CVs are viewed as a necessary part of the recruitment process. Almost every job application starts with a candidate putting together a CV and sending it to a prospective employer, and it’s expected that any candidate looking for a job has a CV ready to go.
Not only are CVs a necessary element of applying for a job, but they’re also expected to be updated and tailored for each different role you apply for. Additionally, the majority of CVs are meant to be accompanied by a cover letter highlighting the key features of a candidate’s experience and again, this needs to be tailored to every role.
The recruitment market has changed quite significantly over the past couple of years and the engineering industry has been impacted in the same way as many others. Recruiters and employers have been forced to rethink the way that they source and hire based on changing candidate requirements and expectations, which has brought the entire conventional recruitment process under scrutiny.
Our recruitment work in the electronics and embedded systems industry has led us to believe that recruiting with CVs is an archaic approach. When you take note of the fact that a CV might only be looked at for 8 seconds before a decision is made, it seems ridiculous that so much time is expected to go into polishing this document before each submission.
For particular engineering roles such as software developer or electronics engineer, there are great alternatives to CVs that we believe will become commonplace in interview processes in the future. In this article, we’re going to explore the purpose of a CV, reasons why it’s an outdated aspect of recruitment and some alternative ideas for what might take its place.
What Is the Purpose of a CV?
Before we start suggesting CV alternatives and explaining what matters more in recruitment, it’s important to understand the purpose of a CV and why it’s required in so many job applications.
A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a document that summarises your education, experience and skills in a professional context. In America, it’s usually referred to as a résumé.
There’s no standardised format for a CV, which means that they’re all styled and structured differently. But the following three areas are essential parts of the document.
Experience is one of the key things that a potential employer will be looking for when they’re assessing whether a candidate is right for a role. On a CV, this experience will be tailored to the role that is being applied for so that only relevant experience is featured.
Sharing experience on a CV might include previous jobs or participation in other activities that are relevant to the role or company that the CV has been adapted for. It lets a potential employer know the kinds of responsibilities that the candidate has previously been given, areas of expertise or specialism, and gives insight into their career background, including how long they’ve stayed in previous roles.
As well as including a section on professional experience, the majority of CVs also highlight a candidate’s main skills. The purpose of this is to demonstrate their most valuable features and indicate why they are particularly suited for the role they’re applying for.
It’s expected that a candidate will back up their skills on a CV by sharing examples of where they have used or developed these skills in previous roles or whilst working on specific tasks. This is important as it provides evidence for the claims they’re making and also indicates whether their skills are specialised or backed up by particular experience, which may be important in certain roles.
The third key purpose of a CV is to give an overall impression of whether a candidate might be suitable for a role. Their skills and experience play a significant part in this, but everything from the formatting and style of the CV to the additional information shared also gives an idea of what the candidate is like.
Many CVs include a personal statement which briefly introduces the candidate and summarises what makes them unique. Some CVs also include a candidate’s hobbies and any extracurricular activities that they feel are important or relevant.
Each of these, along with how the CV is written and presented, can impact how well a CV is received and whether it prompts a recruiter to move an application to the next stage.
5 Things That Are More Important Than a CV
The three areas we’ve highlighted above are important things to know about a candidate that is applying for a new role. But as recruiters, we understand that there are plenty more factors than skills and experience that influence whether someone is going to be the right fit for a role.
Before we explore alternatives to CVs, here are five factors that we agree are more important than a well-polished CV.
Cultural alignment has been a buzzword in the recruitment industry for a while now. It relates to how well an employee’s personality and personal values match with the atmosphere and values of where they work and is becoming more of a priority amongst candidates when they’re looking for a new role.
It’s not just an important factor from the candidate’s perspective, however. 91% of managers in the US agreed that a candidate’s skills and experience were of equal importance to their fit in the organisation culture, demonstrating how this is a factor that matters to everyone involved.
Whilst elements of personality can shine through a CV, it’s incredibly hard to gauge whether an applicant will be a good culture fit just by reading a brief introduction. There are countless benefits to cultural alignment within a team, with plenty of companies creating ways to measure this as part of their recruitment process.
Many engineering roles will require candidates to possess specific hard skills that are an essential element of their being able to do the job. But certain soft skills are just as important but are much harder to list on a CV with relevancy and evidence.
Things like communication, interpersonal skills, organisation and leadership are useful in a wide range of engineering jobs but may be missed off a CV in favour of technical skills that seem more important. However, soft skills are just as important when it comes to being a good employee and colleague and should be considered in the early stages of recruitment.
