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Today’s bright idea #2

August 28th, 2013 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Technology · 4 Comments · Life, Technology

Todays’ bright idea: a new open source file format for CVs.

In the old days a CVwas typed up on paper and physically posted. Now they are done in (usually) MS Word and more often emailed or uploaded to an employer or agency’s web site, but people still think of the CV as a document and talk about it in terms of pages. The big debate is how many pages it should be. Some people advocate a strict one-page maximum. Others say it should be two.

This can lead to some job-hunters with a lot to say using tiny fonts and intricate formatting to get it all into the number of pages they go for. Unfortunately the receivers of these CVs can have a different printer, or set of drivers, or fonts, or preferences set in Word, or they might even use different software like LibreOffice and the CV they print comes out looking very different. That one-page CV comes out at one page plus two lines perhaps.There are upsides to this. It exposes those people who use the spacebar for all their formatting instead of tables or tabs, but should everyone be judged on their Word skills, even if that is not a requirement of the job?

One result of the increasingly electronic nature of CVs is that employers and agencies like to put them through software that hunts for particular keywords – difficult if somebody has presented it as a PDF to preserve all the formatting but the recipient’s software can only process Word .docs.

I find it all a bit inelegant. The same file is being used as a data source for batch processing and as a presentation document.

How much better to have a file that just had the data in it, along with some metadata about how to present it. It would be a bit like XML, could even be defined using XML. Get a few big players to accept it and it could become a de facto standard.

One single file could be used in different ways by different programs at different times. For example, you could use it to upload the information you want to LinkedIn in one go, updating your entire history. An agency could use the data for filtering and better matching. They could send pre-defined extracts of the data to their clients…

I remember going to an interview once and seeing my carefully-designed CV after it had been ruined by an agency removing all the bits which would have enabled their client to identify me. I think they didn’t trust their clients to not directly approach applicants and avoid commission or something.

I’m a bit of an idealist. What appeals to me about this is that the content would become the important aspect, and not the presentation. An employer would have all the CVs printed out in the in-house style so they would have to concentrate on the words and not the font they are presented in. OK it would be better to never actually print them in this day and age, but that is a bit too ambitious.

Once you have an accepted format then developers can go ahead and design programs (or Android apps) to help you populate your CV file. That is where the money would be, not in the file format itself, but in the clever ways to help you fill it or interpret it. Perhaps you could keep a master file with everything in it and then get selective about which bits to include for a specific job?

I like the idea, but then I would wouldn’t I?

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Skuds Sister

    My employer does all applications via an online form and you would probably not be surprised at the mess that some people make of that…..

  • Skuds

    I can imagine. Hate those things.

    Think about it though; if you are employed then you can pick and choose for a change in job or career but if you are unemployed you will tend to apply for any job you think you can do. Some people apply for 100s, which is a bit indiscriminate IMO, but you could easily apply for dozens.

    If you are going to send out CVs it is easy. You do all the work once, getting your CV just right, then each application is quick to do. But if a company want an online form filled it can take ages.

    They are all in different formats, ask different questions or the same questions in a different way so you can’t just copy & paste. If you are trying to do several in a day you will end up doing them badly.

    A good argument for a standard format. Each company could ask their own questions but they would be a subset of all the possible pre-defined data and could be uploaded selectively from a master file. Applicants have less hassle, employers get a better quality application to read.

    The only losers are compilers of filler columns in newspapers who love those lists of worst CV mistakes.

  • Skuds Sister

    If you are sending out dozens of CVs then you would need to be sending out dozens of subtly different CVs. It is no use sending the same CV out to all employers as they will all have slightly different requirements – your CV should reflect what a potential employer needs not what you want to put on a CV.

  • Skuds

    I suspect that anybody indiscriminate enough to send out 100s of CVs will be sending out the same one.

    I used to have a 3-page CV with everything on it and would take out the least relevent stuff for each application to make it 2 pages, but that was all done manually in Word. I’m thinking of something like that but more structured and without the need to worry about formatting.