A Good CV: Do Candidates Really Need One?

Why do we believe that CVs are so crucial – admittedly only at certain times of our life? When we feel that we need one (or that we need to update our own), there is an almost manic sense of it being “mission critical” – the first thing that we ought to be doing.

Whether you will feel like that having read this is your decision. We would just say – be careful!

What’s a CV good for?

What is your CV to you? What does it represent? Why is so used? Who uses it and for what reasons? Our experience of CVs and the answers to these questions make us sceptical. There are so many assumptions running about how important and useful CVs are. What do you believe?

CVs have become a passport. If you want to travel, drive a car or buy an alcoholic drink you need evidence of who you are and your entitlement to do the thing that want to do. It is literally your entry ticket. Why do you need your CV to be your entry ticket to a job?

Admission for one

The first answer is that the recruitment brokers need it. Whether you deal with high street recruitment agencies, selectors handling newspaper/online advertisements or head-hunters working in the shadows, they all treat the CV as an entry ticket. If they haven’t got one, what can they do? It is their currency.

These “brokers” work in a transactional way. Their job is to match a job spec from an employing organisation with the CV of an individual who can do the job. It is a paper marriage – imagine job specs flying through the air in search of the “ideal” CV. When you boil it down, that is what the recruitment process is. It is highly lucrative for the brokers. The more transactions that complete, the more % of the job holder income they can earn and they are happy. The organisation that is recruiting; has a job that needs filling is happy too. Send me over the CVs that you have got, they say to the brokers, and we’ll let you know who we want to see.

In a situation where demand for jobs matched supply, this might be a satisfactory state. This situation rarely occurs. Right now, there are many more people searching for work than there are jobs available. Before the recession, and when we come out of it too, there will not be enough talented individuals in the market relative to the demand for them. On both sides of the job market equation, it appears to us warrant an examination of whether we use CVs in the same old way.

What do recruiters do with it?

So what happens to your CV if you give it to a broker? If you indicate to a recruiter that you are available, they will ask you for your CV. When they receive it, they scan it or copy it and it lands on their database. They will manipulate it for word search and it will appear on their search as and when a “relevant” role appears. Relevance is their definition and that is part of the issue.

All of us know how tough it is to tell the story of our life in 2 pages. Every person that we ask to comment on our CV has a view. It is a difficult process. Now we have the added issue of recruitment brokers using our life story for their own ends – creating the transaction that turns the deal for them, whether it is ok or not for you.

Needle in a haystack

Many recruiters have hundreds of thousands of CVs sitting on their databases. The databases drive the broking process in a way that matches CV to job. It has to be at a pretty simplistic level. It can’t have depth. It can’t really understand if you, as a unique individual, really fit this role well. It is basic and quite elementary. It is also a lottery.

When you allow your CV into this process, you join hundreds of others who, through the broking process, ping out as potential candidates. There is only the most basic consideration given to “soft” qualities, This process is driven by basic, measured data points – have you done a job that is titled similar to one that the recruiter is matching? No wonder the recruitment industry has the reputation as one of the most conservative in the business world.

Bottom line

Your CV is your own personal passport. It is part of a back story rich in variety, experience and skill and a great indicator of your potential. You should guard it and use it sparingly – only with those that you trust not to abuse it.

Simon North is the founder of Position Ignition – a careers company dedicated to taking you to the next step in your career. Simon is a career and transition expert with over 25 years of experience in helping individuals with their personal and professional development. He is passionate about helping people whether it is to find a rewarding career, make a career change or identify the right career plan and direction. For more information visit @PosIgnition.

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