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It’s time to rethink the CV for the digital age

24 Jun 2017 By Chris Kirk

Traditional CVs obscure candidates’ soft skills; digital badging can give a richer picture of their abilities

When we’re thinking about applying for a new job, the first thing we do is brush up our CV to make sure it captures our achievements and helps us stand out from the crowd – because we know recruiters usually receive hundreds of applications and, more often than not, most rely on the CV to sift through candidates.

But is this the best method? After all, can CVs really help differentiate between individuals who all claim to be ‘motivated’, ‘creative’, ‘hard working’ and ‘successful’? With most recruiters spending only seconds reviewing each one, is the system working for either party?

The main issue we hear is that CVs don’t allow an employer to understand what a person is really like, whether they are the right cultural fit and what wider skills they possess – the human skills that are hard to demonstrate on two sides of paper. How can you really tell if someone is a good leader? Or if they can make those difficult decisions? And whether they are able to resolve conflict or negotiate?

The soft skills gap

The world of work is changing rapidly. And with even further digitalisation and automation threatening to take our jobs, human skills will become more important than ever. The combination of technical skills, leadership and management skills, and 'hard' human skills, will ensure we retain our value compared to machines, and drive business productivity. Employers recognise this, too; research from McDonald’s found that 97 per cent of businesses believe soft skills are important to their success.

The challenge for recruiters is how to identify soft skills at a glance, and trust the evidence provided. Nearly all of the 4,000 hiring managers surveyed by LinkedIn said screening for soft skills is challenging. Yet just over a third recognised that, over the next few years, it is precisely these skills that will shape the roles that industry needs.

Clearly there is an appetite – and a need – for a way to objectively recognise them. Because only when recruiters see every skill – and have confidence and trust in those skills – will we see real improvements in matching people and opportunities.

Seeing skills in a different way

Online tools and social media are changing how organisations recruit, so why shouldn’t it change the way people showcase their achievements?

Everyone has a comprehensive online presence nowadays, and more and more people are using online platforms to showcase their skills and potentially find new roles. It’s no surprise that social sites such as LinkedIn are becoming recruiters’ first port of call. So employees need to be able to display their skills to prevent missing out on opportunities. But how do we ensure that scanning a LinkedIn profile doesn’t replicate all the problems of reviewing a CV?

We are all now in a position to build our own personal brands online, and capture and share our achievements through methods like digital credentials – something we enable at Digitalme. Digital credentialing empowers people to have their skills objectively recognised, so they can share them online and via social media. Employers can then search and validate these credentials, building a richer picture of the capabilities an individual can bring to an organisation.

For this approach to work at scale, those who actively enable skills development – educators, employers and professional associations – need to be given the control to frame and capture all achievements and progression. And by that I mean not just the skills gained through formal training, but also those developed on the job.

Digital is a way of life, and recruitment is in danger of being left behind. For businesses to stay competitive they need to recruit and train the very best talent with the right mix of both technical and human skills. It’s time for us all to shake up current practices. By making the invisible visible, we can shape the industry of tomorrow – today.

Chris Kirk is managing director at Digitalme, a City & Guilds Group business

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