Why now should be the time to scrap the CV

A recent Arctic Shores webinar explored why the traditional hiring process of CV screening may not be fit for purpose any longer...

Words by Liam Soutar


The future of work is digital. And, by 2025, the World Economic Forum has predicted that:

  • 85million jobs will disappear
  • 97million new digital-first jobs will arise
  • Half of workers will need to reskill

The result? A talent mismatch like nothing we’ve seen since the Industrial Revolution. A world with millions of capable workers, but few with the skills you need most. Faced with an increasingly digitised economy, this mismatch of talent will cost employers £38billion in lost growth, every year. All because they can’t fill the roles that’ll fuel that growth. As we look at these figures, one thing is clear – that hiring tactics must change, including the most deep-rooted default of all... the CV.

It could be the time to scrap the CV for good. We can’t solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s solutions. If we keep hiring how we always have, clinging onto skills and experience as the signal of true talent, this shortage we’re seeing will only deepen. We’ll be stuck in a world where salaries spiral, and talent poaching is the only option. It just isn’t sustainable.

But why exactly is the CV no longer fit for purpose? In a recent webinar, in partnership with HR Grapevine, Robert Newry, CEO and Co-Founder of Arctic Shores, told attendees: “We live in a world with a skills crisis that’s not going to go away, and if we carry on trying to solve the problems of the future with the methods of the past, then we are never going to succeed.”

He continued: “A lot of people... realise the flaw in the CV, which is that it’s self-created.

CVs ‘not fit for purpose’ in modern era

“The other really important thing is that it’s a massive barrier to social mobility. If you are from a higher socio-economic background and you’ve gone to a certain university, and you’ve got connections through family that have given you work experience, then your likelihood of having a great CV, and therefore being put at the top of the pile, is going to be much higher than the reverse.”

The traditional CV also may not demonstrate transferrable skills. Newry continued: “It doesn’t actually tell you whether somebody is going to be really good for the job. How do you decide if someone is going to be a good fit for a digital marketing role if they’ve come from the hospitality sector? If you understood that that person had great learning agility, great organisation, good empathy, good curiosity, then those would actually be really useful competencies and personality traits that could be incredibly powerful once they’ve acquired the skills to do a digital marketing role. That’s why I think we really need to rethink it, not just because we know there are flaws in the CV that hold back social mobility, but equally it’s not actually fit for purpose.”


Why ‘blind CVs’ don't eliminate bias

One solution that many employers turn to is the practice of the ‘blind CV’, a resume containing no identifying factors such as a candidate’s name, age, race, or gender. In theory, the blind CV leaves nothing but a candidate’s experience to be considered. But, as Newry believes, this practice is just “putting a sticking plaster on the issue.”

He said: “It’s a starting point if you take somebody’s name off the CV, but all that happens is that the unconscious bias, which is what it’s trying to deal with, just shifts to somewhere else on the CV. Whoever’s doing the screening on the CV then starts looking at: What university did they go to? Is it a university that I recognise? What hobbies do they do? Have they worked for companies that I recognise? As a result, I don’t think it’s in any way effective for the kind of change that we’re looking for.”

Interestingly, webinar attendees overwhelmingly agreed, with 86% answering ‘yes’ when asked in a poll whether CVs were a source of unconscious bias.

Newry went on: “‘Scrap the CV’ for skilled hires doesn’t mean that experience is not important, or that the CV and experience somebody has never has any relevance to the job – of course it does. The point about scrapping the CV though is how you decide, at the very beginning, ‘does the CV provide the best way of understanding whether the person is capable or not?’ And that’s what we’re trying to challenge.”

“A lot of people... realise the flaw in the CV, which is that it’s self-created”

Neurodivergent talent

A cohort that could be at risk of falling at the first hurdle of the hiring process – the CV stage – is neurodivergent candidates – those with conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, ADHD and more. Such conditions, can make it hard to gain the right work experience, or put together an impressive CV even with the right experience – according to webinar panellist Marisol Milsom, of HR Biscuit. But neurodiverse candidates bring a wealth of skills and talent to the workplace, including strengths in analysis, complex problem-solving, design and strategic thinking.

And with around one in seven UK residents being neurodivergent, according to the Local Government Association, that’s a big chunk of suitable candidates potentially slipping through the net. Scrapping the CV could prevent that, according to the webinar panel. Milsom added: “It’s definitely a hiccup to hiring neurodiverse talent. More and more actually want to hire neurodiverse talent. They recognise the value that that talent brings.

“The problem with the CV is that, if you are neurodiverse, you are less likely to have had the good quality experiences... By getting rid of the CV and putting in an assessment process that looks at where that neurodiverse person’s cognitive ability and behaviour is, and enabling them to express themselves in the way that they prefer, whether that’s spoken word, or video or text, you’ll get to see what that person can bring.”


