To CV or not to CV?

tg_register_inset_picSifting through hundreds of CVs one day while running a large recruitment campaign I began to realise that most of them had started to look the same. Yes some stood out but most of the CVs I read virtually said that same thing.

As recruiters we have seen them all, from the powerful to the limp, from the uplifting to the ones that leave you weeping, from the creative to the dull and from the boring to the ones that make you laugh out loud.

I once received a CV from a gentleman who had detailed his medical history from his cavity fillings to the fact he only had one kidney! Whoa! That was far too much information. Did I really need to know that to appoint him to a marketing role?

A lady once sent me a photograph of her family including the pet dog along with her CV.

However I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, sifting through hundreds of CVs.

This got me thinking – what is the alternative to this age old document that we have been using in the corporate world.

What did we do before we had CV’s? Well I suppose you are bound to say it was jobs for the boys and you got a job if you knew someone who knew someone who lived next door to the brother-in-law of someone. Well fair enough, that wasn’t ideal either.

But CVs? Are they not outdated yet? How many times as recruiters do we realise within the first couple of minutes of interviewing someone it is apparent that someone else wrote their CV and application.

There must be a way of assessing candidates’ capabilities and qualities without having to detail them in a CV. We must find a way to assess the whole person rather than just look at a piece of paper or spend an hour interviewing them.

Qualities VS Skills

For a while now I have been trying to convince certain organisations that they would be far better off recruiting on qualities rather than skills. Making their question banks ‘qualities centric’ rather than ‘skills centric’. Skills we can teach qualities we cannot.

Clearly this would depend on the kind of job we are talking about. I am not suggesting for one second if you are advertising for a brain surgeon, that you choose the candidate without the skills to do the job just because he is an ‘awfully nice chap.’ However there are many roles such as customer service, sales or any pressurised jobs where the importance of qualities should supersede skills.

If I am recruiting a customer service agent for a call centre, is it really important whether s/he knows the ins and outs of the call centre systems or whether s/he has had any experience at all as a customer service agent? What I should be looking for is whether s/he is a people person, can s/he work well in a team, can s/he influence well and does s/he genuinely care?

I once interviewed a gentleman in Spain for a sales role. He had never worked in sales before and did not know the first thing about selling. However I could not fault his motivation. The company had made it very clear that candidates needed to have at least 6 months experience in any sales role. When I questioned him about this he said, ‘I can learn it’. I believed him and I agreed with him.

I think the clincher for me was when I asked him how he motivated himself for the day ahead. He said, ‘I wake up in the morning, I get dressed, I have a mirror by the front door, each morning before I leave the house I look in the mirror, knock my chin with my fist, point to myself and say, ‘Ruben, you’re gorgeous!’ and I walk out the door!’

I virtually hired him on the spot.

Now I can assure you that is not exactly the way I motivate myself [and my husband would call for the men in white coats to take me away if I did] but it clearly worked for this candidate and during his interview he convinced me he was the right person for the job.

And after all, isn’t that what we all strive for?

Case in Point – Jeremy Marchant talks about his experience which so aptly illustrates this.

Can we try some alternatives please?

I have heard through the grapevine that a certain restaurant chain interviews anyone who walks through their doors. All they have to do is work in one of their restaurants for a day. Now I would not recommend that procedure as it is not equitable and might come across as trying to get a day’s free labour out of the candidate.

However I applaud them for creatively thinking around the box.

Someone once said, “I would rather sit and talk to the author for 10 minutes than read his book”

While this might be more time consuming and not as practical – would it not be preferable to spend time getting to really know candidates rather than read CV upon CV?

Top Tips from my experience:-

  • Recruit your candidates based more on qualities than skills

 As mentioned, you can train most skills, qualities you cannot. A good example of that is Personality testing. Why do so many companies use them? It is because they want to find out more about the candidates personality. But not all companies have a resident psychometric tester and not all organisations can afford them both time wise and financially. But what every company can do is to develop question banks around the qualities you need for the role rather than the skills or experience.

  • Ask the right questions

 Often I hear – “they just don’t know how to answer the questions.” And that might very well be, but are you asking the right ones? Are you exploring enough about the thinking processes and the decisions they are going to make in the role?

  • Open your mind to transference of learning

 Is it really imperative candidates have experience in your industry? The learning we can take from other industries can be invaluable. I once hired a cadet pilot who was a stock broker in his last life. His quick thinking and decision making, being able to work under pressure and think 3 steps ahead along with other learning he brought with him, made him an ideal candidate.

  • Recruit people better than you.

 They will not only support you but they will make you look good. You can develop them and learn from them.

The ideal attrition rate according to HR experts is approximately 10%. UK attrition is predicted to rise from 14.6% to 18% by 2018. (Source HR

It is not only time consuming when recruiting new people into the organisation but it also burns a hole in your pocket.

Recruiting the right people for the right jobs will not only make your organisation more productive and a happier place to work, it then in turn attracts more of the right people and that can lead to a healthier bottom line.

I would love to hear anyone’s views regarding this and get a conversation going around alternatives to CVs and Interviews.

Do let me have your thoughts.

We are delighted that Rukshana Horwood has agreed to be one of our guest bloggers. She has spent 25 years building her career within the corporate environment and has most recently launched her business Lilipad. She is a delight to meet with and has both interesting and thought provoking views.  I recommend you meet with her if you get an opportunity.



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