Taking on a new recruit can be daunting. You've done well until now juggling the phone calls, managing the finances and staying on top of the workload but you're just now at a point where you can offload some of the tasks to allow you either to expand or take some much deserved time out.

But how do you find someone who can do the job as good as you? Your business is your baby and you need to find someone who'll care for it like it was his or her own! It's important to know how to shortlist applicants based on what is essentially a few words on paper - the CV.

Here are some key points to help you short list successfully and allow you to interview suitable candidates - saving you time and energy and getting you that help sooner.
1. Have they supplied a cover letter?

A cover letter shows the candidate has put some thought into their application, and targeted their application to your specific position available. This shows so many qualities that shine through in a working environment: thought, planning, commitment, motivation and purpose. A well constructed letter should mention the role they are applying for, their relevant education and their employment history. You should get the feeling they are writing to you, rather than sounding like the letter is a generic version sent out to any employer.
2. Have they provided a snapshot, profile or summary in their resume?

The resume is the first instance someone has to impress you. You can't read body language, look at presentation standards or ask questions - you can only read what's on the paper. If they have included a profile, this gives you a chance to learn more about the applicant's personality, strengths and career direction. Have they mentioned they love multi-tasking? Do they volunteer? Do they have a passion for your industry? Whatever you're looking for in an employee, you'll gain some great insights from this section.
3. Don't worry if they have gaps in their work history

Many people question gaps between paid positions on resumes and are sometimes quick to dismiss a candidate based on this. By doing this, you could be eliminating highly desirable candidates. Reasons for unemployment can vary greatly from caring for loved ones or starting a family, through to redundancy or trying out in their own business or hobby venture. If someone is applying for a job with you - they want that job! While unemployed, many people become volunteers or study and these can attribute to a great new skillset such as team work, time management, leadership, ability to take direction and so much more. Gaps in work history should by no means be a reason to not interview.
4. Do you really know their previous positions?

If they just list their employer, and nothing else, you really have no idea what they did! They need to tell you their position, how long they were there, and what their duties were. An added bonus is advising of their highlights or achievements in their roles - were they made employee of the month? Did they save the company some money with a new initiative? Knowing previous work history is important, but in saying this, if their roles weren't exactly the same as they are applying for with your vacancy, consider the skills they had and the duties they performed. There could be a strong base of transferrable skills.
5. At least two references supplied.

Have they advised that references will be supplied upon request? Ditch it! The space is there on the paper, they've made a section for it but they chose not to fill it in! Everyone has a referee they can provide - even if it's a personal reference. While ideally you want an employer reference, if the candidate has been out of work recently this can sometimes be difficult, and for others who are employed, job searching may be a very discreet venture and asking for a current employer reference may not be feasible. Two references are ideal so you can get a range of perspectives.
My final recommendation to save you recruitment costs and valuable time is to head to an employment agency. The federal government's Job Services Australia providers such as MAX Employment offer 100% free services tohelp you fill your vacancy. They can shortlist candidates for you based on your needs, and if you meet eligibility criteria, there's sometimes even cash incentives available to help you with training and wage costs! MAX Employment's freecall number is 1800 625 350.
Happy recruiting!

Jackie Behrend, Business Manager, owns and manages Creative Correspondence - offering professional and creative writing services for small and medium businesses, and individuals with a personal writing need. Services include media releases, wedding, special occasion and presentation speech writing, resumes, cover letters and Key Selection Criteria, brochure and website content and more. Stay in touch with tips, tricks and special offers by hitting "Like" at http://on.fb.me/bbmnRN and following on Twitter - www.twitter.com/writingforall - www.creativecorrespondence.com.au