Good riddance to the CV. Hello, new talent

Employers want something beyond conforming to mechanical form-filling

The CV does not always tell you what you are looking for. Getty Images
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Forget the CV. It’s finished. Drop, too, the focus on the class of degree — that’s going as well.

Writing for Management Today, Adam Stolerman, managing partner at executive search firm TritonExec, declares: “Something has shifted in the way that global companies search for and retain their leadership talent. CVs and job descriptions are out. Creating a community of executives with the skills, experience and proven ability to meet specific current and future challenges is in, at least for the world’s most dynamic organisations.”

Stolerman goes on to say: “Over half of recruiters are in favour of it, according to research that highlighted an increasing wariness among hiring managers of the limitations of résumés and other traditional hiring techniques when trying to identify candidates with the exact skills and experience required.”

Meanwhile, major employers, including PwC and Santander, are scrapping the requirement for a first or 2:1. They’re still seeking graduates, but how they performed at university is of little interest. How soon before even that higher education requirement goes completely?

As someone who used to conduct the final interviews for graduate trainees, I well remember the value of the CV. I would scan it quickly, then toss it to one side.

What happened next was down to the candidate and me, in conversation. My one abiding mental yardstick was, do I want to work with this person?

That was it. I didn’t explore their school years, their hobbies and interests, where they had secured their work experience, college place and class of degree.

Partly, it was because I knew someone would have been through all that before me. But also, it was because the CV was worthless.

They were all pretty much the same, there was little to distinguish them. All high achievers, apparently. There was this boast and that claim, a place at this prestigious school and that famous university, when what really mattered was the likelihood of them being able to do the job, whether they displayed genuine interest and hunger, and if they would “fit”.

Strong CV, weak candidate

The CV tells you none of those things. What you’re basing your decision on is instinct and rapport, a sense — not, on the obtaining of all A stars and a first.

A young, junior colleague was in the habit of telling his workmates exactly that — he’d got all A stars in his A levels and a first-class degree. Eventually, I took him to one side and told him no one cared, that I had no idea which school and university most of our colleagues had attended and their exam results.

It was of no interest, no importance compared with, were they good people and did they do the job well?

Often, it was those with the strongest CVs on paper who made the worst interviewees. Yes, they might have been to Oxbridge and, yes, they obtained a first, but could they string two sentences together, would they work happily with others, would the staff be happy with them?

I recall one interview round. The graduate with the weakest CV, who hadn’t captained his school at rugby and did not go to Oxford or Cambridge, was also by far the most personable and the one who, while he was at his lesser-regarded university, had put together a student newsletter from scratch for followers of the local football team.

That displayed initiative and enterprise. This self-starter got the job.

Says Stolerman: “A typical resume might inform you that a candidate graduated with honours, worked their way up to a senior position at a global financial services company and successfully completed an 8-year stint overseeing the growth of its digital payments division, managing a team of 120. But it tells you nothing about how this candidate could help solve an organisation’s ongoing systemic [diversity and inclusion] problem, or an impending digital transformation challenge over the next five years. A CV gives little insight into how a candidate thinks and operates.”

He adds: “Convention is changing, and already there is a new methodology and mindset that the most dynamic companies are embracing to secure the executive talent they need.”

The new challenge

Instead of fishing in similar, frequently exhausted pools, companies are increasingly looking outside for fresh, different talent.

They’re searching for those who can solve problems, who display entrepreneurial skills. They will look at other sectors, for those prepared to change, who bring the attributes they’re seeking. Based on the traditional CV and search process, the candidates would not be flagged at all, not be invited for interview.

Employers want something beyond conforming to mechanical form-filling. Now, recruiters are presenting possible hires with real-life problems and issues facing the organisation.

How do they react? How would they go about solving them? What questions are they asking? How would they communicate their solutions? And, critically, do they have tangible examples where they’ve done the same or something close to this?

“The CFO of a global tech start-up I recently met voiced his frustrations at the dearth of problem-solving capabilities among candidates he’d interviewed for senior finance leadership positions in his team,” says Stolerman.

“All had the qualifications and technical experience that he’d requested on their résumés.” But this was box-ticking, it told him nothing about their actual competence.

The world of work is changing rapidly and clearly that includes the usefulness of the CV.

Published: January 17, 2023, 11:27 AM