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Tear Up The CVs

By April 11, 20139 Comments

When I received yet another CV yesterday saying that the candidate could “work well in a team and also autonomously” I wondered, what is the bloody point of this?  Why do we still insist on receiving a daunting stack of CV’s for every job we recruit when they have by and large melted down into a characterless, amorphous pile of generic clichés?

I was having a chat with Seth O’Meara at JobX Solutions this week and he reminded me of the simple solution of adding an “Apply with LinkedIn” button to a website instead of always making people fill in complicated registration forms and uploading CVs at the end of wordy job ads.  It’s so obvious in its’ simplicity that you’ll probably see it on our website very soon.  It’s also an ideal solution for applying from mobile computing devices that don’t have your CV stored on them.

We are told, as recruiters, to pursue the holy grail of the “passive jobseeker” to fill our clients’ vacancies with the best talent, following the logic that the top talent in the market won’t be actively looking for a job because they don’t need to.  So why would we then expect the passive talent that we work so hard to connect with, engage, and attract, to spend their evening updating a clunky old Word document and tweaking the usual array of tired old statements and achievements when all your client is going to do is look at their most recent work experience anyway?

The “Apply with LinkedIn” app made an appearance a couple of years ago now but I’ve seen very few examples of its use here in New Zealand.  But with one click, a curious potential jobseeker can make a subtle approach, with a “CV” that is already kept regularly up to date anyway.  Seems like genius to me, so why do we persist with old-fashioned techniques?  I spoke to an internal recruiter yesterday who is recruiting graphic designers for her company.  Every time an ad is posted online it heralds a deluge of CV’s all saying pretty much the same thing.  So some kind of CV screening process has to be constructed, followed by lengthy phone screening, massively time-consuming formal interviewing, and then the final test, a project given to the final clutch of job hopefuls, to showcase their actual graphic design skills.  The last time this was done they weren’t happy with any of the work produced, so the process is starting all over again.

Why not just set some form of contest at the outset, and make everyone interested in the job prove their design skills before the CV is even sent?

It occurred to me late last year that a placement I had just made had been done entirely without a CV.  It wasn’t the end result of a clever, highly engineered process whereby new systems were set up to enable the referral of candidates without CVs.  It was just the outcome of a passive jobseeker making contact, asking me to keep a casual eye out for opportunities, me eventually finding a suitable one, talking to the prospective client about him, looking over the LinkedIn profile together on the phone, setting up an interview, and finally moving to offer.

It was so natural I only realised I didn’t have a CV when I went to look up his home address to send the employment agreement to.

But still I have other clients who will love the sound of a candidate, but sit on their hands, sometimes for days, for a CV to be updated and produced, before then agreeing to set up an interview.  I just don’t see the point anymore.

Most of us are developing such an online persona nowadays that employers and recruiters are increasingly skimming over CVs before going straight to social media to learn the real truth of a candidate’s background and personality.  You can now apply for jobs directly through Twitter and our very own Kirsti Grant from Social Sauce is doing some recruitment work for a forward-thinking Accounting firm where applications can only be made via Twitter.

The jury’s still out on the effectiveness of this, and Kirsti has promised to let us know how it goes (update in the comments here if you like Kirsti?!)  But I admire the chutzpah to give it a go.  As recruiters we seem to demand CVs because we almost need to prove to clients that we are working hard to produce documentation to validate our placement fee.

Tear up your CVs.  Get real.  It’s time to move on.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Kevin C says:

    Hallelujah Jonathan. Have been saying it for years, but clients still insist on
    “paper” even though it isn’t! Only issue is that lots don’t keep their LinkedIn profile up-to-date or else they have sketchy information in it. I’ve also been told that some keep it short and sweet because they are concerned about their current employer thinking they are on the hunt. Still these are minor factors really.

    As an industry, I think we have a responsibility to promote the “new norms”, but then as an industry, we’re still a bit caught in the “90s” and reluctant to change ourselves! I remember talking with the team recently and was told by one “long-termer” that “CVs won’t disappear in my lifetime”. I suggested that perhaps he may be foreseeing something happening to himself such as being hit by a bus. With LinkedIn we have a fantastic database and tool that has cost us nothing to set up, but gives us immeasurable value to help us do business. I don’t think it will be long until we say “good bye database and CV”.. Let’s hope it’s very soon!

