>Do we still need traditional CVs?

>Hi all, it’s been a long while since I last blogged. Mostly to do with lack of time. Time off here, looking after kids there, getting courses delivered. You know, life. I am tweeting a lot though – A LOT!

Anyhow, this week I went to the L&D HRD exhibition hosted by the CIPD. By Lord, we do like our acronyms don’t we. It was a good day of conferences, seminars, topic tasters and learning arena sessions. I appreciated some presentations more than others, and that’s partly because I think I’m a bit of a know it all. Partly because I’m quite harsh on presenters. Partly because the content wasn’t anything new. All that aside, I did come away with a lot of food for thought.
One of these is about the use of the traditional CV. In an age when social media and social networking sites are central to how you live your life, the question has to be asked – do we still need traditional CVs? Well let’s first discuss the role of a traditional CV. Your CV should give an immediate insight into your key skills, abilities and experience. That’s always been the tradition. And, you know, include things like: education, qualifications, opening statement, personal details. Sure, fine, great. I’ve said this in a previous post (http://pabial.blogspot.com/2009/12/those-damned-cvs.html) – this tells the potential employer nothing about you as an individual and how you may approach work, your attitude, and your probable fit to the company/organisation you’re about to be part of.
Interviews/assessment centres/recruitment practices are designed to evaluate those things. But that’s once they’ve got passed the CV stage when you’re already committing time and resource to evaluate these candidates further. Wouldn’t it be great to have a pool of 12 potentially great candidates all bringing something to the party none of the other offers, and have a hard discussion choosing who you think is the best of the best bunch?
This is where I think social media plays a part. We’re in a world now where every employer is concerned about making the right choice, the first time. We want our new starters to fly through their probation, get confirmed in post, and ultimately make us money while enjoying the work they do.
At the HRD conference, one of the presentations was about how to get the best out of Generation Y – anyone born roughly after 1980. This generation use technology as part of their daily lives, not thinking about what life might be without them, or even being able to comment on how life used to be without them. The presenter (I forget his name, very bad of me, he runs Unlimited Potential), gave a story where the punchline was from a daughter to her father: “Dad, if I gave a presentation about how to use a fridge, would you want to hear about it?” in response to why she didn’t watch her father deliver a presentation on how to use the internet. Gen Y see modern technology as being a fridge – it’s there, it exists, you use it for what you need and when you’re done you move onto the next thing.
So why’s that important? Because more and more people are using social media and social networking sites to interact and learn about the world on a daily basis:
– In October 2009 LinkedIn had 50million users worldwide http://blog.linkedin.com/2009/10/14/linkedin-50-million-professionals-worldwide/
– Facebook currently has 400million active users http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
– Twitter currently has 21.2million unique visitors http://siteanalytics.compete.com/twitter.com/?metric=uv
(above sites all courtesy of http://socialmediastatistics.wikidot.com/)
These are staggering figures. Amazingly staggering. And that’s not a complete picture of the social media space, just a choice of three. What does that tell us? Well here’s some of the things I think are important from just the figures.
It’s accepted now that you can be (and most likely will be) looked up through one of these social networking sites. That means in effect your potential employer has complete sight of what you are likely to bring to their organisation in terms of your: attitude, work ethic, potential fit, and a host of other traits not immediately obvious from your traditional CV.
What does that mean for candidates? They have to either be very deliberate about how they use these social networking sites, or be open to scrutiny from potential employers. As an example, I’m serious about L&D. It’s my life and I love it. However, my twitter feed may not show that as I tend to rant a lot on there, or tweet about work/office/company related things, but not a lot about my passion for L&D. My LinkedIn profile doesn’t say a lot about my work experience, my education or the skills/knowledge/abilities I have as an L&D professional. My blog, is the only place someone would know I care about L&D. Am I ok with that? Yes, I am. Only because I’ve made a very determined choice that I won’t be deliberate about how I’m potentially perceived by future employers. There’s a host of people who will violently disagree with my approach and will recommend that if you want to be serious about your job, future jobs, and your career, then your online presence has to reflect what you want to be.
But what about how employers should use social media to find out about you? I mean, they have to be open, fair, consistent in their approach and not allow prejudices or biases to influence their potential hiring decisions. Well this is a whole other can of worms. My initial thoughts on this centre on the following.
1) If a company wants to find out about you, they have to be open about that from the outset on their job advert/site/promotion. You as a candidate then have the option to either allow that to happen or not.
2) The company has to be explicitly clear about the criteria they have for the job role, and therefore what they are looking to find out about you from the sites you have a profile on.
3) If they choose not to bring you in for interview, there must be a direct piece of feedback that relates to the above, and informs the candidate why they weren’t chosen.
4) Once you’ve been chosen to be brought in to interview, your use of social media has to be part of the equation as that’s part of how you were selected in the first place.
There’s a lot to now consider in the role of recruitment. Recruitment agencies need to be clear about how to advise candidates how they use social media. Employers need to be clear about what’s acceptable and why they may want to search social networking sites. Candidates need to be clear about the information they make available to anyone with internet access. Eventually this will lead to further guidance from governing bodies such as the CIPD, ACAS, legislation and employment law professionals. But my impression is that’s a long way off.
So is there a need for traditional CVs? Yes. Are they the be all and end all of what an employer will use to select you for future roles? No. How do you then decide to act on any of this for the future? Talk to someone who is best placed to advise about any of this. In this day and age, recruitment specialists are not the purveyors of all recruitment best practice. Look around you, you’ll be surrounded by people who use social media in one form or another. They’re the ones to seek input from and in some instances, advice from.
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>Those damned CVs

>Oh my. Yesterday I was re-introduced to the world of CVs. I fucking hate poorly written CVs. They make me very mad. Hence my swearing. Which I apologise for. Good release for annoyances though you understand. Anyway, as it stands there are some very poorly written CVs in the world and I have to rectify this. It is an evil which I can not and will not idly support!