Why aren’t more firms ditching the CV?

Data has also suggested that a growing number of businesses acknowledge the virtues of the CV-less hiring process. An Arctic Shores survey into the CV process found that just 35% of employers believe that CVs are the best tool for the job. However, just seven per cent of those respondents said they don’t use CVs in their hiring process. So, what’s stopping them from adopting the tools that truly suit the future of work? As part of their 'Scrap the CV' report, Arctic Shores conducted a survey asking businesses that very question. The responses included:

Hiring manager resistance – 13%

Insufficient time & resources – 13%

Perceived lack of alternatives - 39%

CVs are the best tool for the job - 35%

More employers see the CV as the only option (39%), rather than as the best option (35%), Arctic Shores data found. It’s clear that the majority don’t trust the CV, but can’t seem to find the right alternative.

CVs shouldn’t be the first stage of the hiring process

So, if companies are to ditch the CV stage of the hiring process, or at least delay it to a later stage, where should employers start? Milsom explained how opening the hiring process with the CV screening stage can mean HR misses negative character traits within a candidate early on. Instead, she recommended starting by considering a candidate’s personality and behavioural traits – considering the cultural fit before the experience.

“The CV is where businesses are looking at skills and experience right at the very start, and a mistake a lot of businesses make... is that you get some fantastic candidates and get the business really bought in on them, but actually there are some real behavioural and cultural issues that come out later,” Milsom told attendees.

“Flip that around and put the culture of your organisation and behaviour as the most important thing at the very start, and then you’re only bringing candidates through and starting to really dig into those skills, motivations and experiences later in the assessment.”

Webinar poll results

‘What is the biggest barrier to scrapping the CV in your organisation/ recruitment selection process?’

  • No alternative - 31%
  • Hiring manager preference - 49%
  • No executive sponsorship - 10%
  • Don’t trust alternatives - 10%

‘Would you be prepared to scrap the CV in your organisation for?’

  • First/second job hires - 20%
  • Non-skilled hires (ie no qualification or specific skill) - 73%
  • Skilled hires - 5%
  • Executive roles - 2%

What’s the alternative?

But if companies are to do away with the CV as part of their hiring process, or at least not make it to the first stage of recruitment, what can they do instead?

The answer may lie in technological solutions such as neuroscience and psychometric-based AI, used to help find the most ideal candidates.

As Janine Garn from Leyton told the HR Grapevine webinar: “...part of the beauty of this kind of a product, is the neutrality of it. It’s not coming to you with any kind of a bias, it's coming to you with some great, robust, backed by science, strong, empirical data.”

Garn went on: “I think [it] also gives a lot of reassurance to the candidates that actually this is a robust, trustworthy process, that they can kind of trust themselves to go through, if you like, rather than just kind of coming in and having a chat with somebody, that you're not quite sure what the structure's going to be, or what you're trying to get out of it.”

Although AI in sourcing candidates is not the silver bullet, it does have a huge potential to help. Data-driven insight, backed by neuroscience and psychometrics, can be useful in identifying candidates’ true potential. And technology also needs to be treated as a tool and not the solution. It needs to be supported by the right strategy and human touches at the valued stages of the recruitment process - for it to work.

And finally, a shift in our mindsets is required to see the process as sifting in, and not sifting out, to make hiring more ED&I friendly for all candidates.

“We live in a world with a skills crisis that’s not going to go away, and if we carry on trying to solve the problems of the future with the methods of the past, then we are never going to succeed”

Time to start selecting for potential

Once you’ve explained why scrapping the CV makes sense, it’s time to think about what comes next. The resounding choice? Measuring potential. But what does “potential” even mean? “Potential” is the right blend of personality and intelligence to succeed in a role. That obviously varies from job to job – so how you see potential is entirely unique to the needs of your organisation. Once you’ve defined what potential means to you – your success criteria – it’s time to assess against those criteria. And that doesn’t just mean plugging an assessment into your process. It means factoring those same success criteria into your screening, your interviews, and even you're onboarding and development too.

Scrapping the CV could be the first step towards a future with endless potential. Where, by seeing more in people, you fix this mismatch for good. As Arctic Shores’ data suggested that two-thirds of employers picture a world without CVs, why not be the one to show them what it really looks like? It’s time to pioneer the change, abandon experience, and put potential at the heart of how you hire. Don’t see it as taking a leap. See it as leading the way.

More detail on the alternatives to CVs, and the impact that tech solutions can have on the hiring process, can be found within Arctic Shores’ report.

Scrap the CV: it's time to start selecting for potential

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