Is the traditional CV becoming redundant?

Recruitment is changing. Complex skills requirements, advanced recruitment software and increased competition has led to claims that the traditional CV is being replaced by more creative and technical formats.

We’d certainly agree that traditional CVs have their limitations in this increasingly digital workplace. Aside from the absence of non-verbal cues and visual appeal, an estimated 70% of them contain discrepancies. As a result, it’s difficult to make judgements about candidates’ suitability for a particular role from a written CV alone.

On one hand, candidates may look perfect on paper but lack the soft skills the company needs. On the other, they could be the perfect match but be discounted before their CV even reaches a human’s eyes. While they have undoubtedly helped to speed up the screening process for many companies, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have also been known to discount highly skilled candidates.

We are strong advocates for meeting candidates face to face early in the recruitment process to avoid errors like this, and because it provides a much more accurate assessment of those all-important soft skills.

Recognising this, some companies, like Ernst and Young, have ditched CVs in favour of online tests, but this won’t work for all businesses and can be costly to implement.

Statistics suggest the average hiring manager spends just 6-8 seconds reviewing a CV. So, it’s no wonder job seekers are moving away from the traditional 2-3-page CV in an attempt to stand out.

Over the past few years, a number of alternatives to the CV have emerged. Take the Video CV. We’ve seen a few of these and they can, admittedly, provide a much better insight into personality and show a greater degree of effort than a written CV. But they’re not compatible with ATS and the visual aspect may lead to unconscious discrimination. Also, if their window is 6-8 seconds per applicant, hiring managers are unlikely to have the time to watch them all the way through – so we don’t believe they’re a viable replacement for CVs.

Infographics and personal websites are other newer CV formats, predominantly used in creative or technical industries. In that respect, they are a great way to showcase creativity or technical skills.

Some companies now allow candidates to submit their LinkedIn profile in lieu of a CV. But as with video, screening candidates via social media can lead to discrimination; it’s troubling that 57 percent have been found to be less likely to interview a candidate if they can’t find them online.

‘Alternative’ CVs are undeniably more visually appealing and memorable, but personally we prefer to see them in addition to a written CV rather than in place of one.

Promotional brochure CVs – even CVs printed on chocolate bar! – will have an impact, but there are less time-consuming and effective tweaks jobseekers can make to the traditional CV, which make it more suited to the digital recruitment world:

  1. Highlight qualifications: Irrelevant applications increase overall volume of CVs, waste everyone’s time and are one of recruiters’ biggest bugbears. If a qualification is essential on the job description make sure it stands out!  
  2. Tailoring it to the job: A CV shouldn’t be a static document, but should be adapted so that it’s relevant to each job being applied for.
  3. Highlighting achievements: Showing how qualifications and skills have been used to create success is much more effective than just listing them.
  4. Optimising it: Much like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), ATS rank CVs according to their keyword content, so making sure the terminology is closely aligned to the job description, using key industry buzzwords, and standard headings and job descriptions can dramatically improve jobseekers’ chances.
  5. Proof-checking and formatting it: Simple grammatical errors can lead to CVs being instantly rejected. What’s more, ATS algorithms currently don’t read CVs with graphics, symbols or tables. Invest time, it’s worth it.
  6. Personalising it: Accompanying a CV with a well written, personalised letter can make as great, if not greater, impression than some of the more modern, innovative CVs.
  7. Being consistent: A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 70 percent of employers now use social media to screen candidates before hiring. Making sure LinkedIn and other social profiles match up with the CV is vital. This also creates trust and shows an attention to detail.


In conclusion, we’d say that contrary to facing redundancy, the traditional CV may in fact be heading for a resurgence. Because, ironically, it’s the CV that is most likely to succeed in the changing face of recruitment.

However, while CVs are still an integral first step in the recruitment process, there really is no better mechanism than telephone and face-to-face screening when it comes to finding candidates who are a good cultural fit.

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