Looking beyond the traditional CV for better decision making.

Author Author Dr. Terri Simpkin, Portman Partners Associate

The written curriculum vitae (CV) or resume has been a staple document as part of the process of recruitment and selection for decades. It is ubiquitous and often the first (and sometimes, only) contact a potential employer and employee will share. Whilst it’s long been a key summary document that highlights a candidate’s suite of qualifications, experience and capabilities, it’s not the only, or indeed, the most illustrative indicator of a candidate’s capacity to be a good fit for the role on offer.

The long standing global ‘talent challenges’ experienced by the digital infrastructure sector offers an opportunity for recruiters to look beyond the traditional CV for various reasons.  The first, and perhaps the most important is that associated with transferable capabilities.  While current expectations generally place the CV length at two sides of A4, (this is an arbitrary rule of thumb that varies by industry and type of role) it offers only a superficial overview of a candidate’s capacity to bring value to the organisation.  Particularly where an applicant has a long and varied career in technical roles for example, a summary may not clearly illustrate the breadth and depth of what they may bring to a new role. 

A CV is limited in its capacity to offer insights into the ways in which capabilities employed successfully in other sectors, industries or organisations might effectively be applied elsewhere.  The recruiter/hiring manager must be capable of making an ‘inferential leap’ from what the person has done in the past, to what they are capable of doing in the future. This, of course requires a deeper intellectual engagement to establish a more expansive view of what’s on the page.

Fundamentally, when looking to engage with candidates from non-traditional sources such as disparate industries or personal backgrounds, the onus shifts from the candidate to make a case as to why they should be considered to the recruiter/hiring manager who may look to more creative ways of establishing potential personal and professional fit. For example, someone who has no digital infrastructure experience but has capabilities in critical infrastructure or resilience roles elsewhere may have well developed aptitude that is hard to train and with some technical training may become a well-rounded employee.  Discounting on the basis of a lack of easily developed skills may deprive the hiring organisation of more difficult or expensive capabilities that are transferable from one role to another – capabilities that may well be picked up and utilised by competitors.

Important nuances such as context can not be determined from a written CV and of course, while they can be hinted at, important skills such as those associated with communication and capacity to interact appropriately with others, can not be effectively conveyed on paper.  The CV, as a one dimensional tool, is limited to a less than holistic exploration of what the candidate might be capable of. 

In a tight talent market, hiring managers should consider more robust and reliable methods of assessing candidates than the CV.  This is particularly so when considering candidates from other sectors who may have transferable technical abilities and qualifications.  For example, aptitude and technical tests are common and can provide better insight in the practical capacities of applicants. 

However, where leadership, the capacity for innovation, problem-solving and other more generic capabilities are demanded the CV should be augmented with situational judgement tests, group case studies or relevant psychometric tests. Used as a suite of decision making tools, the CV becomes just one of a number of elements that fit together like a puzzle to establish fit with the demands of the role on offer prior to more in-depth mechanisms such as situational interviews for example.

While some sectors continue to experience ongoing labour and talent challenges, others are letting people go in response to shifting economic circumstances.  One sector’s loss is another’s potential gain but it is incumbent on the flexibility and capacity to see where capabilities employed in other contexts can be employed successfully in the digital infrastructure organisation. 

One of the best ways of achieving this is to be adaptable and realistic with what’s actually required for successful execution of duties and achievement of outcomes associated with the role. While much examination is associated with what the candidate might bring to the role, sometimes less than adequate critique is made of the essential requirements as stated in the role description (or similar).

Looking past the one-dimensional story presented in the CV to what impact a person can make is another way of expanding the pool of potentially successful candidates. Portman Partners offers the GC Index as an advancement on, or augmentation to traditional psychometrics such as MBTI or DISC.  The ‘organimetric’ offers deep insight into the individual (or collective) impact potential of a candidate and can illustrate where they are likely to contribute to organisational or departmental objectives. While the CV can give an good overview of technical capacities illustrated via qualifications, for instance, the opportunity to measure potential impact and future engagement with overarching objectives extends confidence when considering people from more diverse professional and personal backgrounds.

A robust but flexible recruitment process that looks beyond the unidimensional view of the CV is key to enhancing selection decision-making through expanding the boundaries of the talent pool.