“I must get my CV updated!” “I haven’t done one for years – I have no idea where to start!” “How will I explain my career break?” “What’s the best format to write my CV in?” “How can I make my CV work for me when I want to change career?”
These are statements I hear several times a week. The CV is still perceived as the ticket to a job by many. The make or break of those endless applications… Do we still need to be wedded to our CVs in this way? Are employers primarily focussed on the content of your CV? How long do they even spend reading your carefully crafted document you spent hours perfecting?
Your CV in Six seconds.
Six seconds is the average time a Recruiter spends scanning a CV at the application stage. It doesn’t balance with the hours you put into it does it?
At this point in time, CVs still form a part of a recruitment process in most cases. Even if other assessment methods are used at the application stage, we are still very likely to be asked to submit a CV.
However, with 72% of organisations reporting at the start of 2020 they struggle to find the right skill set via CV applications – despite an average of 250 applicants per role (Gurvinder Singh –TechRank) -are CVs the best tool for recruiting? Based on these stats, they aren’t working. But why?
It could have something to do with the six second scan time I mentioned above! It could be due to a CV really only representing how good you are at writing a CV. If you are great at packing loads of potential keywords into your CV so an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) flags you as a good fit, you will get an interview. If you have great skills but your CV doesn’t have the keywords, maybe you won’t be invited for the next stage.
CVs are highly impacted by reader’s interpretation and unconscious(and conscious) bias. Is English your second language? If your CV isn’t written as eloquently due to this, you may be rejected, despite being a great fit for the job. A CV is a page of words. A picture is formed from it’s contents and inferences are made unconsciously. A CV does not demonstrate how good we are at anything, how much support we had or if our skills are actually a bit rusty.
So what is the answer?
I mentioned keywords – if I could give one tip it would be to get as many keywords, that fit the job description, into your CV as possible! That way you are more likely to get through the ATS. But if CVs are essentially just a piece of paper reflecting how good we are at writing CVs, what more can we do?
Sticking with CVs for a moment, there are other ways to write or present them.
Skills based CVs
Skills based CVs are becoming increasingly popular. This is a small shift but allows you to present your skills or competencies on the first page – outlining what you good at and how you have demonstrated them in various roles. You can then list your chronological experience on the second page but with no need for lots of detail. The point of this is to pull out the relevant stuff and hit the reader with it off the bat, on page one. Abby Clandon, a Recruiter within the care sector shared she “doesn’t mind what type of CV we receive, as long as it displays why (you) are the right candidate… A combination of skills based with chronological content is best”.
Matthew Metcalfe of Covea Insurance Plc went as far as saying that the “CV plays a tiny part in identifying talent… the most important moment is when we get to speak to the candidates”. Which got me thinking, we need to be talking to Recruiters and hiring managers as soon as possible – ideally before a role is even advertised!
Business Insider has reported upwards of 70% of jobs never reach the job boards. 70%! Another reason the traditional “apply with your CV route” is possibly dying out. This of course opens up all sorts of arguments around equal opportunities etc, but it is happening whether we agree with it or not. So the “I must update my CV” is not the best place to start.
Networking is vital. If you have been able to speak to someone, build a relationship before the request for a CV comes. You are definitely more than a few steps ahead. It also means, if a CV is requested you will already have insider info ensuring your CV is more relevant. As Abby Clandon shared, the key thing she looks for is passion for the area of work. So much so in fact her organisation doesn’t even insist on sending a CV. Their assessment is primarily focussed on a values based interview.
Getting your personality, your passion and your skills across to a potential employer will definitely make you stand apart from the crowd of Word documents and PDFs. Video CVs are becoming more popular in the graduate space and in the US. There is no reason these cannot be used for professional roles here in the UK. Of course you will want to stick to the application criteria, which may include a written CV. But there is nothing stopping you supplementing your application with a short, 1-2 minute intro video. A short intro to you, why you want the job and what you can bring to it. This is like giving them that first impression they would get in a face-to-face interview, but much earlier on.
Get Creative with your CV
We have all read the stories about people mailing boxes of cakes to employers with their CV printed over the box. This would be great for a Graphic Designer for example, but maybe not so much for an Accountant. That said – why not?
I have seen people turn CVs into QR codes printed across a picture of their face. IT professionals converting their CVs into a mini video game. Ok, cakes or video games may not play to your strengths, but finding ways to stand out that are relevant to your industry and reaching the right Recruiters and Hiring Managers may well get you a meeting. At least purely on the basis of standing out.
Whilst based on the format of a traditional CV, this tool allows you to produce a document accessible via a link. You can embed video, blogs, PowerPoint documents and more. This allows you to easily amend your visual CV to match potential jobs or to send whilst networking. This is a great choice for those that still wish to have a document (you can download as a PDF) whilst adding more personal touches to get your personality across.
So what does all this mean? The traditional CV doesn’t seem to be disappearing, but it isn’t the only tool in your box. Rather than agonising over your CV as your first step into your job search, switch your focus. Add more to your Linked In profile to make it relevant for the job you want. Make use of video or visual tools to supplement your networking and applications. You will stand a better chance of getting noticed. Whilst employers still use CVs, as technology progresses it is likely they will become less and less important. I can’t say you no longer need one, but make use of the tools out there get more creative, more adaptable – more YOU! It is YOU that will get the job – your CV, is simply your sales and marketing tool.
Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.
For more advice on CV’s:
How To Approach A CV When You’ve Had A Career Break