Is the CV dead?

Digital technologies are changing how we apply for jobs, calling into question the role of the humble curriculum vitae.

Last Updated: 31 May 2017

Applying for a job used to be easy – print off your CV, bang out a cover letter, pop it in the post, repeat 25 times and wait. For the hapless employers on the other end, not so much. It’s a rare soul, after all, whose idea of a fun Wednesday evening is to sift through three-foot stacks of shameless braggadocio, in different formats, of different lengths, with varying amounts of often irrelevant detail.

The online age has lightened that load, by shifting a lot of the information into digital form. Applicants generally now enter their work and educational history into a form, which both allows easier comparison and prevents you from telling employers things that they feel might bias their decision (the application is often name-blind, gender-blind or even university-blind, for instance). The employer, meanwhile, can use software to weed out the no-hopers.

So where does that leave the humble CV, the job-hunter’s one-time best friend?

Rumours of the CV’s demise are frankly exaggerated, says Mark Staniland, MD for Hays, London City. ‘A CV is not the determining factor as to whether an employer hires someone, but it is still crucial in most instances.’

For roles and industries that require specific hard skills and experience, such as engineering or coding, the CV will continue to determine at least which feet get through which doors.

In the service economy, however, increasingly it is what happens afterwards that will decide your fate. ‘A CV will not help a hiring manager to adequately assess less technical, soft skills, such as emotional intelligence traits and cultural fit,’ says Staniland.

Rather than rely on you explaining how great your people skills are in a CV, it makes more sense for companies to see it in person through interviews, assessment centres and, increasingly, unpaid graduate internships.

This has led some to believe the storytelling element of the CV is disappearing. ‘Since the digital revolution, the CV has become a personal record, which is referred to when completing an online application,’ says Charlie Taylor, founder of graduate recruitment app Debut.

It helps that many people essentially keep an up-to-date job history in their LinkedIn profile, but Facebook and Twitter accounts are also becoming more important tools for attracting employer attention, according to Staniland.

Of course, none of this actually does away with the need for the well-thought out, up-to-date CV. Even if you don’t upload it in full to a site, the process of writing a CV will have helped you figure out how best to present your strengths and your story, and indeed identify which areas you need to work on. But it seems to be increasingly unlikely that you’ll be able to rely on the CV to tell that story. Better get working on your interview technique...


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