Will the CV and cover letter ever die?

By Cate Burton

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As recruiters, we rely heavily on CVs and cover letters being submitted by candidates in order to get an understanding of their relevant skills and experience in relation to roles. The question is, in this digital world we live in, how much longer will people be applying for jobs in this way?

It’s easy to see how we’ve gotten to where we are now. People need to highlight their suitability for a particular role, by summarising their skills and experience, and explaining how they would fit within a company.

Back in the days before we had the internet and email (perish the thought!) people had to post their hard copy CVs and cover letters to employers and pray that the postman did his job, or physically hand them into the hiring organisation in person.

I have heard tales of recruitment agencies of the past having couriers delivering CVs to clients – thankfully now we can do this at a click of a button!

I’ve heard many a debate in my time in recruitment over whether cover letters are really necessary. Due to the huge volumes of applications that recruiters receive, often from people who aren’t suitable at all for certain roles, the estimated average amount of time a recruiter will spend looking at a CV is 5–7 seconds before making a decision whether to take that candidate further.

Personally, I really like reading candidates’ cover letters, as it highlights that they are committed to their application and I feel that people can get their personality across. Unfortunately, as generally speaking volumes are high so many cover letters will be missed.

Henry Ford is regularly quoted as saying (even though he may or may not have actually said these words):

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

We can send CVs and cover letters in Word/PDF documents, so the delivery of the information may be quicker, but it’s still the same batch of ‘words on a page’ documents that people used to post or fax – it’s just a faster horse.

So what’s the alternative?

LinkedIn is seen by many as the de-facto digital replacement for a CV, but the problem is, not everyone is on it. Any new technological replacement for a CV requires buy-in from people, not only to sign up but to maintain it and use it to its best potential.

There has been some chat over the last few years about the future of agency recruitment. Thanks to social media and online networking, people are more connected than they ever have been – already recruiters are demonstrating their value by having people in their network who are then presented with jobs – that is, the jobs come to them.

I think that while this is already happening, there is bound to still be a place in the future for people registering their interest in job vacancies. But does this mean that traditional CVs will also exist?

As recruiters our jobs are not just about pieces of paper and box-ticking. Our place is in finding people for jobs, and finding jobs for people. It’s all about personal interaction. You can of course do a lot of the legwork digitally, but communication and relationship-building is key to bringing people together.

While all the above does have an impact on the traditional CV, in my mind I don’t believe it will be replaced. The way in which information is delivered will change over the years, and we’re already seeing digital natives making more use of the web with interactive digital creations, video promo reels and all sorts, but the principle behind it will always be the same.

As far as the recruitment and HR industry goes, we will have to move with the times to ensure that we are keeping up with the new ways, to enable us to help candidates as effectively and efficiently as possible.

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