6 reasons we should stop asking for CVs

8 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 16 February 2021

Culturally, we like to point out outdated things. We highlight them as being passé, archaic, and sometimes offensive, but that’s not always the case when it comes to work. 

Requesting a CV when hiring is one of many workplace practices that’s not fit for purpose in today’s digital economy. CV-based selection restricts employment mobility, disadvantages people from under-represented groups and results in worse hiring outcomes for organisations, so why do we still insist that candidates produce them?

Here are 6 compelling reasons why moving away from CVs will improve your hiring process. First, here’s a quick history of the CV.

The history of CVs

There’s plenty written about the history of the CV dating back to Leonardo da Vinci, but they took off in the 1960’s. They became normal in the 1980s after the fax machine made bulk job applications possible. But, like many outdated practices from 40 years ago, they’ve remarkably survived and are still used by most businesses as the primary measure of candidate suitability. 

Here are six reasons to consider banning CVs from your hiring process.

  1. They contain non-job-relevant information
  2. They’re inconsistently created
  3. They’re inconsistently assessed
  4. They have low predictive validity
  5. They take time to review
  6. They limit social mobility

They contain non-job-relevant information

Reviewing a CV is a type of assessment. It’s a judgment on someone’s suitability for a job based on the information in the document. The problem with this assessment is that it’s not a very reliable one. Firstly the CV consists mostly of non-job relevant information. This information provides a huge opportunity for decision bias. It can be as obvious as someone’s name, appearance, gender or interests but decisions are often made on trivial things such as the way it’s formatted or a grammatical error. Recruiters and hiring managers alike think they can “read into a person” by reviewing their CV, but this merely involves confirming their own biases.

They’re inconsistently created

All CVs are formatted differently. As such, there is no step-by-step method in which to assess all CVs. Bad formatting can count against a candidate, yet the ability to format a CV in a way that pleases all recruiters is not a skill required for the vast majority of jobs. CV reviewers may claim that they can approximate that candidates with badly formatted CVs have low standards or poor spatial awareness, but how reliable is that assessment when it’s taken completely out of context?

Many hiring managers also insist that a typo on your CV should mean instant disqualification. 54% of recruiters admit to rejecting candidates due to poor spelling or grammar. But in the age of autocorrect – does an ability to spell matter? Again the same approximation for “attention to detail” is often cited, but do you know how the CV was created? Some CVs may have been automatically spell-checked, others may not. Some may have been proofread by friends, others not. Suffice to say, comparing candidates’ CVs when there is no standardised way to assess them, is at best unreliable, at worst, discriminatory.

They’re inconsistently assessed

Two people can look at the CV and come up with a different story about that person. Is that a reliable method of selecting who to interview? 

I doubt we can argue that Rawan Mohamed should have to send his CV to 3 times more companies than Adam Smith to get an interview. But removing names doesn’t solve things entirely. Gender and demographic background can be inferred from other information such as geography, education, and interests. 

However, assuming that a “blind” CV only contains a candidate’s relevant work experience, there’s still an issue of inconsistency. Work history may be positively or negatively assessed based on the assessor’s experiences with people from that company; maybe the recruiter hired someone from there before who didn’t work out. 

Plus evidence shows arbitrary externalities and inherent biases will dictate your feelings towards judicial decisions. For example:

  • CVs shown next to poor CVs are more likely to be selected due to the contrast effect
  • CVs reviewed at the end of a CV sift are more likely to be selected due to recency bias

And if judges are more likely to grant prisoners parole after eating lunch then it’s safe to assume that recruiters are looking more favourably upon CVs after lunch too

They have low predictive validity

In 1998 researchers Schmidt and Hunter conducted a meta-analysis of which hiring methods most led to successful outcomes. What is most remarkable about their research is that CVs contain some of the weakest indicators of ability. Education has only a 0.10 correlation to job performance and experience has a measly 0.18. Both of these are only marginally better than random chance. 

Image source: https://www.beapplied.com/post/what-is-blind-hiring

Of course, the validity of assessment methods varies based on the job type and seniority. It’s safe to assume that experience is a stronger predictor for jobs at middle management level and above. We can also assume that education may correlate more strongly with knowledge-work or scientific research. However, the inverse is also true. The predictive validity of prior experience for lower-skilled positions such as warehouse operatives, delivery drivers, retail, call centre and hospitality workers is most likely a lot lower than the overall average validity coefficient of 0.18. 

The most predictive assessment method is a work sample test and this method is likely even more predictive when it comes to repetitive, lower-skilled jobs. This approach, as adopted by our work simulation assessments is therefore likely to be 5-10X more effective than a CV at predicting successful hires.  

They take time to review

In 2020, we ran a survey of in-house recruiters to find out about how much time they spent sifting through job applications. The average time spent was 9 hours each week. Not only does this represent a large portion of a working week, but it’s also totally unnecessary for jobs where education and experience don’t correlate with job performance. 

That time can be allocated to building relationships with top talent and improving the candidate experience instead. It also has a cost attribution too so we developed a recruitment time calculator to help companies get visibility of this number.

They limit social mobility

Employment mobility is a key factor in enabling people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get ahead. Social mobility is stifled when hiring requirements demand prior experience for roles in which experience is not a predictor of job performance. This is particularly important in times of rising unemployment and shifting consumer behaviour.  

An example: Sandra leaves school without any qualifications, she lands a part-time job in a clothing retailer, eventually converting it into full-time employment. Her retailer closes stores and makes Sandra and her colleagues redundant. No retailers are hiring as the sector is struggling. She applies for entry-level jobs in other sectors but gets rejected because she has no sector experience on her CV. She remains unemployed. 

Companies that continue to use prior experience as the main predictor of job suitability will not provide people like Sandra with opportunities. As a result, those who happen to have worked in a challenged industry sector will become stuck and remain unemployed.

Stop using them

Whilst it’s been possible to invent a selection process that doesn’t include CVs, companies have been reluctant to try until recently. Amazon famously stopped interviewing for volume hiring, instead, relying on a job-relevant assessment and now many other companies are following suit. 

There are so many options outside of CV-based hiring that will make you and your hiring managers’ lives better. Work sample style assessments that reflect the skills and behaviours required to succeed in the job are a good place to start. Choose a partner that allows you to customise them to your unique work environment and give candidates information about what to expect in the job. Obviously, if you’re processing applications at scale then you’ll need to do that automatically online. 

ThriveMap’s realistic job assessments help you stand out to your candidates and takes the time burden of CV screening away from your recruiters. Using assessments at the top of the recruitment funnel means candidates are being judged on what they can do, not what they have done. It’s more consistent, more objective and more effective too. Your recruitment team and processes will gain more velocity, and your candidates will gain a new way to learn if they’d enjoy the job ahead of joining.

Cover photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash


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