Why CVs Are So Useless (And Recruiters Don't Care)

Why CVs Are So Useless (And Recruiters Don't Care) iStock

The humble CV has seemed a rather antiquated part of the recruitment process for some time now. I mean how much can you really tell about an individual from the words they put own on a couple of sides of A4?  I question how valid they are at communicating the drier aspects of our careers, much less the kind of people we actually are.

Indeed, various studies have shown how poor the recruitment process generally is, with a large number of new hires failing to make it past the traditional six month probationary period in their new role.

Of course, this rather dismal success rate doesn’t seem to stop the CV being the fulcrum of the recruitment process. Recruiters still believe that they can gauge all manner of insights into each candidate by giving the CV a cursory glance. Alas, a recent study highlights just how misguided this thinking is, and reveals that most recruiters don’t gain any further understanding of a candidate via their CV.

The CV Fallacy

The study saw hundreds of professional recruiters tasked with evaluating some CVs placed before them. They were asked to make an estimation of the personality of each candidate purely from the information supplied to them on the two page CVs for each candidate.  These evaluations were then compared with self-evaluations made by each of the people who had compiled the CV.

Not only did the recruiters generally do a rubbish job at estimating the correct personality of each candidate, they then compounded this error by stubbornly drawing very heavily on this flawed conclusion to determine just how hireable  that person was.  Indeed, it emerged that the self-analysis of each candidate was a pretty poor indicator of whether the recruiters would pick them or not.

The hypothesis was tested further in a second experiment that saw participants asked to play a recruiter in a role play. They were presented with CVs that had been broken down into their various parts, which revealed how the different sections of the CV can provoke particular judgements about the candidate’s personality.

For instance, the design of the CV may infer information about the conscientiousness of the candidate while any mention of voluntary work will trigger assumptions about the agreeableness of that person.

The experiment found that the recruiters were most likely to come to conclusions about traits such as extraversion, openness and conscientiousness, which was very similar to the biases of professional recruiters. Indeed, the more they believed an element represented that trait, the more likely they were to use that when assessing the candidate’s suitability for the job.

See Also: How to Get a Job Without a CV

Given the continued weight given to CVs in the recruitment process, this is a valuable insight into the thought processes that many recruiters seem to go through. The authors suggest that taking a bit of time to try and craft a fair impression of who you are is valuable. They also recommend that you use a few less than obvious tips, such as, for instance, describing your extracurricular activities, not using any unusual fonts and going into some detail about your education.