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Recently I had a privilege to participate in few job interviews, where I was sitting on the “better” side of the table, on the side offering the job. I will of course not share details of those interviews, but I wanted to share on reflection associated with this experience. Namely, I think that all written job applications are worthless. Which maybe is not such a new thing, but I don’t mean here how those applications are written, only what is in them and what purpose those applications are to serve.

In my opinion, regardless of the job offered, you should look for two things: that the person will fit into the existing group (meaning that you should look for specific character traits) and that the person is intelligent enough and possess enough base skills to give you hope that she will perform required task as needed.

How should a person show those things in an application? First one is impossible to show, as the candidate does not know your team. Second is theoretically possible through a list of educational achievements, mastered skills etc. Applicants know this and they use standard terms in order to satisfy first requirement listing everything what sounds good (innovative, energetic, resistant to stress, dependable, team player, friendly, honest etc) and in order to satisfy the second requirement they list all possible school achievements, language proficiency and skills which they allegedly possess (master of SAP or Microsoft Office, fluent in French, etc). In consequence, all CV are pretty much the same. Especially now, when you are not supposed to pay attention to photos or you should not even ask for them on the basis of possible racial discrimination.

When it comes to the interview, you find out that the person listing as being “active” or “energetic” is actually really phlegmatic. French, well, it was fluent, but on mother’s side about 15 years ago, but applicant is sure that with some practice it will all come back. In the rest of the allocated time for the interview, you are trying to judge person’s true character while taking nervousness into account. And based on this, you make your decision if the person is suitable or not, hoping that her college diploma was earned, not bought.

Since the decision is based on the character traits more than anything else, why all this crap in the CV? I think that education and language skills – the tacit knowledge, the one which can be easily checked – should be listed, but listed truthfully. So should be the work history as it is helpful (applicant may already have required experience). The rest should not be. Instead, applicants should be given psychological tests easy enough for us to evaluate (based on pre-defined criteria). You, or your HR department, should also devise short and practical tests (written) to check listed tacit skills. In essence, you would have two stages job application – one consisting of tests, results of which would qualify (or disqualify) applicant for an interview. Results of both would be enough to give you a base for eventual decision much better than it is the case now.