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Is there still a need for traditional CVs? By Lucie Benson


Whilst the CV forms the basis for much of the recruitment process, should we be looking into other options available to employers now, such as online recruitment and competency-based interviewing, given that many people are known to provide false information on their CV? Lucie Benson delves a little deeper.

Go on, admit it. How many of you have stretched the truth or exaggerated on your CV in order to land that dream job? Perhaps you have made your educational qualifications look a little more impressive? Or maybe you have increased your salary slightly? Well, if recent research is anything to go by, it would seem there is quite a high level of dishonesty amongst the British workforce., part of Experian, offers a candidate screening service, both pre- and post-employment. It questioned over 1,000 working adults, and the results showed that if it was thought that it would go undetected, 39 per cent of people would lie on their CV, while 42 per cent claimed to know individuals who have falsified information on CVs or application forms.

Typical examples of “CV fraud” included salary, level of previous experience and educational qualifications, the survey found.

Steve Bailey, managing director of, says that this research serves as a stark warning to employers. “Chancing fraudsters seem to be reliant on the fact that prospective employers do not check the information that is stated on CVs and job applications,” he remarks. “It further highlights the need for employers to recognise the threat of employee fraud and ensure that organisations invest in professional background checking.”

Check it out

So what can employers do to stop candidates from falsifying information on CVs? Angela Baron, adviser, organisation and resourcing at the CIPD, says that it is impossible to prevent people from lying, but what you can do is get better at spotting it. “The advice is to check out the CV as much as you can. So if the CV includes who they have worked for and when, then references are important to check that the candidate has worked for the people they say they have and done the jobs they say they have and so on.”

The trouble with CVs, says Baron, is that there is a fuzzy boundary between lying and making the most of yourself. “We always say that a CV is a marketing document and it should be used to make the most of yourself,” she comments. “As recruiters, we have to accept that people are not necessarily going to put down the bad or negative points. It is up to employers to find that out in the interview process. If you have got a well designed process, where you are using a range of tools and techniques to find out about somebody’s potential or ability, then that should come out. The CV should only be a sifting document anyway, for shortlisting, and shouldn’t be the document on the basis of which you offer someone a job.”

“If you use an application form rather than a CV, you are collecting the information you want, as an employer, rather than the information that a candidate wants you to have, which puts you more in control.”

Angela Baron, adviser, organisation and resourcing, CIPD

There are, of course, a number of methods you can employ to ensure the truth comes out when looking for potential employees. Lucy Blakeley, branch manager at employment agency Manpower, suggests three different ways. “First, from an agency perspective, we can conduct assessments on candidates at interview stage. Because we are interviewing them, we are able to pull out aspects that might be embellished. Second, we still take out referencing, so if people try and falsify information, and they know they are going to be referenced, it makes them think twice about actually putting something that is too far from the truth on their CV. Third, we do a competency-style interview that challenges them, so if they say they are fantastic in a certain area, the competency interview can challenge that.”

Verbal references

Referencing is certainly an important part of the employment process, as a way of verifying the information provided on the CV. Even though written references are the most common, historically, Bailey recommends verbal references as the way forward. “[Written references] are often required for statutory or regulatory purposes, but if we can, after checking out the company and the person, we call them and we get a much faster response and much more information than from a standard, corporate letter-headed piece of paper; plus you get personal insight. In some cases, we would talk to a manager, a peer and a subordinate. That way, you learn a lot more about the person.”

So what other options are available to employers, when recruiting potential candidates, instead of the traditional CV? Baron says that the CIPD actively encourages application forms. “If you use an application form rather than a CV, you are collecting the information you want, as an employer, rather than the information that a candidate wants you to have, which puts you more in control,” she explains.

There is now also a definite increase in the amount of online applications in larger blue-chip companies, says Blakeley. “They have taken a conscious decision to not use a CV and go straight into using online applications, which essentially asks specific questions about the job, competency style, as well as factual. There is also the psychometric style personality testing. So some clients tend to do more specific competency questions, and focus more on that than the facts on a CV.”

Online recruitment

Taleo provides on-demand talent management solutions to businesses to help them assess, acquire, develop and align their workforce. Chris Phillips, director for international marketing at Taleo, says that online recruitment focuses on candidates’ skills and capabilities, which is where it can have a distinct advantage over CVs.

“When people respond to questions online about their skills and capabilities, as opposed to traditional CV information, I think they start to relate to what they need to be able to do in the job, and therefore it is not just them presenting a marketing document about themselves, which they are tempted to elaborate on, but it is a genuine articulation about whether they are going to be a good fit for the role,” he remarks.

Top tips for assessing CVs

If you have to look at many CVs for just one role, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the candidate tailored their experience to the job role?

  • Is the CV balanced?

  • Does it give a sense of the individual?

  • Does the CV draw out achievements?

  • Does the CV communicate clearly?

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs, Chartered Management Institute

Phillips believes the place for the traditional CV is dwindling. “It won’t disappear entirely, but these days people are finding jobs directly over the website of the potential employer,” he comments.

“That online relationship is much more prevalent than the traditional CV-based relationship. We did some research recently of the FTSE 100 in the UK, and 50 per cent of the FTSE 100 now accept applications by answering direct questions over the website rather than emailing a CV through solely. And that is increasing all the time, so as time goes by, the CV plays less of a role and the more direct online relationship is playing more of a role.”

Julie Lowe, head of assessment services at Reed Consulting, says that while CVs are the most universal method used by recruiters to select candidates at the initial stage of the recruitment process, they are not the most valid and should not be used in isolation. “CVs enable candidates to express themselves in their own words, which is useful in itself, but their non-standard form means they are not the best documents to review when looking for details of specific qualifications, skills, achievements and experience,” she says.

Perhaps, then, the best approach to take is a combined one, where recruiters use CVs as well as other methods. Baron seems to take this view. “I think there always will be a place for the traditional CV,” she remarks. “But you see many people now inviting candidates to send in a letter and a CV in the first instance, and then perhaps asking them to fill in an application form as well, so that they have got the best of both worlds. Also, if people have falsified things on their CV, they are more likely to slip up when they fill in the application form. So this allows employers to look for inconsistencies as well.”

Blakeley agrees that there is definitely still a need for the traditional CV. “It is a door opener and ultimately it is the only way to get in front of some companies. I liken it to school exams, where there is also coursework and other ways to prove your ability, but there will always be exams. It is the same with CVs – there are now other ways of showing that you are good at a job, such as psychometric testing and assessments, but there is always going to be a place for a CV.”

Whatever your opinions, there is no denying that recruiters must be prepared to equip themselves with the necessary skills and tools to ensure they make an informed decision in the recruitment process and find the best person for the job.

One Response

  1. CVs and Application Forms
    I am not sure I understood this article. Of course cvs are a poor source of biodata for assessment, and competence-based interviewing etc etc is far more productive. But without a cv, on what basis might an initial applicant-sift be made before any face-to-face contact?

    As for the use of application forms, although an old topic, I do despair. For any senior post, in what is generally a seller’s market, what decent candidate is ever going to be bothered to fill in a tedious application form, especially when a job move is discretionary?

    This approach strikes me as typical of some elements of HR – all process-driven without any thought for the wider context. For many recruiters, attracting good candidates is at least as hard as sorting out the good ones. Why make it more difficult?

    Which leads me to written references – another old topic, but the same complaint. At least for more senior posts, I find most referees would far rather give an informal telephone reference, which might also be far more valuable to the recruiter intelligently obtained than a standard bland paragraph. So why ‘inisist’ on a written reference, as some do? Who is doing whom the favour here?



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