By Barbara du Preez-Ulmi. I hope this article doesn’t flutter onto your screen in the middle of your writing or updating your CV, as that will trigger the immediate question of whether you should even bother. Recruiters, hiring managers and human resource professionals still require a CV when you apply to a vacancy. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily the right thing, and that it will be like this forever. It’s important to challenge the status quo as else we won’t progress and evolve in how and why we do things as human beings.
Had Rosa Sparks not given up her seat on the bus, the Civil Rights movement in the US might have started much later than it did. Without Brian, Nathan and Joe’s big idea of the AirBnB, there would be no challenge to the current accommodation system. And without Elizabeth Blackwell (who in 1849 was the first woman to ever receive a medical degree), we might still only go and see male doctors.
A global mind-shift: gender, culture, female influences
We are undergoing a massive shift in how we manage human capital. This includes how we value a human being as part of the economy, and how we tap into machine-learning and cognitive technology, for instance. Given our increased global collaboration, we have become much more sensitive to generational, gender and cultural differences. Looking at the emergence of innovative solutions for renewable energy, crowd-based and cloud-stored solutions, the angel investor and social entrepreneur as some of the core developments of the last decade, I am inclined to say that there is a worldwide shift in moving away from a traditional, hierarchical and male dominated socioeconomic system to one that is starting to embrace changes that are ordinarily associated with a more female approach or thinking.
Have you noticed the emerging trends in the workplace around learning, enabling, empathetic behaviour, personal development, culture design, flat hierarchy and open door communication , just to name a few? Even on a macro-level, this trend is starting to affect how we re-structure our approach to international conflict resolution by including women in the peacebuilding process, and by scrutinising conflict resolution models that don’t hold when applied in a multi-cultural environment. Unless we include everyone’s voice, our solutions to any challenge will fall short.
Now what does this have to do with your CV?
Resumes have started coming into play in the 1900s. Back then, we listed our weight, height, marital status and religion. In the 1950s, resumes have become mandatory and started to include personal interests or hobbies. But only as of the 1970s did we start giving our CVs a more professional look and it has since become our primary personal marketing tool.
Your CV gives a chronological description of your achievements, professional and educational background and it contains biometric or demographic information. It’s all about the past – at the best of times, it’s a short summary, at the worst, a laundry list of 15 pages. (I have seen it all, and everything in between, when hiring staff for myself or for clients).
The past gives an employer or recruiter a report on what has been achieved. But the core question should be: What will this candidate achieve for my company or client? What are his or her dreams, future plans, and is there untapped talent – is there a hunger to evolve and to learn more? Who is the person behind the piece of paper? Do they communicate well, and how? Will they bring positive change just through who they are?
Let’s shift our focus away from the past and into future potential
Sure, these questions can be answered during screening or hiring interviews. But the initial focus is wrong. The initial focus should be on current capabilities, personality, and how this person will be able to move the business or project forward. I believe that we tend to overlook great talent because we’re so fixed on a pre-set list of requirements. We zoom into their highest degree, type of businesses that they worked for; age, name, gender, ethnicity and job titles they had. We are conditioned to think that great talent has to be able to demonstrate a steady educational and career path, and that intelligence is only about the level of our IQ.
What if we dramatically change our approach in order to first see the human being, and then the documentation? I predict that not only will we save time in the recruitment process (all of you who are trawling through CVs regularly will know what I’m speaking about), but the process will be fairer (especially in a context where labour and economical transformation is key) and we will find better talent.
After all, forward-thinking companies already use a new sales approach too: The one of story-telling, of value-driven proposals and backed up by inbound marketing principles where the core is to attract a buyer through responding to his needs, and not through sending them to a homepage packed with a laundry-list of product features and awards achieved.
What the future holds
It is time we stop asking for resumes as part of the initial application process. It is time that we ask for this only further down the funnel, if at all. And how do we apply to jobs then, you ask – or recruit candidates?
A shift in focus from past to real potential:
- Create an online questionnaire or assignment/test that reveals a candidate’s skills, creative thinking, and communication abilities. You might not even want to ask for anything else than their first name. It helps to build a plagiarism check into your system, and to add an indemnity form that their work is entirely theirs. You might also want to use an online classroom environment for this with specific log in and log out times.
- Invite qualifying candidates to a group interview during which you have the opportunity to assess their interpersonal skills, their verbal expression, and demeanour and knowledge.
- Invite the top candidates to a team-building event or a group discussion with your current employees, while at this stage only asking for their CV, or simply necessary bio data and other details as per your country’s legal requirements.
Once we start thinking creatively, we’ll find more solutions and processes that will work similar to the above. Here again the main reasons why I predict CVs will soon be a thing of the past, in a summary:
Why CVs will soon be a thing of the past
- It takes a long time to trawl through 3-15 page long Curriculum Vitae;
- Because CVs contain a lot of information, and recruiters see more than one at a time, they are often just scanned but not really digested;
- Resumes focus on your past and not your future potential;
- Past achievements are often laundry lists that don’t tell us much unless we see abilities and skills in action and in context;
- The first thing recruiters see on a CV are name, gender, location, and perhaps race, age and your profile picture – this may lead to (sub)conscious discrimination right from the start;
- CVs are often inflated – after all, we want to sell ourselves and there is a lot of noise to get through; and
- If you focus on acquiring candidates within a contextualised, current, knowledge- and personality-based approach, you’ll find the right candidate much quicker.
And cover letters? Oh yes, they reveal quite a bit about a candidate. And if you are the one applying to the job: This is the one area where you can certainly stand out from the crowd and make your application personal. I will write more about this and best practice in the near future.
And what questions should I ask to get the answers I need? An excellent question – which shall be answered soon in one of my upcoming blogs. I am busy assembling some real life scenarios and tips about asking the right questions, and I hope to hear from you, too.
What about references? Well, my opinion on these is not mainstream. They are not always as revealing, beneficial and truthful as you think. Again, it depends on what you ask, and on your ability to “listen between the lines”. For as long as there is no civil law obligation to reveal personal information between past and future employers I’d suggest to rather review their public social media activities, their criminal record, and perhaps invite them for a cup of coffee in a busy restaurant to see how they deal with noise, strangers and staff waiting on them.
Enjoy your cuppa.
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