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Home » Run Your Business

Don’t rely on the CV

If your business grows to such a size that you need to recruit people, you should think of it like  the process of making friends. Choose well and your business will be all the better for it. Choose poorly and it will bring you (and your business) down.

But, it’s even more important to choose employees well, because you’ll spend a lot more time with people that you work with than those you socialise with.

Some firms recruit ‘talent’ before they actually need them. But the greatest disservice you could do to your business and to the people you recruit is put them into non jobs. Talented people want challenge and work on meaningful things. Giving them a job because  they’re good is not good for you and it’s not good for them and before long they’ll get up and leave.

Other firms wait until they absolutely need to recruit new people, ie they get to the point where they  just can’t go on any longer without recruiting someone.   Those organisations tend to improve business processes and avoid unnecessary complication, not only simplifying their business (out of necessity) but avoiding costly mistakes and expensive processes.

But, when the time actually comes to hire, chances are you’ll be shortlisting the candidates based on the CV.

In a world of automation where jobs can be applied for at the touch of a button and CV’s can be sent out to many potential employers, how do you know that the person applying for your job actually wants to work for you?

How do you sift the Jamie Varon’s of the world who created the website Twitter should hire me from the ones who just want a job?

A covering letter

Cover letters are the equivalent of the Jamie Varon website. They separate the applicants from those who want a job and those that want any job.   Cover letters also do something else that CV’s don’t do, they distinguish those that can write from those that can’t.

Spell checkers of course can help with the spelling, but they can’t help with the writing. So on two competing CV’s the smart money goes with the one with the best covering letter.

At the interview

It’s good to have inquisitive people on board, those that ask questions and have a genuine desire to make things better. The best way to do this is by noting  the types of  questions that potential new recruits asks. Those that ask ‘How’ types of questions tend to be people who need directon and will generally need much more support. As a small business, can you really afford to provide high levels of support to that person?

Far better is the candidate that that ask why, not how. ‘Why do you do that?’ – why is good, it demonstrates and inherrent curiosity in the subject matter than the potential new hire has.

Test drive

Just like you take  a car out for test drive, wine sellers give you taste of wine before you buy it and Deli’s let you try a sample of cheese, wouldn’t it make sense that you do this with employees before you recruit them?

You could do this by taking people on a 1 month trial or ask them to complete a particular peice of work  which you pay them for.  If the potential newhire already has a job then maybe they could do the work a few hours  a week.

Either way, test driving before hiring could save you a some expensive mis-matched employees.

There’s good employees everywhere, you’ve just got to find them.

What do you think?


  • Eleanor Edwards said:

    I’m not an employer but reading this reminds me of the stuff we’re putting in place at Give A Brick for organisations that want to apply for a grant. I love the idea of shaking things up a bit like James did with his site. Application forms are boring (whether that be job applications or grant applications) so we’ve done away with them totally. Instead, we ask potential recipients to submit a short video about their stuff. Were I an employer, I’d love to do something similar. Videos can be edited to look pretty but you can’t hide (or fake!) passion and excitement.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Eleanor, thanks for the comment. You’ve just reminded me of a post I wrote a while ago – for video CV’s – check section 5 of this post:

  • Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire said:

    There are many personality-type tests that are also available. You can decide in advance what type of person you want to work with and sort through them based on the results of the test.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  • Matthew Needham said:

    The problem with personality tests is that you don’t necessarily know what you want or how well they’ll work in practice with the other personality types. Personally, I find personality profiles more useful for self analysis rather than reviewing someone’s employablity.

  • Steve Scott Site said:

    I only hire people on an outsource basis, but I use a method that is similar to what you brought up and it has done wonders for me. I am very happy with the people who assist me these days.

    What I do is similar to what you said about hiring them for a particular piece of work, but I hire 2-3 people for exactly the same job and give them the same exact input. With a sample of their work like this I can really see who “gets it” and I hire them long term. All it costs for such a split test is double or triple what you would pay for the first assignment, after that you have a much better chance at getting prompt and quality work.


  • Matthew Needham said:

    I’ve just seen this article on Problogger about the importance of having a personal blog.

    As it’s relevant, I’m sharing it here:

  • Professional CV Writers – Tips From CV Writers – Part II | Uncategorized | Information about Careers said:

    […] Don’t rely on the CV | Big Red Tomato Company […]