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Should I use application forms or CVs?

Should I use application forms or CVs?

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When you're advertising for a new job you need to decide on whether you want your applicants to apply using a CV or by answering an application form you have specifically created.

There are pros and cons for each method which need to be considered before deciding which is right for your recruitment campaign. 

Applications form pros and cons
Asking your candidates to request or download an application form guarantees consistency and allows you to get the answers to the questions you want, obtaining more specific information than is often included in a CV.

Because candidates generally view application forms as a necessary evil, going down this route may result in fewer applications, but those you do get will be from more serious candidates, not just those blanket-bombing a generic CV.

They also allow you to compare candidates on a more even keel once the applications come in. When the response is high, you can very quickly sift through the applications focusing on just a couple of the more important areas of the form. Those who make it through this first filter can then be assessed on how they have answered the rest of your questions.

CV pros and cons
Application form takes time for both you and the candidate; asking applicants to send in their CVs cuts through a potential barrier to candidates applying for your job and gives you more time to find the right candidate.

Assuming your job description is accurate and engaging, people who have their CVs ready to send will apply without delay, hopefully matching the skill requirements and person specification you have described.

Formats for CVs are looser and more informal than applications forms giving the candidate the opportunity to inject a bit of their own personality into their document. However, that can make them harder to judge objectively if you're swayed by a good layout over good content..You may even receive a CV that the candidate thinks was formatted correctly on a Mac but looks all over the place on your PC. Should they be punished for this file incompatibility?

An then there is the question of outside interference. Plenty of candidates will have had all sorts of help preparing CV and may simply not be as good as their document suggests. 

Making comparisons
When compiling your application form, first decide on the criteria that you feel to be the most important./ If you lay these questions out on page one, when you're comparing candidates you can quickly assess those who meet your criteria and discard those who don't before wasting your time on reading page two.

Comparing CVs is a trickier assignment and one that requires you to be able to pick out important information. Have a list of the key criteria for the role next to you and scan through each CV circling every point where your criteria are met. Those with more circles are more likely to match your requirements.  

Both these approaches aren't foolproof. There are plenty of candidates who may not meet your requirements for a top degree, but if you go deeper into their experience they may have what it takes to do the job so make sure you set aside enough time to assess applications comprehensively.

The right option for your recruitment campaign
Application forms are still very much the norm in some industry sectors, most notably the public sector where protocol and fairness is part of the culture. But opting for CVs instead doesn't; mean you're not going to be fair in your selection process.

If you're expecting hundreds of applicants, then forms may be a better way to go. If the role you're advertising requires candidates to show off their creativity then CVs are the better option.

If you're expecting lots of candidates with similar qualifications and want each to prove what makes them more employable than the others then go for CVs. If you're only interested in candidates who can meet very strict selection criteria then application forms will be more effective.

There's no right or wrong way to do things; just remember to think carefully about what it is you expect from candidates before going for one or the other.