Looking For A New Job? Throw your CV Away

CV image

I hate CVs and résumés, they are all useless, my own included, which I keep somewhere in an electronic format, becoming more obsolete by the day. My sincere wish is that I never have to see or use it again.

From the day we learn how to spell CV, we create one and we marvel at our cleverness, attainments and the attractive way we put the whole thing together. We do it in the belief that sooner or later, we will have cause to market ourselves as we seek a better job, a change in direction or just for speculative reasons because a job agency approached us. We remember we had a copy somewhere so we start searching our PC and finally we find it hidden in the file called “Personal” or some similar name, double click on the old relic and say:

Okay, it stops at 2009 now, what have I been doing for the last 5 years?”

So, we carefully construct a few paragraphs with some facts and large doses of fiction, add them to the front of the CV and we are almost there. We make sure we have the right contact details, our marital status had not changed, our driving licence is still valid, and we read our opening statement at the top to see if it needs a facelift. We may add a few more boastful claims and we pronounce it to be ready to put out to represent us in all our wonderfulness! We are sure that anyone who sees the masterpiece will immediately reach for the phone demanding a personal audience with us.

In fact, what we end up with is a boring document constructed in different styles under various conditions of stress, anxiety, elation, enthusiasm or complete indifference. The whole thing is a growing mishmash of chronological data and little information that is not going to excite any prospective employer. The recruitment consultant handling your application knows less about you than you do so, he / she is not going to edit your masterpiece.

Imagine if car manufacturers did the same with their marketing material every time they bring out a new model!

Over the years, I have seen literally thousands of CVs and almost all of them (okay, there are rare exceptions) are either poor or very poor. The extreme horror ones have different font styles and sizes, way too long, non-sequential, riddled with bullet points (How did we manage to communicate before bullet points were invented?), inconsistent, boastful, describe identikit people that could never exist, contradictory, and in some cases full of down right lies.

Then you have the good old listing of positions held in reverse chronological order and the older the person, the darker the ages they take you back to, until you are wandering in to a world of typewriters, rolodexes, and cigar chewing bosses. Not to be outdone, the young ones who cannot boast more than 5 years work experience feel obliged to list their school activities, and the grades of each subject they took.

Each job held is often headed with the latest title, even if promoted the week before, followed by a long list of “responsibilities” probably copy-pasted from their company job description. Precious little is given about what the individual had actually achieved.

I cannot recall reading a CV that did not describe the person as “Dynamic”, “High Achiever”, “Ambitious”, “Results Oriented” and many other seemingly positive clichés like that. Don’t people who are static, low achievers, lacking in ambition, results disoriented have CVs?

Perhaps my pet hate is the two words or two-letter acronym at the top of the document: CURRICULUM VITAE or simply C.V written with a flourish in a large and occasionally different colour font but very often in capital letters. Why describe the document? We already know it’s a CV. You get that in restaurants where you ask for the menu and they give you this padded book which redundantly shouts the word: MENU. You eat, drink then finally ask for the bill so the waiter hands you a piece of paper with the word: INVOICE written on it in huge letters but the actual items you have consumed are printed so small that, in the soft light of the romantic restaurant setting, the only thing you can read is the word: INVOICE so you give up checking the accuracy of the bill and pay quietly.

So, what’s the alternative to CVs? In my view, the answer is very simple. First, let us exclude many job opportunities that amount to a significant percentage of vacancies filled via personal / private network so the need for a CV does not arise. In these situations (it happened to me more than once), someone knows you well, they know your capabilities and strengths and one fine day, they contact you, offer a job and you accept it. Congratulations!

This leaves the jobs that spill out into the public domain through specialist websites, professional media such as LinkedIn, or are referred to recruitment agencies from ones that serve the mass market all the way to the headhunters. In all cases, the solution I propose will not please my friends in the recruitment business and they may hate me for suggesting it.

Eliminate CVs and résumés prepared by the candidate completely!

The web-based agencies already do this to some extent but they need to work a little harder. They need to understand the client requirements at a much deeper level of detail than they currently do and construct a tailored questionnaire for would be candidates to fill. Based on the degree of fit, they can short list and present candidates to the client with a summary of their profile as constructed by the questionnaire mentioned above.

At the other end of the scale, headhunters escape my criticism completely because I believe they have been doing it right for a long time. I have been flattered on a number of occasions to be targeted by a headhunter. Once your name appears on their radar, they take the time and trouble to meet you in person, and question you very closely about your experiences and achievements. If in their judgment you are to be short listed, they write a comprehensive report about you and submit it to their client. Your details are NEVER used again for another client. Should they have reason to contact you again for another opportunity, they go through the process all over again. The first time I was approached by a headhunter, I proudly took my CV along to the meeting, he asked me to put it away and never looked at it once.

The rest of the recruitment market needs to adopt one of the above two models. Either prepare a job-specific questionnaire for would-be candidates to fill out or go through the trouble of preparing individual reports on each credible candidate they wish to submit to their client. At least two of my friends in the recruitment business do this already and I really respect them for it because they earn their fees and as a result, their success rate is much higher than the majority of their competitors.

I have not been on the market for a job in over 10 years and I still get emails from cowboy recruitment companies saying something like:

We have an opportunity for a programme manager position with expertise in Solvency III and your details came up in our search as a close fit.”

It is a pity there is no industry regulator or a watchdog for the recruitment business because such companies should be shut down. If I had given them my CV more than 10 years ago, which I doubt, it would not have had Solvency III listed in it as a primary skill because there was no such a thing in 2004 so how they managed to get a close fit between their client requirements and my skill profile is beyond me.

You may think what I advocate is far fetched. May be it is but, let me put it this way: say you place your house with a real estate agent to sell, then you change your mind and take your house off the market. However, two years later you decide to put it back on the market with another estate agent. How would you react if the new estate agent asked you to email him the original house description prepared by the first agent but with your own amendments to make sure the details are “up to date” so he can use the material to market your property? I don’t know about you but I would dismiss the incompetent fool on the spot! So why do we accept to be treated by recruitment companies in the same way? Do we value our houses more than our careers?

Next time you are looking for a job and the recruiting consultant asks you for an up to date CV, just say:

“Why don’t you prepare a profile on me and send it to the client?”

If they refuse to cooperate then perhaps they are the wrong kind of recruitment agency for you.

My final word on the subject is to do with Human Resources departments who are perhaps the biggest guilty party in this gigantic time wasting activity. They are addicted to CVs, they cannot get enough of them, they ask for them, they read them, classify them, file them, archive them and occasionally send them out to hapless managers to decide which ones the poor manager wishes to interview. They seem to have decided that their success criterion for their service is based on how many CVs they send to the manager instead of how soon the actual vacancy is successfully filled.

HR Managers everywhere, please stop doing this. Do a “delete all” on that CV library of yours and join the 21 Century.

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