Photo: Gemma Lewis

Friday 5th August 2016

Curriculum revitalised

Does the concept of the job application need reassessing?

It seems like everywhere you look applicants are going off-piste with their job applications. News sites are awash with stories about people getting jobs by handing out CVs whilst riding unicorns, daubing their personal statement on Stonehenge or training otters to sing their praises at recruitment fairs.

OK, so those examples were made up. But there have been a number of creative thinkers – ish – using their initiative to move beyond the drear old resume. In the last few weeks we’ve had Renata Chunderbalsingh printing her CV on chocolate bar wrappers (pictured above), Josh Butler auctioning himself on eBay, Nina Mufleh creating an Airbnb profile and Alfred Ajani handed out flyers at Waterloo station.

Perhaps what we’re seeing here is indicative of a wider trend: that many people reckon the traditional job application route isn’t playing to their strengths. Not that all applicants agree: Hudson’s recent Talent Trend report highlights the perception that, across generations, job applicants still believe that CVs are the best means to apply for a job.

A whopping 81.7% of those questioned believed that Word-based or PDF CVs are most relevant for job applications in their sector.

Dr Tim Sparkes, practice lead at Hudson Talent Management, has mused on the survey. ‘While social channels, particularly LinkedIn, enable candidates to sell themselves, such tools are still quite rigid and could be described as simply an online CV,’ he tells us.

Sparkes thinks that creative job applications raise the issue of how companies can put out-dated recruitment methods to rest, instead creating channels that assess candidates better and portray a more forward-thinking image.

Gimmicky but successful

Tim Sparkes
Tim Sparkes

‘Games and competitions may sound gimmicky,’ Sparkes says. ‘But they’re proving to be anything but. America’s Army has been used to hire countless army personnel to the US army with a first person shooter game designed to determine if soldiering matches candidates’ needs, interests and abilities.’

He also cites L’Oreal’s Brandstorm, which encourages candidates to unleash their creativity to distribution channels, and the UK’s Secret Service online simulation, as other strong examples in a burgeoning genre.

But why are these methods proving successful? ‘Because they assess candidates in real-life scenarios. A CV measures candidates in a formulaic and linear fashion, and has the potential to rule out the best candidates – wrongly – during preliminary rounds of the recruitment process.’

Sparkes points out that while most companies are not in the position to invest heavily in recruitment technology, they can still use clever application tools to complement or even replace CV applications.

‘Companies should ask what qualities they’d like to see in their dream candidate and work backwards to find suitable means to assess them,’ says Sparkes. ‘If you’re looking for a maths whizz, design a puzzle using real-life challenges. If you want a candidate with oodles of creativity, consider an open brief encouraging the candidate to ‘impress you’.’

(Which reminds us of the old story about an Oxford University candidate being told to ‘Surprise me‘ by a newspaper-reading don at his entrance interview.)

Put simply, says Sparkes, give candidates the freedom to demonstrate their skills, rather than just listing them. ‘This will allow for a more accurate assessment of their suitability, and differentiate prospective talent, far better than you’ll find on an A4 piece of paper.’





About the author

Andrew Baird

Andrew is the CEO of HRville. He is also Employer Brand Director of Blackbridge Communications, Editorial Director of Professionals in Law and an associate of The Smarty Train. Previously, he was the MD of TCS Advertising.