The wonderful lifehacker.com had a post on the topic of CV reading recently from Rands in Repose. It was excellent stuff, written from the perspective of an experienced hirer and exactly mirrors the first pass / second pass approach that thousands of hirers out there use every day.

What’s interesting, but hardly surprising, is the “Me, me meeeeee” mindset of so many of the comments that the post generated. When I lecture on this topic to graduates and post-graduates, I am at pains to point out that the job-hunting process is 100% about the employer – their needs, their worries, their issues, their ulcers. All the bright young heads in the room invariably nod sagely when I say this. Fair enough – the concept is self-evident. But that IQ moment of understanding rarely, rarely translates into an EQ moment where the behaviour of all the bright young people begins to reflect that understanding.

Their CVs remain woolly, waffly and badly spelled and punctuated. Their behaviour at interview is either transparently insincere and clichéd; or whiny, needy and overtly self-serving. Folks, whatever level you are operating at, you really need to understand just how irrelevant you are to the hirer – particularly at the CV stage.

I was interviewing with a big tech firm just before christmas and over the course of the week, a handful of candidates did not show up for their interviews. Did we phone them to see what the problem was? Did we hell! We offered a silent prayer of thanks and grabbed some more caffeinated beverages. Those candidates could have been trapped down wells, savaged by angry poodles or in some genuinely perilous situation. None of this entered our minds – we were kicking back, enjoying the unexpected bonus of a spare 30 minutes sipping java.

I have long maintained that calling the process of hiring people “screening and selection” is a misnomer. It should be called “screening and ELIMINATION” because that is what’s going on. If I have a depressingly large pile of applications sitting on my desk, it instantly becomes a numbers game – 100 applications will be whittled down to 8-12 on the shortlist. Eight to twelve in the first interview becomes tow to three in the second and, if we’re lucky, we find the golden needle in the haystack.

As the late, great Bill Hicks said, “I don’t mean to sound bitter, cold or cruel … but I am, so that’s how it comes out.” It’s not a perfect reality, but it is reality, so heed the nice Mr Rand – he’s casting pearls of wisdom in front of you. Don’t be a swine …