The CV always was, and still is, the key to unlocking the interview gates. It’s not that digital technology has passed executive search by, in fact, it has helped enormously, but nothing quite provides prospective employers with an overview of a candidate’s ability like a CV does.
That stalwart instrument of job applications since the 1950s even looks similar today. A concise list of jobs and responsibilities that neatly outlines the applicant’s career progression with just a hint of the extra-curricular activities that might make them stand out from the crowd.
You may not necessarily find on a resume of today a photograph of the candidate, and there is also no obligation for their age to be stated. However, if they have an online presence, they should curate it carefully.
It’s all too easy for a prospective employer to check them out on Facebook, and while they might appreciate the fun side of an applicant, they will quickly dismiss them if the ‘fun’ sets off any alarm bells.
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HR managers – whose aim with a job description is to strike a balance between making it sound overly exciting or boringly functional, so they don’t attract the wrong applicants – take a practical approach and often state exactly what they need and no more.
This is understandable, but it means that CVs must match, which is why modern versions are populated with basic metrics written with a hygienic approach that won’t offend anyone.
What tips the balance for the many candidates I’ve helped is to add one exciting fact: It might be that they captained a winning sports team, they created a blog, it could even be that they love amateur dramatics, but all the better if they played Romeo (or Juliet) in the production.
What matters is to show initiative, leadership or a positive attitude. A recent example was a candidate who had taken eight years out to bring up his children. On his CV he described this role as being ‘CEO of the family home’.
A strapline, such as ‘I’m a digital wizard’ is also helpful if it sets the lens for how the rest of the CV will be read and encourages the reviewer to find evidence supporting the statement
While HR departments used to filter through hundreds of CVs themselves, many now turn to recruitment services and executive search to help them, and this is where we have seen considerable change.
The behemoths of the recruitment world are experts at identifying what candidate would be best suited to a job and providing an endorsement. Other more boutique companies have built specialist expertise by using the ubiquity of LinkedIn to find and secure suitable candidates.
Marketplace platforms are a more recent development. They use AI or machine learning to speed up the process, particularly if there are many candidates for a job, and to help determine their personal work preferences.
However – and this is important – the algorithms that determine an applicants’ suitability are used only at the very top of the funnel. They can determine whether a person is confident in their communication, or whether the skillsets described fit the profile, but it will be a human who decides whether to recommend the candidate for a job role.
Far from being dead, CVs are very much alive and an important element in the job search ecosystem. They are unbeatable at providing facts about a candidate and filling in the details about their work history, but their modern role lies in backing up a personal endorsement from a recruitment consultant. This is where the power now lies.
Will Jones is managing director UK & North America at CoMatch