Anyone who has applied for a job before, or even been on a job hunt, will know that a CV is usually necessary to secure an interview with an employer. Even though CVs and interviews are the most popular methods for employers to select and recruit people, researchers and practitioners in organisational psychology are discussing whether these are actually effective.
CVs have likely remained popular as they let an employer get a summary of a candidate, which can often be useful when choosing candidates for an interview. Despite this usefulness, CVs differ in their effectiveness depending on how they are assessed, meaning that if an employer uses a structured method to assess CVs, and they are more likely to choose better candidates as opposed to an employer who only gives a CV a quick read.
Research has also highlighted that up to 50% of candidates exaggerate their skills and achievements on their CVs. This exaggeration on CVs can lead to employers selecting candidates who may not be best equipped to the job, thus leading to financial burden for the organisation. An employer is obviously going to want someone who is going to be best at the job and not cost them too much money, so clearly they will want to avoid selecting unfit candidates for their organisation. As well as adopting unstructured CV assessment methods, there are some other key components that may also hinder the ability to choose the best candidate for a job.
It is somewhat common knowledge that prejudice and discrimination is present in day-to-day life. The use of CVs allows unconscious discrimination to occur, whether we realise it or not. A study in Sweden found that having a Muslim-sounding name as opposed to a typical Swedish-sounding name led to those with the former being less likely to have their CVs selected if the recruiter in the situation had an unconscious bias against Muslims using an Implicit Association Test (click here to try IATs for yourself), which allows us to measure implicit attitudes (underlying unconscious bias).
These kinds of findings are not just specific to religion, but has also been found for sexual orientation and race. Factors such as attractiveness, age, disability, and so forth are also found to be factors that are biased again (click here for a review). This sort of discrimination has obvious negative consequences for employers. Not only does it open them up to legal challenges if applicants feel as though they are discriminated against, which of course costs money for the organisation to deal with, but it can also mean that employers may not hire the optimal person for a job. Put it this way, if you were recruiting a new member for your team, would you rather have a better-qualified, above-average performing homosexual applicant or a less-qualified, below-average heterosexual applicant? You’d want who was going to do the best job for the team and organisation.
CVs aren’t all that great as they are made out to be! Of course, there are benefits, they allow employers to get a really quick overview of your recent work experience and education, but what remains clear is that many factors can influence CV decision-making, which may not just have a negative impact on an applicant, but also the organisation hiring too.
Some questions are still up for debate: Do we ditch the infamous CV when hiring? Should we stick to interviews? Is there a better way forward? The answer to that last question is definitely yes – at least I think so based on the overwhelming evidence.
Callum Mogridge is an undergraduate psychology student at the University of Manchester. He leads the peer support on the degree programme.