  • Adrian Coysh says:

    Some CVs run to many pages through necessity (ie Contractors who have had lots of jobs). I don’t want a LinkedIn CV going too long – just the bullet points please. I never read the “brag page” as I call it, telling me how you can work autonomously and as well as in a team etc. Just tell me what your skills are, and how they were utilised in your previous roles. CV builders always say this part of a CV is important, but if you are looking at CVs all day long this becomes a waste of time

    What you can do is tell the client that you have identified a candidate whom you are interviewing for a role, ref checking etc and direct them to their Linkedin profile so that they have an idea of whom you will soon be recommending. I specialise in contract roles, and it can speed decision making up (or stop you wasting time should they already know the candidate and would not be requiring their services).

    If you have a good relationship with a client who values your judgement, they will be more interested in your summary of compatibility rather than what the candidate says about themselves generically on a CV.

    Lastly, it is amazing to see how many people do not have a LinkedIn profile, or one that lists only the most basic of information, which more or less says nothing.

  • Hi Jonathan, great article!
    I can’t say I completely LOVE updating and altering my CV every time I want to apply for a position and why shouldn’t we be using LinkedIn profile as a CV? My LinkedIn profile is almost a replica of my current CV and I only list the most recent roles, and the roles that I find are relevant for the path I want to take career wise.
    I have also find in past experiences that my CV or Cover Letter don’t portray my personality and energy as I would like it to and I am often mis-judged on my capabilities and enthusiasm because all they read is my background on paper.
    The move to social media is the best way to improve recruitment and to find out about the candidate’s fit and personality which you can never get from a paper based CV.

  • Craig Watson says:

    Great article as usual! Wouldn’t it be nice if Seek and other job boards gave an option to upload Linked In Profile in response to ads… Trouble with the plug in on your corporate website is that we somehow have to direct the traffic there….

  • I completely agree, the days of tired old CVs should be over. We are constantly recommending to our clients to forego CV’s especially for volume recruitment.

  • Excellent stuff, Jon. Really well said. I agree.
    I’ve been around recruitment so long I can remember when, occasionally, clients would request to see a candidate’s cover letter so they could ‘take a look at their hand writing’.

  • jess says:

    Well written Jon, I do agree with your thoughts. What concerns me as a recruiter is the conflicting advice our candidates receive from either “professional cv writers” or otherwise agencies who demand candidates to alter their cv to each role they apply for. Little do they know, by wasting time doing this, as you said – we are looking for the work experience, time spent in the role, and if the duties match the title. Simple as that. Why complicate a simple document of work history – that’s all it is right?
    Secondly – I envisage us all having our own personalised ID (if not a google id) which, like linkedin; will hold all of our work history, credentials and the like on the web. Everyone will be able to see it, no privacy, and we will probably be walking around with ‘nick names’ which we use our phone to purchase items as we buy our subway etc.
    imagine that!

  • Jon – agree and such is the rapid pace of change in our industry. I think the CV debate will be an interesting “watch this space”. I’m getting more and more Candidates emailing asking me to “refer to their Linked In Profile” over sending me a CV. I’m not sure I like this approach, it seems a bit Gen Y lazy in my book!

    On the Client side, it’s a similar issue to attatching “interview notes”. Some Clients want this, yet some never read them. I think it depends on size and scale of the client i.e. are they a large Corporate or a SME, is the recruitment relationship with a business owner v line manager v In-house Recruitment team, in-house compliance and how candidates are physically referred i.e. via a database registration process.

    Perhaps some Clients want CV’s from us because they may see a CV with Agency brand template and interview comments attached as a more vetted, verified and accurate document, over something “unqualified” like a generic LinkedIn profile? This could be debatable of course but like everything it’s about perception!

  • Glenn says:

    Great comments to all. I am interested to hear peoples thoughts. The problem is with Linkedin in New Zealand is people don’t really know how to utilise it to its full potential. Take for example receiving a magic box of exotic food ingredients you have never eaten before and be asked to come up with producing a fancy dish to eat. Unless you have knowledge with the fancy ingredients to cook with or in the case of applying for a role through Linkedin you need to know the exact information that is required on your linkedin profile eg roles, experience, connections etc and ascertain the the reasons recruiters, HR and reporting managers need or require this particular information.
    I would be very interested to hear back on what exactly puts you in the running ( for the role ) based on whats on your Linkedin profile. I think with social media it can get a bit blurred with twitter, facebook and of course Linkedin is with the connections we wish to make or have on out profiles. Do recruiters want connections that match to the similar organisations that we have worked for??
    Another thing what happens say you have a role working in freight for instance. Your connections may all be industry related but you the candidate want to persue a role in a different sector for example finance. Are recruiters just going to skim through Linkedin profiles and make connections with profiles that closly match their requirements?? ( Based on the profiles ) and make quick decisions?? they could be candidates that may not want to further continue within that sector and want to work in another sector provided their core hard skills match that sector.