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The thing with the CV…

As we all – hopefully – agree by now, employer brands and talent communities don’t exist, engagement is defined by the candidate and experience is about the candidates’ problems instead of the recruiters’.

Now that we have clarified this, let’s have a look at the newest darling of social recruiting events: The death of the CV (often also referred to as The Future of the CV). It’s the newest member in the death/future series including recruitment agencies, recruitment ad agencies, job boards, ATS,… and these examples show us that we are not talking so much about death, but about rebirth, about adapting to new realities.

Years ago, when I first sent out a CV to a potential employer, it was common place to include exhibits of work you had produced (which also spurred us on to get work experience and internships during school and university times), references and recommendations you had received, as well as proof of qualifications. The CV itself was more like an executive summary of your life, giving context to the application and the exhibits.

These days, luckily, people can just include links, which makes it easier to fill a CV with life and makes it more convenient for the recruiter to check out the claims and the person. Soon the common CV might be an aggregated piece of publicly available information (and Mark Schaefer outlines the importance of blogging for Job hunters very nicely in his article “7 reasons every  job-seeker needs to blog”), soon it might include video footage, soon it might not be hosted in a word document, soon it might include learnings from underlying data analysis and comparison, soon it might be updated automatically, but it will still be an executive summary of a person’s life, which will still have a similar structure to the ‘traditional’ CV. After all Curriculum Vitae “can be loosely translated as [the] course of [my] life”. Of course, if our perception of a linear timeline changes, then the traditional course of life transcript might not work anymore.

As we all know, some executive summaries are better written than others, some are based on more information and knowledge than others, some are more inspirational, outlining the future and the argument more clearly than others. But they are all still executive summaries.

The CV won’t die, but it will change, and instead of a CV we might call it a profile, but all in all it will still be the executive summary of a person’s life, describing the course of a person’s life, with embedded exhibits of past experiences. And most importantly, the final product, before submission, still will need sign-off by the person whose name is on the CV and an approved way to contact and communicate with the person.

Posted in Recruitment, Social Media.

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  • Stephen O’Donnell (@stephenodonn)

    Very timely Felix.

    If I take your last point first, yes, a CV must be personal. This may seem obvious, but a CV must be produced by the subject, and not by a third party. That’s what makes it unique, and that’s why it has the potential to be a true representation. A CV which is written by an automated process, a friend (who writes well), independent CV writer, or even a professional recruiter can never capture that quality.

    Having read CV’s professionally for my entire adult life, I want this document (in whatever format) to say “This is me. This is what I have done. This is what I can do”. I want a genuine, authentic sense of the person, and their abilities.

    The most common mistake people make, is to try to include every single detail, in the hope that any one of those details might be the clincher. I look at it differently. If I trust the authenticity of a CV, then I’ll believe their promise of more impressive details when I meet the individual.

    In the absence of real humans writing a CV well, and reading it carefully, we do find ourselves in the hands of automated systems, like an ATS, which are designed to rule-in and rule-out according to their masters. In my view these box ticking exercises are currently the equivalent of recruitment waterboarding, and test the resolve of candidates to get to the end of the process. I suspect many passive, and browsing candidates bail out early.

    Before writing their CV, I recommend people start with their Twitter Bio. If you can pique someone’s interest with 160 characters, you’ve made a very good start.

    • Felix

      Stephen, that is a very good point. Social media helps us inject the authenticity when CVs are automatically assembled or forced into a similar framework.

      “Recruitment waterboarding” is a term I’ve never heard before, but I’ll certainly will use again.

  • http://http// Hung Lee

    Nice try Felix, but expanding the meaning of ‘CV’ to include ANY future summary of a person’s career is stretching the definition beyond the breaking of it. It also disguises some fairly fundamental differences between a career summary that you create, and lock, into a static Word document, and the aggregation of social data that you may actually exercise very little active control over at all.

    It is the change of agency that is significant; the recruitment industry – agencies, job boards, ATS’s, the whole damn thing – are all predicated, first and foremost, on the collection, control and sale of this ‘locked’ candidate data. All of these businesses, are, in effect, warehouses for candidate data, making money by trading access to it to those who wanted to know.

    In the world you accurately outline – where the social profile replaces the static CV – these business models can no longer stand. The control is gone. What is the value of a warehouse when the information is ‘out there’? It’s like selling DVD’s when Spotify was for free. Sure, some people still bought DVD’s regardless, but mostly because they didn’t know any better. But now, even HMV know’s it game over.

