To CV or not to CV…

Jan 20, 2014 | Recruitment

When you start thinking about recruiting for a vacancy, you need to decide what the application process for candidates will be. This decision usually boils down to a question of whether you require application forms or CVs, usually with a covering letter.

There is no right or wrong answer to this. Your organisation may have a standard application process, but if you are in a position to decide what would be best, you may find the most effective approach is to look at the requirements for that job in particular and consider which would be most appropriate.

Application forms

A well-designed application form used for applications has the following benefits

  • It can be designed to gather information specific to the selection criteria you have defined
  • All applicants are required to provide the same information – if there are some questions to which a yes/no answer are essential this will force candidates to give this information early on and reduce the risk of wasted time
  • Comparison of information is easier as information is all presented in the same way
  • Equal opportunities monitoring is easier as the forms can be designed to remove from consideration during shortlisting any information which may be a source of discrimination, for example information about gender, ethnic origin, age.
  • If you’re expecting hundreds of applications you may find it easier to reduce these by using application forms, the shortlisting process may be quicker, as you could sift by looking at one or two key areas
  • Candidates will have to go to some effort to complete the form, which may reduce the field down to those who are really serious about the job.

However you need to also consider your timescale and resources available to you. If you are placing an advertisement you need to think about how candidates will access the application form and other information, whereas with inviting CVs there is not that barrier, and applications may be easier.

You also need to ensure that the application form is up to date, and designed well enough to get the information you need and allow easy shortlisting.


Requesting a CV with covering letter can bring the following benefits to your recruitment process

  • CVs can facilitate a speedy recruitment process in a tight market, as candidates do not have to contact you for an application form
  • They are generally preferred by candidates, some of whom may have a good up to date CV ready but may be put off applying for a vacancy if there is a lengthy form to complete
  • There is more freedom within this format for a candidate to- sell’ their skills and experience on a CV and how they choose to do so may give you more of an insight into the candidate than a standardised application form.
  • Candidates also have the opportunity to allow their personality and creativity to come across in a CV, which may be important depending on the role you are recruiting for.
  • CVs may give you more than a yes/no answer in terms of selection criteria, and may access candidates who might be great for the role but may not have been able to meet exact criteria.
  • If qualifications aren’t crucial, or you expect lots of candidates with qualifications, then a CV might be good as it allows candidates to demonstrate why they are better than other candidates for the role, acknowledging that candidates are each unique and have individual skills, attributes and qualities which may be an asset to your organisation even if not strictly defined in a list of criteria
  • It could be said that a covering letter accompanying a CV may give you an idea of the candidate’s work (although you have no guarantee the letter or indeed the CV was written by the candidate).

Choose whichever method you feel is appropriate for your organisation and for the role you are recruiting to maximise your chances of finding absolutely the best person for your team.

If you would like advice on successful recruitment in your business, do get in touch.