Opinion Nov, 2022

Is time finally up for the CV as we know it?

By Michael Bowden | Share:

Invented by Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482, the CV is the oldest recruitment tool in existence. In the modern day era of side hustles, sabbaticals and squiggly careers do CVs really do us justice? If not then what could possibly take their place?

Prior to CVs people would find jobs by either making direct approaches, being recommended by an acquaintance or via a letter of recommendation by someone in authority (clergy, politicians, landowners, etc).

CVs as we know them now didn’t become commonplace in the world of work until the 1950s. They were further expedited as a result of typewriters, which were swiftly followed by word processors and then computers. The first video CVs appeared via VHS in the 1980s however it was the invention of LinkedIn in 2002, the first ever social media platform, that’s attributed to taking CVs to the next level, by giving users the option of including recommendations and verifications of skills and competence from colleagues and industry peers.

More recent technological algorithms have been developed for applicant tracking systems (ATS) to search and sift through high volumes of CVs. However, this comes with issues that recently resulted in the ICO launching an investigation into whether AI systems show racial bias.

However, while the format of the CV has evolved considerably, the structure of your typical CV has not and remains a list of companies, dates, possibly some transferable skills with a smattering of the candidate’s personality.

Surely the fact we still rely on the same basic two-dimensional map of someone’s career suggests that it’s effective? Apparently not, according to a survey conducted by HR Grapevine of senior leaders, from CEOs to HR academics:

  • 40% felt that they don’t provide an accurate view of a candidate’s personality
  • 36% thought that CVs provided too much room for unconscious bias in hiring, particularly for neurodivergence/disability, sexual orientation, gender and race
  • 83% felt CVs fell short of providing any meaningful information about cultural fit and personality

Conversely survey results from employment reference checking firm Checkster found that five out of six people ‘stretched the truth’ on their CVs, an offence that’s legally punishable in the UK Supreme Court.

Critically in a study conducted in 2018, executive recruitment firm Ladders found that hirers spent, on average, only 7.4 seconds per CV, skim reading details like name, current and previous employer, certain keywords, and education.

This begs the question if they’re largely considered neither a valuable tool for business owners and hiring managers nor are they being read in any detail, what are the alternatives? Is there a comprehensive skills-based hiring system out there that will eradicate CVs and all the faults that come with them? In short, no. However, there are actions that can be taken to mitigate the issues that come with CVs.

First of these is to consider what steps your organisation can take to tackle confirmation bias, for example:

Instigate a process to start sifting CVs blind to remove the potential for name-based bias, or remove the dates attached to candidates’ previous roles so that career gaps aren’t penalised.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners also shared some great suggestions for how an organisation can change up their hiring process, in a recent interview:

Hiring managers can enable candidates to present their skills through a portfolio of work that will demonstrate the range of experience and examples of what they can contribute to a company. Short informal meetings, before a formal interview, would also give candidates and hiring managers a safe space to find out more about each other and the role [particularly good for candidates with social anxiety or neurodivergence]. Accepting applications with videos from the candidate or links to their LinkedIn profile would also be beneficial.

Interestingly because STEM Returners work with people with career gaps, they know a linear CV isn’t going to work. As a result, when assessing candidates to match them with roles, they ask candidates to complete an introduction form, which asks a range of questions about their interest in the position, their skills and experience and projects they are proud of.

Another useful tool that can help streamline your hiring process and meet the needs of neurodivergent candidates or those with caring responsibilities is the asynchronous video interview. This is a new form of interview where the candidate is guided through a structured interview process which they do on their own, answering questions in front of their webcam.

In summary, while the format of the CV will undoubtedly continue to evolve and change (holograms anyone?) the CV as we know it is unlikely to be dropped any time soon.

However, identifying and evaluating the faults in relying on a CV as part of an organisation’s hiring process will help ensure you’re able to attract and engage with more candidates. It will also help you to unpack any other weaknesses in your recruitment supply chain, from your job description to how your HR team is reading and processing candidates job applications.

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