CVs are BS: There has to be a better way to recruit talent

CVs are BS: There has to be a better way to recruit talent

Deep down we all know that the CV is total nonsense. “Please sum up the entirety of your professional career and every important thing you’ve ever done at work onto one page. Your livelihood pretty much depends on it. Go!”

Before we get into this, try and do this for me, ask yourself if this is the best way to marry people to employment? I’d be surprised if you came up with an answer other than “no, of course not.” And if you did, why don’t you wait until the end of this article and then ask yourself again.

Evidence exists that suggests using CVs as a form of selection serve to amplify bias and in turn reinforce the gulf between those with privilege [enter whichever form you deem relevant], and those with less. The tragic irony being that those with less are often those with the greatest need for gainful employment. In plain terms, CVs are not only bad for business, they are harmful and dangerous to society.

Yet we all continue to use them as the primary source for job recruitment. Here are my issues with that.

Inaccurate information poorly delivered

Firstly, they are at worst full of lies and at best full of severely embellished versions of the best things we’ve ever done, cherry-picked from what is most likely an otherwise chequered employment history.

Secondly, using CVs for recruitment is about as effective as using Tinder would be, as we spend roughly the same amount of attention on each. A quick glance, maybe a skim over the description, but then in most cases it’s a hard swipe left. I’m not kidding. Ladders, Inc has research showing that recruiters only spend an average of 7.4 seconds looking at a candidate’s résumé before deciding whether he or she is a fit for a job. Those 7 seconds are spent looking at just six things:

– Name
– Current title/company
– Previous title/company
– Previous position, start and end dates
– Current position, start and end dates
– Education

A tool for reaffirming bias

But this is where things get really scary. A US field experiment on Labor Market Discrimination, conducted by Faculty Research Fellows Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan of the National Bureau of Economic research, revealed that resumes with Caucasian sounding names like Emily Walsh or Greg Baker were 50% more likely to get a callback than the identical resume with an African American sounding name such as Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones. Their research also indicated that a white name yielded as many more callbacks as an additional eight years of work experience.

What’s more the authors wrote that: “While one may have expected that improved credentials may alleviate employers’ fear that African American applicants are deficient in some unobservable skills, this is not the case in our data. Discrimination therefore appears to bite twice, making it harder not only for African-Americans to find a job but also to improve their employability.”

To be fair this isn’t just a US problem. In October 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron declared the issue of bias against “ethnic sounding names” as part of his agenda for the NHS in a Civil Service announcement. He went as far as declaring that name-blind recruitment processes were to be adopted by 2020. But biases are not just based on ethnicity. Cameron stole this one from orchestras that began auditioning musicians from behind a curtain. Weird, it turned out the historically male dominated community favored female musicians.

I could list anecdotes like the above all day but here’s a more data driven example. Research firm Insync Surveys asked over 1,000 hiring managers in Australia and New Zealand to evaluate two resumes with the exact same qualifications save for one difference. You guessed it, one was from Simon Cook, the other from Susan Cambell. Even among female recruiters Simon was the favorite.

Let’s boil it down. If you don’t have a white sounding name you’re 50% less likely to get a call back; if you’re a woman you’re also less likely to get a call back; if you’re a woman with an “ethnic sounding name” do you even register as a person to recruiters?

When I’ve brought these insights up in the past with people I genuinely believe to be thoughtful and intelligent the overwhelming response has been an apathetic shoulder shrug and some version of “well, what else can we do?”

The answer is a lot.

At The Chemistry Group we believe employing the right person is less about how they can best summarise their experience to date and skillset and more about how their intellect, personality, motivation, and behavior fits in with what you need at the company.

If you’re interested I speak more about this on the Recruiting Future podcast with Matt Alder, tune in here.

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