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The Way Recruiters and HR Managers Are Using the CV is Wrong. Here is Why.

July 23, 2019
Lukas Vanterpool

The CV, curriculum vitae, or resume has been the cornerstone of a job search for many years. When we say ‘many years’, we don’t mean the last twenty years or so.  


A brief history  

 The first CV was created in 1482 by Leonardo Da Vinci, who listed his key skills as rock flinging, creating bridges and sculpture. It was used by travelling workers throughout the 1500s, as a way to introduce themselves to local lords and land-owners.  

The CV didn’t have a resurgence until the 1930s. At this time, they were nothing more than an informal page of notes made at interviews. But this was before ‘Think and Grow Rich’, a book by Napoleon Hill, which included guidance on writing a successful resume.  

By the 1950s a standardised format had been developed and they were considered a prerequisite to interviews. However, the personal information that was expected to be included was a true reflection of general attitudes of the times, and an individual’s weight, religion and marital status were presented to potential employers.  

Although, thankfully, it’s not necessary to include such personal information on a CV today, the format of the CV has remained the same since the 1950s 

Yes, the decade in which women were openly advised to return to their roles in the home, after progressively joining the workforce to support the economy during WW2, is the one that we have allowed to dominate the format of the CV. Many recruiters and hiring managers are still using these documents to assess candidates, in the same way that was used then.  

Why have we let the CV become so important? 

 When you consider how business processes have evolved in this time, doesn’t it strike you as odd that we are still applying for jobs in the same way that did over 50 years ago? The CV has barely evolved over time. 

In an age where businesses and HR processes and policies have progressed, why are we allowing the CV to hold so much weight? 

According to a study by CareerBuilder, 68% of recruiters will look at a CV for two minutes or less. Yes, that’s correct, hard and fast decisions are being made with regards to someone’s competency and ability in less than 120 seconds. We are assessing candidates on their CV alone and it’s an unfair benchmark. 

Are we really saying that because a candidate cannot write a good CV, it means they are not fit for the role in hand? 


 Does a good CV = a good employee? 

 This of course, needs to be put into perspective. If recruiting for a role in marketing or communication, you would expect a CV that reads well, is formatted correctly and has perfect spelling and grammar. 

But when recruiting for a role, such as an engineer is it fair to dismiss them on their ability to produce a fantastic CV? This approach could mean employers miss out on a candidate with skills and experience in fixing and maintaining machinery that will keep an FMCG or food business running efficiently. 

In our opinion, it isn’t fair. Looking at our own recruitment at The Sterling Choice, if we had judged our employees on their CV’s alone, we predict that around 50% of our current team would not have even got an interview.  

We view the CV as a conversational piece, not hard and fast a document where candidates are judged and subsequently dismissed.  

How can firms move away from their reliance on using a CV to qualify candidates? 

Here is our advice 


Video Calling 

An interim between a phone call and a face to face interview. Video calling enables the hiring party to interview a larger volume of candidates without being limited by their location. This process means a recruiter can quickly and efficiently assess which candidates would be a great fit not the ones that just look good on paper.  

By using this technique, you can view how the candidate approaches the interview, and how they conduct themselves, meaning you can make a more informed judgement, rather than reply on a one-dimensional document.  


Speed interviewing 

Having gathered traction in recent years, speed interviewing allows the hiring party and the candidate to quickly assess the match to the business.  

Speed interviewing removes both parties from relying on the CV, as the interviewer will need to drill down to the most relevant details, such as key skills and achievements, whilst using the opportunity to quickly evaluate the culture fit. The nature of these interviews will require candidates to be forth-coming, communicative and engaging – all positive attributes that encourage conversation.  


Assessment Centres 

A series of exercises that are timed, defined and structured. They are designed to replicate the activities a candidate would be undertaking in the role they’re being recruited for. The exercises often include presentations, group discussions, psychometric testing, social events and written cases studies.  

Assessment centres allow recruiters to evaluate candidates on their skills, interaction and interpersonal communication and culture fit. The strategy provides candidates who may not have the strongest CVs, as an opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of –therefore improving their chances of success. 


Passive recruiting 

Passive recruiting is the act of seeking out potential candidates when they are not actively looking for a new position, but they could be open to hearing about new opportunities.  

It’s likely that you will find these candidates through their activity on platforms such as LinkedIn, word of mouth, networking, or industry events. Because of this you are likely to find them more appealing because you have heard about their work ethic, achievements or results they have driven, rather than the details listed on their CV. 

Passive recruiting will require firms to have a proactive strategy in place, and someone who is accountable. 


 Big data  

By using big data, you can drill down on the aspects of candidates that perform well in your company, or within their role. You can apply the data that you hold on your successful employees, and their performances, and look for the linking characteristics. This data can help shape decisions in the hiring process and focus more on personal attributes and soft skills.  


In conclusion, the CV is still relevant, but we are relying on it too heavily when it should be used as a reference point. By using it in conjunction with other techniques, you will widen your access to great talent, and make your recruitment process more efficient.  

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About The Author

Lukas Vanterpool

I started The Sterling Choice with Gareth Whyatt back in August 2013. We’ve always remained true to ourselves and what it is we’re trying to achieve – A great company with great people and great results! This journey never stops, we are always finding ways to support our colleagues and make sure they leave every day feeling fulfilled.

Over the years I’ve always been asked “what’s your USP??, what makes you different from all the other agencies??”. That’s an easy one for me to answer – “Our culture makes our business and our people make our culture”

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