Will van Zwanenberg talks about his experience of presenting unconventional CVs, and how employers can misinterpret CVs:
As a would-be employer, if you received a CV from a job applicant that didn’t include a complete chronology of their past employment history, what would you be likely to think?
Would you assume that the candidate had something to hide? After all, why else might they not include this information? Would you be minded to treat their application with suspicion? Would your natural inclination be to simply add their CV to the reject pile and send them a standard rejection letter? Would you do this no matter how impressive their CV otherwise was? How likely would you be to test your assumptions? Would you take the view that you had better things to be doing with your time than enquire as to why the applicant had done this?
The reason for asking these questions is because I want to introduce the idea that in all probability, if the candidate has omitted to include a chronology and they’re disabled (something they make elect to not reveal at the point when they first apply for the vacancy), then there’s likely to be a very good reason why, and it almost certainly hasn’t got anything to do with having something to hide. In other words, what you imagine to be the explanation will most likely be completely wrong. It’s far more likely that the candidate has, what I would suggest, were totally justifiable reasons for not including date information. If I’m right, haven’t you just unfairly discriminated against the candidate? Might it also be the case that you have thrown away any opportunity you might otherwise have had to interview an ideal candidate who could be a very valuable asset to you?
I’m an evenbreak candidate. I’ve uploaded my CV on to their database. My CV doesn’t include date information. Here’s why:
The fact that I am autistic has meant, despite applying for numerous jobs that I’m overqualified for and would actually be ideal for, that I have spent a very long period of time being unemployed. It’s also meant that I haven’t been to stay in any of the jobs I’ve had for long. Insofar as I’ve had any sort of career, it’s been decidedly disjointed. None of this is easy to explain in a 2 page CV. Indeed, if I had included date information, how would a prospective employer discern that this was the explanation unless I’d included a lengthy explanation in a covering letter with that they’d be unlikely to read or pay much attention to?
The gaps can be off-putting for unenlightened employers, and they bear no relation to my ability to do the job. My CV contains all the facts which should be important to a potential employer – my experience, attributes and qualifications. You don’t, or at least shouldn’t, evaluate a candidate’s experience and skill level by the length of time they’ve been in a job.
The cumulative effect of years spent out of work due to depression, stress and ill-health, a failure to secure employment, as well as a prolonged but misguided period spent as a house husband, coupled with my very disjointed career history, and long periods of time spent pursuing different courses of education, has meant that on paper at least, my career history is fractured to the point of appearing incoherent – or at least without significant structure or direction. This has only ever served to disadvantage me and to get me rejected for interviews without the employer ever having actually spoken to me, or for him to become au-fait with my circumstances. In other words, it’s become a barrier that has guaranteed I won’t be considered – even though many of the jobs I have applied for I have been overqualified for and could do well, standing on my head. I leave the dates off my CV in order to circumvent this.
This has been the advice I have received from senior HR people with years of experience. The advice has been to encourage employers to not focus on the when, but rather what I actually did in the past, and what I’m actually capable of. Indeed, what I have the potential to do should they decide to employ me. This is what an they really need to know. Hopefully, by not including date information, I can encourage them to consider me on these terms and not to automatically reject me. The problem is, I’m dammed if I do, and I’m dammed if I don’t.
Now of course, my reasons for doing this are to do with being autistic. But I hopefully you can easily imagine how long periods being unemployed due to a disability could just as easily apply to other disabled candidates. So, what’s the central message I want to get across here? Answer: don’t jump to conclusions and be prepared to investigate.
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