for you.

How to do a Boolean Search

Boolean logic allows you to search databases with greater precision, enabling you to pinpoint exactly the kind of applicants you want and to exclude unsuitable ones. Boolean searches use AND, OR and NOT as well as brackets to build targeted search phrases. Here are some examples:

  • “software AND developer” will find CVs containing both of the words “software” and “developer”.
  • “accountant OR bookkeeper OR book keeper OR book-keeper” finds CVs with either accountancy or book-keeping skills while allowing for spelling variations.
  • “sales NOT manager” finds CVs with “sales” but not “manager”.
  • “software AND (developer OR engineer)” gives you CVs containing “software” and at least one of “developer” and “engineer”.

<span class="grey-callout"><span class="text-color-purple">Warning:</span> Boolean searches are sensitive and it’s easy to make a mistake and be given results that are different to what you thought you’d asked for. Boolean searches can save you time, but only if you feel comfortable using them. If not, use broad keywords, then sift the results.</span>

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><p><ul><li>CV databases have quite a few disadvantages: it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff as databases contain millions of CVs and some of them belong to applicants who are no longer seeking a job; recruitment agencies skim off the best candidates; and it can be hard to get hold of candidates.</li><li>If you do decide to use a CV database then we recommend: using broad search terms and sifting the CVs or using Boolean logic for more precise targeting; using location and search radius when relevant; searching only for active applicants; approaching likely jobseekers carefully as you have to sell your job to them.</li></ul></p></div>

Advertise a Job

Text to go here

We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment
Try our Job Audit

Text to go here

Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

Related Articles

No items found.
FREE access to our Great Recruitment Newsletter. New strategies every week.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment