January 17, 2013 12:05 pm

The curriculum vitae has long been an important weapon in the job hunter’s arsenal, a completely blank canvas on which an individual can convey their skills, ambitions and suitability for a job in any way they see fit. A CV is versatile, creative and most importantly, personal.

But the CV is an art that is quickly dying out, replaced more and more frequently by the rigid, uncompromising application form. These forms come in an array of shapes, with questions ranging from ‘yes or no’ choices about personal traits, to asking how the candidate would deal with hypothetical situations.

All manner of companies now employ the application form, from fast food giants and high street favourites to specialised, professional organisations. The logic behind this shift is obvious – the use of a strict, predefined set of questions allows candidates to be compared like-for-like more easily. But is this really a good thing?

Yes, these forms allow employers to compare certain aspects of a candidate’s experience and skills, but they often leave no room for them to really sell their strengths. A prospective employee could have a host of attributes and abilities that would make them perfect for a role, which ticking boxes and answering questions just can’t convey.

Of course, it isn’t as black and white as that; some application forms do offer the opportunity to express these attributes, usually in a small, miscellaneous box with a title somewhere in the range of ‘other relevant information’. Whilst this is an opportunity to express yourself, it is still necessarily constrained, whereas a CV gives you a chance to be different, to show that you are unique.

But it would be overtly partisan not to mention the arguments against the CV. Competition for jobs is high, which means employers are likely to be faced with a mound of CVs on their desk through which they have to trawl to find the right candidate. From an employer’s perspective, sifting through dozens of CVs to find the information they specifically want is time consuming. From an applicant’s perspective, their CV could easily be lost amidst a monumental pile, not given the attention it really warrants.

There are arguments against both methods of application as indicators of a person’s suitability, and perhaps there is no way of truly assessing this with paperwork. It’s fair to say that the real decider is the interview, where employers can get to grips with a candidate’s personality. The problem is getting to that stage, and so the battle rages on between the CV and the application form, a fight that the CV is losing.

There are some corners that refuse to accept the death of the CV. The government job-seeker system still champions this traditional tool, in many cases providing mandatory CV workshops, designed to strengthen writing skills and give applicants a better chance of finding work. And they are right to do so, as there are still jobs out there that select staff based on their CV. But the question is, how long will this remain the case?

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