Why the cv is dead

Joseph Williams from Clu says the cv is an inadequate way of sifting talent in the data age and excludes a lot of potential talent.

Image of a cv on a tablet indicating how to avoid age discrimination


The CV is one of the most ineffective tools still being used by organisations today. Poor productivity, motivation and inclusion, high employee churn rates, even the great resignation, these issues can all be traced back to one fundamental flaw in the way we continue to hire people.

Why? Because CVs are the biggest barrier to entry in recruitment as they are anchored to subjectivity and bias. But I’m not talking about the trope of unconscious bias. Far more insidious in the recruitment process are the selection and confirmation biases that manifest.

If a person is privileged enough to know how to write a CV that will get picked up by sifting or automation technologies, they are set. If you present yourself in the right way via the things you say, you are already in with a significantly greater chance of getting interviewed. The only issue with that is we now have 78% of people who exaggerate, embellish or even lie on their CVs because they’re manipulating their experience to fit roles they’re applying for. And what’s more, even after this, Gartner recently found that 80% of employees still don’t have the right skills for their jobs.

A focus on experience before skill is the root cause of this problem.  At inclusive recruitment platform Clu, we spoke with over 800 hiring managers over the past year to understand what they are looking for in people they were currently hiring; 95% could not break this down to specific skills.

The problem this presents to organisations is that if they hire for experience instead of strengths and skills, they can never assess candidates properly, because they’re looking at what candidates have done, instead of what they can do to determine if they are right or capable of succeeding in a job. And the CV is key to this problem. Across many other disciplines, we have embraced the value of more complex and meaningful data to produce greater, more accurate results. However, in recruitment, current interventions are not crafting ways to solve these critical issues, they are further entrenching them.

Societal impacts

Moving past the significant impact this has on motivation, productivity, inclusion and job satisfaction, there are unavoidable societal implications too. Government research has found that people from a wealthier background are nearly 80 per cent more likely to secure jobs in ‘professional sectors’ than those from a working-class background. Applicants with Asian or African-sounding names must send twice as many job applications as those with a “British” name to get an interview. Women were also less likely to be invited to interview than men. This is clearly penalising so many talented individuals and is exacerbating the current social mobility problem and limiting access to talent pools so vitally required by organisations to sustain talent pipelines.

Simply put, talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. The war for talent is a myth perpetuated by recruitment organisations that want you to believe they are the conduit to accessing talent and CVs and cover letters only serve to entertain this mistruth. And so long as we uphold systems and processes that enable them, we will continue to alienate and exclude vast populations of skilled but non-traditional talent from meaningful work.

Talent underpins competitive advantage. And inclusive employee experience will be the dealbreaker in organisations being able to retain talent to reap these benefits over the coming years. If we start moving towards a more data-rich and actionable data set to underpin recruitment, we can not only make better and more accurate hiring decisions, but can also start offering holistically better candidate experience, onboarding, learning and development plans. The knock-on effects being enhanced long term outcomes such as retention, motivation, productivity and innovation.

It is clear that CVs aren’t working, and we need a new way of qualifying and making the hiring process work better for everyone. Accuracy, inclusion and experience needs to be the focus. Everyone shouldn’t be applying for every job. An equitable job market is one that elevates everybody into opportunities they would be good at. We need to use more technology and AI to eradicate bias and use technology that does not just focus on CV sifting.

*Joseph Williams is CEO of Clu, an inclusive recruitment platform which matches job opportunities to candidates helping organisations make better, more informed hiring decisions from significantly broader pools of talent.  For more information please click here.  

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