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Are CVs Outdated? Yes & No: Here's What You Actually Need

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Maybe you’re frustrated for being expected to condense your entire work experience and potential into these documents. Perhaps you find them pointless after delivering the umpteenth pile and not hearing anything back. So, I can totally see why you’re wondering: ‘are CVs outdated?’

Spoiler alert! I really don’t think CVs will disappear anytime soon, but you should stop seeing them as the only tool you need to get a job… because they’re not.

Not anymore, at least.

Yes, some aspects of CVs are becoming redundant

Are CVs outdated? No. Are some of their elements and concepts no longer relevant? Absolutely, and my prediction is that they’ll become even more so over the next few years.

Here are some counterproductive practices and beliefs that we should abandon when it comes to CVs:

  • Printing out piles of CVs and handing them to stores and physical branches. The pandemic has only sped up current digital trends, and I doubt this will revert once things go back to normal. For both practical and environmental reasons, it’s becoming rarer and rarer that employers ask you to send a physical copy of your CV

  • Having a generic CV and sending it to tons of workplaces without tweaking it. While many candidates still do so to save time, this is already an outdated practice that won’t do you any favours, and it’s actually one of the worst mistakes you can make on your CV: how are you going to stand out in the eyes of a specific employer if you’re shouting to the masses?

  • Seeing a CV as the only indicator of a candidate’s talent. A problem with traditional and outdated CVs is that they focus on experience and a candidate’s past rather than their skills and... future potential! Plus, we all know that it’s easy to lie on such a document, inflating one’s experiences, achievements, and the role they covered in previous jobs. In many cases, a CV actually favours candidates that are their best marketer rather than those who might be perfect for the job but... not so great at selling themselves. This is just one of the many harmful biases that are sadly involved with outdated CVs, with others including age, gender, and ethnicity

No, actual CVs aren’t outdated: they won’t be a thing of the past in the near future!

As we’ve seen, traditional CVs have their limitations, but... let’s be realistic! They’re still the best way for recruiters to narrow down their search when receiving hundreds or thousands of applications.

And, if you didn’t already know this, here comes the truth bomb: recruiters look at your CV for an average of 6-7 seconds before deciding whether to keep on reading or add it to their pile of rejections.

Ready for an even more earth-shattering truth? 75% of CVs aren’t even read by actual humans! In fact, more and more companies are using an ATS (applicant tracking system) that scans for certain keywords, and only the CVs that make it past that round will end up in the physical or virtual hands of recruiters.

Basically, whether that’s by incorporating these keywords in yours or by preparing a tailored document that helps you stand out, CVs aren’t outdated because they’re still your best chance to get your foot in the door. Your personal marketing tool, in other words.

But are they the only one? NOPE.

If you especially hate having to reduce yourself to one document, I bet you’re going to like my prediction (even though it does take more work): traditional CVs aren’t outdated and will still be used for many more years, but they already must be considered in relation to other elements, and this will only become more and more common practice.

How your traditional CV must work in synergy with other tools

So, we’ve already established that you need an excellent CV, but what else? A mixture of elements that you probably already know—but might have overlooked before—and more recent trends that will only keep on growing.

The actual ad

Let me say it louder for the people printing out more copies in the back: generic CVs are outdated if you send the exact same one to every workplace!

You need to catch the attention of both humans and machines since you never know when an ATS is involved. So, how do you do that? You tailor your CV to the actual job ad.

This is essential for two main reasons:

  • It gives you higher chances of making it through the first skimming, the one done by an ATS. If your CV doesn’t include relevant industry keywords as well as those strategically sprinkled in the job ad, it’ll be discarded. I know: it’s harsh. But recruiters receiving thousands of applications wouldn’t have time to look at every single CV individually

  • It helps you make an impression on the actual recruiter. Unlike with a generic CV, you won’t just be telling them all about your experience: you’ll be actively showing them why you’re the best candidate for that specific job role. How could you do that if you hadn’t taken the ad into account when preparing your CV?

Your cover letter

In my industry, there’s a big debate as to whether or not cover letters are still relevant, but let me end it once and for all: with 83% of recruiters saying that these documents play an important part in their decision-making process, do you really want to leave it to chance?

Yep, didn’t think so.

Here’s the thing about cover letters: while CVs help you tell recruiters about yourself, the latter gives you the opportunity to emphasize what you can bring to their company.

Don’t think of them as two completely separate documents, though. A CV and cover letter should actively complement each other (here’s how).

Your personal brand

Here’s the best part if you hated having to rely on a standalone, outdated CV because you found it limiting: even Forbes agrees that your personal brand will basically become the new resume.

Not in the sense that it’ll replace it, of course: but it’ll help your actual CV—and you!—stand out even more.

Why is that? Because actions speak louder than words, and people are drawn to… people.

Whether you personally like them or not, it’s no wonder that personal brands like Gary Vaynerchuk or Bill Gates tend to get more engagement, followers, and attention than their actual companies on social media.

So, stop defining yourself as ‘an employee of’: start shining as a passionate and active member of your industry or niche.

Developing and sharing your personal brand will help you:

  • Prove what you’ve claimed in your CV

  • Actually showcase your potential

  • Inspire a deeper and stronger sense of connection with the recruiter

  • Stand out against candidates without a personal brand

But what are the best ways to make an outdated CV relevant by complementing it with your personal brand?

By developing the following two elements.

Your own website or blog

Anyone can say that they’re passionate about whatever industry they’re applying to, but that’s just as meaningful as when companies jot down some impersonal values that aren’t reflected into their day-to-day running: not much.

Instead, show it to recruiters and future employers by having an online presence that proves it.

Obviously, this will really depend on your type of industry and personal brand, but a clever tactic would be to have your own website—for example, on a specific niche about that industry—and to blog on it regularly.

Give value! Show that you’re actively contributing to your field and can therefore bring something new to the table once you’re hired.

A showstopping LinkedIn profile

Did you know that 70% of employers check a candidate’s social media presence?

Quick, go and set your Facebook and Instagram to private if you think you’ve shared some potentially compromising posts!

Other than that, though, there’s one particular social media platform that you can use to your advantage: LinkedIn, of course.

The reason why it can help you stand out from the crowd isn’t just that it’s the most professional social platform, but also that it’s more interactive than an outdated CV disconnected from the real world.

So, how can an excellent LinkedIn profile boost your chances of success?

  • It makes it easier to showcase your skills and future potential

  • People can actually endorse you for them

  • You have an entire bio (the LinkedIn summary) to grab their attention

  • It gives you the option to collect valuable recommendations from previous bosses and colleagues

  • It allows you to show rather than tell: one thing is to say that you’re passionate about a subject, another is to share thought-leading articles on it and to engage with other professionals in the same industry

  • A relevant and frequently updated LinkedIn profile brings your personal brand to life

Let’s create a relevant & game-changing CV that does all that for you

So, the moral of the story is: are CVs outdated? Not at all! Unfortunately, though, your approach to them might be, and that’s probably why you’ve had to go through so many rejections before.

Let me change that!

Having interviewed candidates for over twenty years, I know exactly how to identify what’s been working against you and what can actively help you stand out in the eyes of a specific employer.

That’s why, at The International Retail Academy, we offer CV help that goes beyond outdated practices.

With options for early, mid, and advanced careers, all of our packages include ATS optimisation. You can also choose between a bespoke CV or one that works in synergy with a cover letter and LinkedIn profile based on your personal brand.

As you know by now, CVs aren’t outdated, but there are other elements that you just can’t afford to neglect when you’re creating and sending yours… not if you want to stand out and succeed, at least!

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