Why the written CV is here to stay

By Stuart Haddow, MD, Xperisoft

There’s a mountain of material available from expert recruiters, bloggers and media companies postulating the imminent death of the Curriculum Vitae. In a nutshell, they suggest that the CV and cover letter-bundle is too inflexible for a modern world with its Social Media focus and new ways to express oneself.

Consigning the CV to the history books, they cite how poorly it evidences applicant skills in creative industries, how a joiner’s dovetail joint snapshot is more effective than a written description and how little people like reading them anyhow.  I’m told that I am behind the times and should recognise video as the future because everyone’s familiar with it and facial analytics can detect applicant honesty more accurately than a human.

Well, I will concede that the CV is imperfect, but I believe that its imminent demise is overstated for some pretty straightforward reasons:

Speed

Experienced recruiters and HR staff can make a decision on a CV faster than you can open a browser, complete a Google search and select your preferred result. According to research carried out by TheLadders.com in 2012, the average time spent reading a CV was just 6.25 seconds. Anecdotal evidence suggests this has reduced since 2012 and I have personally witnessed a recruiter reject CVs in just a couple of seconds. If much of recruitment is about sorting the wheat from the chaff, 6.25 seconds is hard to beat using any other method.

Relevance Checking

Job boards and Applicant Tracking Systems index CV content so that the best can be found and alerted quickly with new vacancies. Adverts and CVs are both text-based which means that matching CVs to new jobs is quite achievable with some clever programming. That’s valuable recruiter assistance using CVs that’s not easily achieved with other media.

Employability

Most organisations seek employees who communicate well, show attention to detail, manage complexity and so on. The CV is the perfect instrument to demonstrate those employability skills, yet Adzuna reported in 2016 that 3 in 4 CVs contain spelling mistakes. That’s not a good statistic, particularly when we have spell checkers at everyone’s fingertips and a universal imperative to spend sufficient time on this document to ensure its accuracy. The CV offers an instant measure of a candidate’s limitations and that’s hard to beat.

Discrimination

Tackling unconscious bias in the recruitment process is a developing subject. For example, it is suggested that an applicant’s name alone can lead to soft discrimination in the recruitment process. With photos, CVPlaza.com places the inclusion of head shot photographs among the top 5 reasons for CV rejection.

Name blind recruitment has been adopted by the Civil service, the BBC, the NHS, learndirect, HSBC, Deloitte, Virgin Money and others. Developing algorithms to disguise an applicant’s name in a CV is a challenge that can be overcome. Disguising age, weight, ethnicity or sex in a video or photograph is impractical. The CV wins again.

Conclusion

A CV conveys so much more than the author may have intended when writing it. Devoting a full page to a job of some 10 years ago and only a paragraph to the most recent, a wall of text without obvious sections, mismatched fonts and frilly borders all give genuinely valuable indicators to the trained eye.

I have spoken with many HR Managers, internal & agency recruiters and line managers in addition to reviewing many CVs myself. The consensus seems to be that we can make CV-based candidate assessments pretty accurately, in a compliant manner and at speed.  There is no imperative to change the process and there is certainly no genuinely practical alternative for most recruitment situations. Even with Application Form based recruitment, most still prefer receiving the CV because it offers freedom to the author to impress or distress.

I suspect that new technologies may usefully supplement the CV and offer a richer view of the applicant. Anything that delivers more evidence of a candidate’s skills, aptitude or experience in the role being advertised may be prioritised over other options.  However, the need for speed, accuracy and compliance should ensure the CVs place in the recruitment process for the foreseeable future.

Author: Editorial Team

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