Your CV - A Very Valuable Document

What value do you place on your CV? You may think it's difficult to put a monetary value on what is really your promotional literature. It's an intangible, the difference between keeping in work or sitting at home by the telephone. But what of others?


You've probably sent your CV to a number of potential employers. In general, employers make poor use of CVs. Some fail to make more than the most cursory appraisal of the candidates' skills and, by doing so, deprive themselves of good employees.

Few look further than their immediate requirements or consider whether the person could be useful elsewhere in the department or in the organisation - such is the adversarial nature of business politics in the lean, mean 90's. Even fewer will keep details of appropriate but unsuccessful candidates on file, despite what the letter "regretting you have not been chosen" may say.

I once heard of a company manager who had a novel approach to the enormous responses to job advertisements which were being received in the depths of the recession. He would divide the response into three stacks and then play a variation of the "Find the Lady" card-game that relieves tourists of their money every year on the streets of London. Yes - he would point to a stack at random and discard the rest! His justification was that, by the Law of Averages, each stack would contain a representative range of candidates and, in any case, he didn't have time to read them all.

It is probably little wonder that most organisations seem to be staffed by people who, to be kind, "could do better". So it is probably fair to say that most employers under-value your CV.

Recruitment Agencies

Agencies, consultancies and whatever else they style themselves as should value your CV. After all, it's what they base their sales activity upon, as few agencies bother to interview candidates any more (as we did when I entered the business). But do they value it? Many agencies seem to lack staff capable of making a proper assessment of applicants' skills and, since the technology became available to scan CVs into a computer system, rely on key-word searches to select candidates for their requirements.

This "high-tech" approach does allow the process to be carried out by lesser (or un-) skilled staff but it has its limits. It's fine for people who've mostly done the same thing for the last umpteen years but falls down for anyone who has had a mixed career. Such people can be plagued by agency resourcers offering contracts requiring skills used (and discarded) years ago, such as my one four-month PL/1 contract in the summer of '84 which brings me at least one 'phone call per month!

If you really want to upset the apple cart, put a paragraph in your CV, saying something like "I have absolutely no knowledge of", followed by a list of currently in-demand skills and see the agencies make fools of themselves.

Agencies, probably, do value your CV but do not make as much of it as they could - with one notable exception (of which more later).

Circulation Services

At one time, there were applicants, employers and agencies - who acted as middle-men to the other parties. Enter another category - CV circulation services - who in fact operate as middle-men to the middle-men. These services, who regularly advertise in computer trade publications such as "Computing Weekly" and "Freelance Contractor", will distribute - free of charge to the candidate - your CV to whoever is prepared to pay for it.

Such services are a very effective way for a contractor to become known to a large number of agencies. Note, however, that it's unlikely that your CV will reach the market-leader agencies by this route as they seem not to use the CV circulation services. I'm told by a friend who works for one of the "majors" that they regard their name as sufficient draw for the response they need.

The circulation services certainly value your CV and make their living by selling it.


Who else, I hear you say. Let's start with an analogy.

In the years immediately following the 1939-45 war, Germany was under Allied occupation and life was hard. The official currency, the Reichsmark, was virtually worthless. At street level, people found their own solution and commodities began to replace currency. All sorts of things served to pay for goods and services. Petrol, soap, stockings and such effectively replaced money but nothing was more convertible than the humble cigarette, especially if it was American. It was estimated that a cigarette could change hands about ten times, repaying small debts and favours, before someone gave in to the temptation of smoking it.

During the recession, when the contract market appeared to be fatally wounded, the CV - like the post-war cigarette - became a tradable commodity. With levels of business at a record low, some agencies started to augment their income by selling copies of their database. Some agency staff followed the enterprise culture to the extent of doing this on their own account. As a result, a number of contractor databases have been sold on so many times that virtually every contractor that ever there was - past and present, dead or alive - is known to virtually every agency.

And it doesn't stop with agencies. List-broking is very big business and countless organisations will pay a lot of money for your name and address. If you've ever wondered why it was that you get book-club offers, charity appeals and no end of junk-mail sent to you with your name misspelt like they do at Contractastaff, wonder no more!

So the next time you send a copy of your CV, give some thought to the whole industry which depends on your humble two pages. Someone, somewhere is probably making more money out of it than you ever will!

© Brian Smith 1995

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