Right, so let’s start from the beginning. Your introduction. If you are a school leaver I will expect you to spout such nonsense as ‘I am a team player and work well with others. I am also happy to work by myself if required.’ By God, what a lot of nothing. Acceptable but means nothing. Similarly ‘I have remarkable organisational ability’. Or ‘I thrive on new and exciting challenges’ Or ‘I am looking to step into a new role offering me a challenge from which I can develop’. However, if you are a professional i.e. someone who is embarking on their career or is in the throes of their career, such statements are bland, pointless, meaningless, unneccesary, uncreative and plain stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

How have you not amassed enough work experience to know that work demands that you work by yourself and as part of a team all at the same time? Or that you will be challenged because that is how work operates? If you are in a job which offers no or little challenge then you are doing yourself a disservice and you need to leave your job. Now.

Your introduction has to say something interesting otherwise it will go in the bin in the first few seconds. Seriously. Say something like ‘The world of interactive gaming offers a lot of innovation and free thought which I enjoy being part of. I enjoy coming up with new ways of engaging a gaming audience so that they are completely immersed in the experience I design.’ Really? You feel that strongly about stuff? Fuck me, let’s bring you in for an interview. Whereas if it reads something like ‘I have experience of building and designing a range of platform based games as well as adventure based games. I am looking forward to working in a new field to learn new skills and develop the ones I currently have.’ Then I have a simple response. Get lost.

Ok then we come on to the educational qualifications. Give me strength. Why, if you are a professional do you see the need to talk about your GCSEs? Seriously? GCSEs? What do they tell me about your ability to do the job? How does getting an ‘A’ in Geography tell me that you know anything about merchandising or about HR or about Account Planning or about Finance? Tell me what bits of your education history are relevant. Primarily, your degree or last major qualification. That’s it. I can assume then you’ve done well enough to get to that point. If you haven’t and you’re one of those gifted individuals who left school and did not go into further education then forget mentioning anything at all about which school you went to. It won’t make a difference to your application. Really.

Work experience. This is the year 2009. I need to only know about the work experience relevant to the last 10 years at most. Do not tell me about what you were doing in 1990. It is not relevant. Ever. And only tell me about your key achievements. I don’t need a complete breakdown of every single task you’ve ever done. I am intelligent enough to deduce that if you are working at X level you are able to do some of the basics. ‘Responsible for strategic direction or all agency accounts’, ‘responsible for new business and marketing of agency’, ‘training team and others in industry trends’. Oh how mundane and lifeless. Tell me something like ‘One of my key achievements was to roll out a programme on how to develop a strategic direction as an agency. This involved getting buy-in from department heads, and seeking approval from Exec sponsors. It taught me the importance of building relationships with key people and how to listen to the needs of the team.’ You actually learned something from work? Blow me over and call me Nancy.

Interests? Unless you are the Mother F*?!ing Theresa I care about your interests as much as I care about what Gordon Brown has for breakfast. Even then, Mother Theresa wouldn’t need to talk about her interests. Stop. Please. If you have a key skill such as being tri-lingual then I expect to see that mentioned in a section called ‘Key Skills’. Not your interests. It’s not an interest. It’s a KEY SKILL.

Which lastly brings me onto the presentation and layout of a CV. I actually have little to say about this except the following. We’re in a digital age. Have you considered making your CV online? Creating your very own CV webpage? Consider this. In an age when digital is integral to daily life, why create a CV? What does it say about you that a blog or a webpage can’t say better? With 18.3 million households having access to the internet (source: www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?ID=8), how are you not considering this a way forward? Application forms are a topic for a later blog. Mostly, they’re useless.

Phew. If you want to sensor check your CV then please find someone credible enough to do this for you. I’m far from the only person able to do this. I just care enough to blog about it. By credible I mean anyone but a recruitment consultant. Honestly they know as much about CV writing as they know about flying to the moon. These leeches are only agents trying to place a potential candidate with a potential employer. Period. Find someone who you trust and is senior to you and ask them to do it. They’ll give you great advice about if your CV works.

UPDATE 15/12/2010 – I’ve been very unkind to recruitment consultants in that last paragraph. Since writing this post, I’ve expanded my online network and now talk very regularly to folks working in the recruitment industry. Those I talk to are inspiring and forward thinking individuals who recognise the perceptions around their industry and are trying to make a change for the better. If you’re in my network, and I talk to you, hopefully, I’ve not offended you – if I have please accept an apology from me.