Workshop: Personal Trainer

We currently send out application forms for job vacancies. Should we just ask for CVs instead?

I often wonder just how many trees are sacrificed in the public sector with all those application forms they send out. And most people simply fill them in with the words "see CV" written in key places.

I favour the CV approach - it can reveal much more about a candidate from the way they tackle it, and can be quite a useful screening device.

Do applicants show the ability to adapt their CV to the job? Are they hungry enough for the job to prepare a really useful CV - or is this simply a standard resume scattered out like confetti?

A good CV will tell an employer what they want to hear, show the skills that are needed and reveal the values of the candidate.

But I would also strongly recommend that you ask for a covering letter in which applicants state how they match the person-specification for the job.

Don't just use CVs, because you are going to be short-listing on the basis of the candidates who best match the person-specification. You could also ask them to cover other specifics in the letter such as current salary, notice periods and references.

Incidentally, try not to list too many skills in the person-specification.

A maximum of eight competencies is all that is required. Any more, and you might as well ask for the kitchen sink too.

It is surprising just how poor some people's CVs can be. Some of them are rather desperate, going on for ages and listing all sorts of insignificant achievements. I particularly detest the CV whose opening paragraph begins with "an inspirational change manager who..."

There are the CVs that are the product of those "teach yourself how to present" books that you buy at airports. These often fail to show how the person fits the post.

A particular bugbear of mine is the section at the end where people list 'hobbies' - gardening, reading, or going to the theatre. Don't these people realise that such activities are the mark of a civilised person? Presenting these as hobbies is indicative of a truly uninspiring person!

On the other hand, people with real potential often have a strong hinterland - trusteeships, voluntary involvements, committee memberships. These can be important indicators of talent. Anyway, try it and see! You can always revert if you don't like it.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).

Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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