Is it Time to Rethink the Traditional CV?

By Firefish Software

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The recruitment industry lives and breathes data and for many years now CVs have been a great source of candidate information. And this format is still widely used. Candidates and recruiters alike spend hours upon hours working with digital and paper based CVs.

But is the traditional CV past its sell by date? 80% of employers report turning to Google for information about potential candidates, and in 2014 a CareerBuilder poll found 51% of employers rejected an applicant based on something found on a social media profile.

It seems that CVs often serve as an introduction and a quick Google search returns far more about a candidate than what they themselves choose to put on paper. That said, as noted in Visual CV ‘…a resume is an essential tool for landing your dream job for 99% of the opportunities out there.’

But, as Dr. Tim Sparkes, writing for CIPD, adds: ‘More than half of millennials have some form of a digital CV, but just one in ten provided one at their last interview. While this may not mean that the CV is dying – perhaps it’s an indication that the traditional CV format needs a rethink – it certainly points in the direction of change.’

So, there’s room for the CV still but we need to think about the format more objectively.

Subconscious Bias

There’s evidence to suggest that recruiters screening CVs can’t avoid their own subconscious biases. From gender, experience, and even the university a candidate attended, there’s plenty of scope for a recruiter to form an inaccurate opinion of who the applicant is without even meeting them in person.

An article on Hudson, written by Peter Istead, titled: ‘Is the CV dead? 3 ways the traditional resume might not be working anymore’ adds:

‘Studies also concluded the presence of confirmation bias. That is, when an employer sees someone studied at say, Oxford, they may be likely to unconsciously assume everything they touch turns to gold. A potential remedy to this situation is the anonymised CV. Removing names from the process goes some way to tackling unconscious discrimination, but it doesn’t quite address other problems with the CV.’

For recruiters wanting to explore their biases, there’s a great online test you can take. The answers from this test can help you to identify any areas of bias to work on. The point is, when we process information, we see it through our own personal lens affecting the way that we read other people.

Plus, even candidates are prone to bias when compiling their own CV. They want to look the part, so they carefully curate an image via the information they include. So, the format itself seems to be inherently biased – both on the part of the recruiter processing the information, and the candidate compiling it.

Time Consuming

There’s also the fact that CVs are a time consuming format to work with. Applicants spend days putting together the perfect CV, and recruiters spend lots of time processing all that information, sifting through the hyperbole, in order to understand who the candidate is and what their skills are.

Streamlining the process can make everyone more efficient. According to Samantha Cole, writing in the Fast Company: ‘If we lean less on the traditional application packet process, social networks take more of the judgement; candidate’s Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter presences could give more accurate glimpses into the lives of the newest member of the company culture.’

Candidates Aren’t the Best Writers

Not everyone is a strong writer, and most candidates struggle (to some extent) to present themselves in the best possible light. And the most polished CVs don’t always correlate to the best candidates. As Tim adds:

‘Experience has taught me that the successful candidates are not necessarily those with the most impressive CVs. In fact, success is usually related to how willing potential recruits are to adapt and grow with a job. When your role is changing, you can’t rely on core competencies – you need to look at mindset or meta-competencies. These aren’t the qualities traditionally listed on CVs; they are attributes such as learning agility, or the ability to develop new competencies. While they aren’t skills per se, they are critical to navigating our fast-paced world.’

Going Digital Makes Sense

Nearly all organisations require candidates to be proficient with digital technologies and to be well versed at using the internet. So, it makes sense that the CV is relied on less, and social media and other online formats carry more weight.

And digital clearly makes sense for recruiters too. Most companies won’t print off, or even accept, paper CVs, instead relying on a database to access them. Many recruiters will keyword search the document itself, looking for relevant information as quickly as possible.

Another thing to think about is that a CV captures a moment in time, whereas social media profiles are updated frequently, providing a more up to date and accurate snapshot of a candidate’s career.

So it’s worth considering why we place so much stock in the traditional CV. Is it just because it’s what we’ve always done? It’s important to be innovative and forward thinking in our practice. As Hudson’s Peter Istead adds: ‘…if we stick with just the old fashioned CV, there’s a risk we stick with some old fashioned ways of thinking.’  

About the Author: Working as their Content Guru, Andy Mckendry plans, writes, and edits articles and blog posts for Firefish Software. He holds an MA in Professional Writing, and in the early mornings is known to gravitate towards the nearest coffee pot.

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