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.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Leadership lessons from Jürgen Klopp

The Liverpool manager exemplifies ‘the long win’, based not on results but on clarity of...

How to get a grip on stress

Once a zebra escapes the lion's jaws, it goes back to grazing peacefully. There's a...

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

What I learned leading a Syrian bank through a civil war

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...