    Social data cannot be warehoused in the same way. You stop it from being, you moment you try, creating perhaps, a ‘CV lite’ from the social pieces you’ve grabbed. And if you can’t warehouse it, you can’t trade it. Agencies, ATS’s and Job Boards need to rapidly reimagine their business models in light of this reality or soon stop being businesses at all.

    And so I must take issue with your narrative that the transition from CV1.0 to CV2.0 is some kind of smooth segue, flowing chapters of a readable story. It is more like, a cataclysmic shift, an epochal realignment which will rearrange the pieces and change the recruitment landscape beyond recognition.

    You’re right on one point though; the CV isn’t dead – yet. There is enough vested interest to preserve them long beyond the due date of their rightful extinction. But the end will come, all the same.

    Best wishes


    • Felix

      Hung – let’s look at it from the following angle:

      In Germany it was, & in some case still is normal, that companies would return the CV (plus all the additional exhibits) to the candidate.

      No ware-housing, but the existence of a CV (Lebenslauf/course of life) to give context. At the same time ware-housing wouldn’t have been possible because the exhibits weren’t in electronical format.

      In Germany recruitment agencies didn’t exist, but the CV did. So the CV pre-dates the business models that you outline above and will also outlast newer business models whilst adapting at the same stage.

      These two combined also show that the CV is a tool of communication to find work, not how to make money in the process.

      You are right, business models will change, but that doesn’t mean that the CV will disappear, it means I will represent myself differently and different business model will rise.

      It could be that, for example, lots of my data is available, but I control who can contact me and when ( .

      The challenge we have is the standardised, automated, unauthentic CV as described above by Stephen. How can we overcome this?


  • william fischer

    Hi Stephen, Felix, & Hung,

    Enjoying the debate.

    A real challenge in these types of discussions is agreeing upon what it is exactly that’s being discussed. CV is particularly problematic because even if we all agree on a taxonomic definition (A4, MS Word, Education….) we might still disagree on the functional purpose of the thing.

    Stephen, whose writing I’ve been enjoying lately, puts forth one of my pet peeves on the thing – that it be a personal document. There is a reason why CVs may have evolved the way they have, but the standard form CV today seems to be not the best format for evaluating most candidates. I hate the notion that an employer needs to be a semiotician evaluating font choice, use of Oxford comma, passive vs. active verbs, the centering vs. right justified placement of contact info etc. etc. when it’s quite easy, in many cases, to digitally transfer a virtual portfolio. We need a quick an easy process to build a short-list of candidates and then better tools to evaluate/audition them.

    The notion that a CV needs to be a single, claimed document doesn’t make sense to me. It needs to be accurate but when sourcing passive candidates, for example, the info used to identify them might very well be aggregated from multiple sources. Active candidates should take it upon themselves to make it easier for an individual to assess if they have the minimum qualifications for a role and make it easier to contact them, but a passive candidate is under no such obligation.

    I think that Hung is right that these new sources of data and new tools for interrogating them are incredibly disruptive. He is also right to point out the asset value of these databases. Unfortunately, the CV in its current format and with existing retrieval tools is an asset that depreciates very quickly and is greatly under-utilised. This is where new products like Pipeline, SeeMore, and CloudSource have the potential to be real game changers.

    On the communication front, if a candidate is unemployed and they are being considered for a “dream job,” they probably don’t care if the notification is via a knock on the door at 2 in the morning. But, just because I provided my mobile number with my CV for a specific role 2 years ago, doesn’t mean that I want to get random calls for random opportunities after the fact. With push/pull notifications, social network engagement options (inmails, hangouts, DMs, likes), SMS/Chat, Skype/mobile etc. etc., candidate communication can really be customised and should be.


  • Ivan Stojanovic @IrishRecruiter

    Felix & All,

    Why don’t we call a spade a spade, and just say it aloud. It is not a CV (or resume on the other side of the pond), it is your LinkedIn (profile)?

    There will soon be a year where a statistics will show that more people got a job based on their LinkedIn profile (and presence in general) than a CV. Or do we still not agree on that?

    The author of this comment is not affiliated in any way with LinkedIn. :)

  • Felix

    Thanks Ivan – for me a LinkedIn profile is a CV as a CV is the course of one’s life. Call it CV, call it profile, call it whatever, there will always be an executive summary of a persons life. So the CV won’t die. The way it will be assembled, displayed and commercialised is certainly will change and with it the business models.

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