Don't judge a book by the cover - why a CV only paints a part of the picture.

There are hundreds of websites out there dedicated to helping people crack the code behind writing a great CV, we’ve written a few blogs about it ourselves. They may only be a few pages long, but putting a CV together is something many people find stressful. A point that is often missed in many CV writing tutorials and guides is the fact that, in practice, CVs are not the be-all and end-all of job seeking.

Are there people out there scanning through CVs and dismissing the ones that don’t have specific keywords? Possibly. Can a perfectly written CV get someone through a door? Probably. Regardless of this, the key thing to remember is a CV is, in essence, a marketing document. Understanding what that means and you can use it to your benefit, and make recruiting and job searching both easier and less stressful.

How should Recruiters or Hiring Managers view CVs?

If you’ve recruited for quite a few roles by now, you’ve probably seen it all…great, not so great, in every possible format there is. You’ve also probably experienced picking up the phone to find the idea you got from someone’s CV could not be further from the truth. Making a final call on a candidate simply because of a CV is not only unfair, but it is probably making you lose out on some great people.

Think of it this way: the role you are recruiting for involves a lot of customer interaction and relationship building. You receive a CV that reads well, and the grammar is perfect. Does this mean they are a good candidate? Possibly, but not definitely. They might not have written the document alone or could have had help from a friend, family member, or YouTube tutorial. Conversely, you receive a CV with poor grammar that doesn’t read very well. What conclusions do you draw from this? You could be quite cynical and conclude they are a bad candidate. However, there may be reasons for that. What if they are dyslexic? What if they’ve been in their current role for so long, they haven’t prepared a CV for some time?

Cultural context, generation, career changes, and other elements like neurodivergence can significantly impact the way people present themselves on a CV. These points, however, don’t always make a candidate inherently better or worse suited to a role.

Understanding that a CV is only the first point of contact, the cover of this person’s book, can help you make sure you are also confirming or disproving the first impression you have of the candidate through a different means before moving on. This maximises your chances of finding the candidate you’ve been looking for.

How should Candidates approach writing a CV?

As a job seeker, it can be scary to feel like everything about us is being judged based on what’s written on a few pieces of paper. That’s why CVs are sometimes such a difficult thing to put together. However, even if it is the standard in the professional world, only relying on your CV may not be the best strategy to get you the jobs, conversations, and connections you are looking for.

Instead of thinking about your CV as an insider piece through which a recruiter or employer can learn everything about you, think of it as a presentation card. Imagine you are at an event, and you see someone you want to speak to. You wouldn’t walk up to them, hand them your card in silence and walk away, would you? The card is a way in, it’s a conversation starter; your CV is no different.

Treating your CV as an accessory rather than the main event will not only help you keep it concise and to the point, but it will make your job-seeking strategy much more efficient. Scrap the irrelevant details and replace them with direct contact. Once you’ve handed over your presentation card, follow up with a conversation. That could look like messaging a recruiter you’ve added to your network on LinkedIn recently or calling the number at the bottom of the job ad you’re thinking of applying to. The best way to complete the picture for the person whose interest you’re looking to peak is by speaking to them.

So are CVs still relevant?

 Overall, when both sides of the job-seeking equation look at a CV the same way- as only the first look at a complex picture, the chances of understanding who the real person looking for a new role is, are much better. You may not be the perfect candidate, but you will always know that decision was based on more than words on paper.



Written by Arantza Asali.

Click here to email Arantza, or click here to meet the rest of the team.

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