Learning Curve: CVs

Are CVs still the best way to list details and accomplishments?

Last Updated: 11 Jul 2012

What are they?

The curriculum vitae - 'the course of one's life' - is the standalone document that tells the story of your career in succinct form. Of course, the details and accomplishments listed ought to be accurate. This was Scott Thompson's undoing at Yahoo recently, when an accounting degree obtained many years ago was misrepresented as including a computer science element as well. The CV is meant to sell you as a candidate, but in the UK at least too much boasting or 'over-claiming' is likely to go down badly. It is also no place for trivia.

Where did they come from?

Wasn't life easier before the dreary onset of 'equal opportunities'? (That is a joke, obviously.) Until the 20th century it wasn't really necessary to produce too many formal documents about one's qualifications. In some protected professions, only chaps from a certain social class or stratum needed to apply. And one's word was enough. As employment became both more orderly and more accessible to others - even women! - it became necessary to use formal documents set out on templates. The standard issue, chronologically based CV was established, and is still widely used today.

Where are they going?

Possibly the way of the cassette recorder, the slide rule and the manual typewriter, on which some of us typed our first CVs. For one thing, social media channels allow us to present a more easily accessible version of ourselves online at any time. For another thing, jobs themselves are changing. One HR director was heard recently suggesting that he could happily limit all job descriptions to the phrase 'must be flexible'. It follows that CVs need to convey flexibility and adaptability as much as anything else. Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your CVs.

Gradient: Skidding downhill fast.

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