Application of Experience
Relevant experience is one of the key things that is considered when assessing a candidate’s suitability, but it’s the application of this experience that will actually determine whether they’re prepared for the role. One thing that a CV can’t really include is the specific tasks and learnings gained from their experience in previous roles, which is often addressed at a later stage of recruitment.
It depends on the engineering role, but in many cases employers will be looking for candidates that have experience working on certain kinds of projects or who can demonstrate how they have used insight and experience from one task to approach another. These applications provide a much better idea of suitability than just experience alone.
Figuring out what makes a candidate tick and where their passion for an industry sector comes from is a great way of gauging whether they’d be right for a role. Something that traditional CVs rarely include is the story of how a candidate became interested in a job, what drives them to succeed and any particular areas of interest that motivate them in their work.
Again, this is something that is often explored in the later stages of the recruitment process, but is a key aspect of deciding whether a candidate will do well in a role. Plenty of employers also want to know what motivates a candidate because it helps them to understand whether they’d fit into an existing team and whether these motivations align with the company’s mission.
Finally, a candidate’s industry connections can influence their recruitment success. If they are referred by an existing employee or just know enough people in the industry that a potential employer recognises their name, they may be more successful due to a trustworthy recommendation or existing relationship.
Some CVs include contact details for references, which serve a similar purpose whilst also only being connections that the candidate has chosen and approved. However, how connected someone is in their industry sector is important to consider in many engineering roles, whether you’re looking for a senior employee with a stunning track record, or you need a project manager that demonstrates excellent people skills and has connections to call on if specialist help is needed.
Should Engineers Still Update Their CVs?
It’s clear that whilst a CV screening does reveal whether a candidate has the right background for a role, there are plenty more features that won’t be covered in the document but which are essential in determining their suitability for a role.
It’s also worth noting that almost all of the details included on a CV will be discussed later on in the recruitment process, which begs the question of why they need to be submitted in the first place.
Now we’ve explored what CVs are used for and what the format doesn’t include, you might be wondering “Why do you need a CV?”. And, more importantly, whether you should continue to update and send out your CV when applying for jobs in the engineering industry.
Some engineering roles might be very strict about what the recruitment process requires and there may be cases where a traditional CV is necessary for an application. However, in cases where a company doesn’t specify if a traditional CV is required, or if you’re speculatively applying for a job, sending an alternative CV or a career portfolio is a great way to stand out and demonstrate your suitability in a different way.
We’ve been working in recruitment for over 20 years now, so we understand how CVs are used as a way of initially screening candidates and ensuring that interviews and assessments aren’t wasted on totally unsuitable applicants. Therefore, eradicating CVs altogether isn’t likely to be adopted by the entire recruitment industry, but more effective alternatives are.
What’s the Alternative?
The first alternative to creating and updating a traditional CV is to forget what you’ve been taught about what the format needs to include, and instead develop a creative CV that focuses on what you think a recruiter or potential employer should know. You can include more information about the five important factors we listed above, and also experiment with a more creative format that shows off your personality.
One trend that is often mentioned when looking at the different types of CV is candidates that use video instead of a text document. They cover all the same information that would be included on their CV, but by presenting it themselves, create a more engaging piece of content that is far better at demonstrating personality and demeanour.
If you have a strong presence on LinkedIn, you may be able to use your profile as another way to introduce yourself to a potential employer. You can set up your profile to feature all the important things that a CV shares, with the benefit that you can also show off any content you’ve created on the platform and highlight your connections in your industry sector.
An alternative that is particularly suited to engineering candidates is submitting a portfolio of work instead of a CV. This might be examples of code you have worked on or written, details of different electronics projects or a compilation of different projects and your input that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Digital portfolios can be hosted on a website or might be saved as digital documents. But when it comes to showcasing your skills and talent there’s no better format than examples of what you have actually created, especially when applying for a practical engineering role.
Whilst we might not see the erasure of the CV happen overnight, more and more candidates are starting to explore alternative ways to showcase their skills, experience and personality so that they stand out to recruiters, which is leading employers to start rethinking what they ask for in the recruitment process as well. Many successful professionals are busy with their work and may not have time to endlessly tweak a traditional CV, so alternative approaches make more sense when hiring senior staff in particular, as well as representing them more accurately.
If you’re a candidate looking for a role in the electronics and embedded system engineering industry, KO2 can help you ensure success in your search, no matter what the application process requires. Get in touch to find out more about our services, or take a look at the positions that are currently available.