Application forms or CVs?

Application forms or CVs?

Getting the application process right first time round can save a lot of time further down the recruitment journey. CVs and application forms are both established ways of filtering out the best applicants, but which is the most effective?

The role of a good CV or application form is to get the jobseeker in the ‘yes pile,’ while for recruiters it’s the initial step in separating out the prime candidates to send through the first part of the interview process.

The jobseeker will always be looking to give the best impression possible, while the recruiter will try to look beyond any gloss to dig deep into the true values of candidates. But does it really matter whether the recruitment process begins with a call for CVs or a request for the completion of an application form?

The answer is most definitely ‘yes’. Why? Because a CV is created solely by the candidate, so although it can be biased, it also provides an insight into their presentation and communication capabilities. The application form, on the other hand, is far more rigid, placing all candidates on a level playing field from the off.

But which is best CV or application form? There’s only one way to find out… FIGHT! But instead we opted to canvass the opinions of our panel of recruitment experts to find the pros and cons of each method.


CVs: The pros

Show personality

Finding the right candidate is not all about skills, experience and qualifications. Personality counts, and CVs give a first glimpse of this.

“CVs enable the candidate to show more of their personality, whether it be through use of content, layout or style,” says Lisa Holmes, IT recruitment director at Assured Recruitment Solutions. “What’s more, they can be quite broad reaching, so if a CV is received with a specific role in mind, it’s easy to see if the candidate might be fit for an entirely different role.”


Provide more information

CVs give candidates the chance to include nuggets of information that can give a real insight into their attitude in the workplace and their approach, through sections such as career highlights and key achievements. “These areas are often overlooked on application forms,” says Ruth Skelton, manager, accounting and finance division at Morgan McKinley.


Give an insight into a candidate’s work

No matter what template a candidate is using, every CV is different because it is produced by an individual. As such, it provides important clues as to how the candidate works.

“A CV can allow hiring managers to really see a professional’s own work by looking at how they structure and present their CV,” says Skelton. “This can give important insight into their possible quality of work.”


CVs: The cons

Make it more difficult to make comparisons

The individual nature of CVs can make it difficult to compare possible applicants.

“They allow professionals to be selective in the information they provide when applying for a role, giving hiring managers less control over what they can see,” says Skeltion. “For example, some jobseekers might include their systems skills, but others might not.”


Pander to the best communicators

Good design and writing skills can sometimes mask the deficiencies of a candidate. This can benefit certain jobseekers at the expense of potentially better candidates.

“Not everyone can write a good CV,” says Holmes. “Some people are unable to express themselves in a clear and concise manner. Some can go over the top, meaning that as a reader you switch off, but they could actually be a very good candidate.”


Lengthen the recruitment process

As Holmes points out, the idiosyncrasies of CVs can be overcome because “a good recruiter can help to refine a CV and make sure that it’s fit for purpose.” This, however, creates more work for the recruiter and, therefore, makes for a more protracted recruitment process.


Application forms: The pros

Reduce ambiguity

The rigid nature of application forms allows them to extract more targeted information from candidates, cutting through the clutter that CVs can present.

“For very specific functions and roles, where the criteria are very tight application forms can be highly useful,” says Holmes. “They are a simple process from the client side and have a very rigid structure, with very tailored questions that get to the point, so there is no ambiguity.”


Can be tailored to a role

The real beauty of the application form is that it can be specifically designed with a particular role in mind.

“An application form can be specific to the role, meaning a jobseeker has taken time and effort to actually provide key information pertaining the exact position, rather than just pressing a send button and firing off a pre-prepared CV,” says Skelton.


Give recruiters total control

Those recruiters who know how to design good application forms, and it is a bit of an art form, are able to use them to take complete control of the start of the recruitment process, which can often feel a bit random if candidates are simply invited to send in CVs. This can really save time later on.

“Application forms give the employer total control over what information is provided by an applicant,” says Skelton. “So if it is asked on an application form what systems the applicant has used, and they don’t provide an answer, it is safe to assume they haven’t used any. If the information wasn’t provided on a CV, it could be that the applicant didn’t deem it important enough to include rather than them not having the skill.”


Application forms: The cons

Lack flexibility

The application forms biggest advantage, its rigidity, is also its biggest weakness, according to Holmes. “There isn’t a lot of room to expand and they are very role specific,” she says.

“The questions are generally constructed in such a way that extracting any extra information, which is vital if you’re thinking about a candidate for another role or opportunity, is difficult.”


Take time to create

Designing a good application form can be time consuming and add an extra workload if this is done for every job vacancy. “They also create more of an administrative task for both employers and the prospective jobseekers,” says Skelton.


Put off potential applicants

Jobseekers who have taken time and trouble creating their CV often get very frustrated when the see that applying for a particular job requires them to complete an application form. Many view it as a real chore, and it can even be put people off from applying.

“Most professionals dislike application forms,” confirms Skelton, “which means that as an employer you might get fewer applicants for your role.”


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