There’s something wrong with Today’s CVs

Employers expect you have at least 2-5 years of experience straight out of school. Absurd isn’t it? But we’ve found a way to beat them at this game. We start getting work experience right from school, and we make sure to document this experience in our CV, or is it resume?

We document how we were able to organize a conference that attracted over 5,000 attendees from across the nation (even though the only thing 5,000 was the number of seats in the hall, not the audience). In a previous article, titled ‘The Corporate Rat Race’, I talked about the thousand and one things we do to gain this so-called work experience. I won’t go back to that.

Call it whatever you want, the curriculum vitae is a statement of your successes, in academics, work experience, volunteer experience, and all the other relevant information that is provided in a CV.

Think about some of the best CVs you’ve come across; if you could judge a man simply by the contents of 2 well-aligned error-free pages, most men would be demi-gods.

Our CVs only reflect the good side. Our CVs make us look as if we have it all figured out. At times I look at my CV and wish my life was ACTUALLY that ordered.

Why can’t I admit my failures on my CV? Why can’t I admit on my CV that my first two experiences with leadership responsibilities were utter disasters? For a long time after that, I shied away from holding positions, preferring to work solo while I improved on myself. In my CV, there is hardly any reference to these positions. Even when I refer to them, I polish the tide of events to make them sound nice.

Why can’t I admit the truth about my academic underperformance? Instead of stating my precise grade, I use the general name of that grade, to make it look better. I’ve observed that those with a CGPA of 4.0 upwards are more likely to state the precise grade, while those with 3.9 downwards, are more likely to sugar-coat with by stating ‘Second Class Upper’ or ‘Second Class Lower’. What about those with 2.5 downwards? Honestly if you’re in this scenario, you shouldn’t be writing CVs, you should be writing proposals or running for political office.

Why can’t I come out of the closet about the number of blunders I’ve committed, the people I’ve ‘slied’, the deadlines I’ve missed and the consequences?

Why can’t I tell my future employer that for every bullet point of achievements in my latest work experience, there are 10 unreported failures?

On LinkedIn, I have to sound wise, deep and thoughtful. I post only my latest successes and save my goofy missteps for my WhatsApp status. Every time I secure a new position, straight to tell everyone on LinkedIn. Pepper them. I’m about to blow, just keep watching. I have a friend who usually drives me crazy to help him edit his next LinkedIn post. Too bad he can’t be that meticulous with his Facebook posts.

If my future employer could see my browsing history, he would be thoroughly disappointed. But he won’t. He would most likely type my name into the Google search bar. I have good stuff online. Then he might check my social media handles. I’m very careful about what I post on public platforms. But the things I’ve done with my other email addresses and incognito browsing, only God and the people at Google know. But what if Google is my future employer?

The corporate world, through publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, we are told that failure is part of the process; we are told that failures shape you, help you handle and appreciate your successes. Embrace failure. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Aspire and perspire to achieve your desire. And all of that motivational jargon.

But this same white-collar industry would turn me back without a moment’s hesitation if it got wind of the blunders behind the scenes.

What is the essence of this rant? The employment process is broken (assuming there was ever a time it worked). Considering the fact that most people will be employees, as opposed to employers of labour, the process by which we recruit the people who keep the world running needs rethinking. A process that creates the incentive to polish up the facts so they look more appealing on a resume, or outrightly deny their existence, should have long been displaced. We need to encourage honesty amongst job applicants. Already, tech giants are leading the way. Recently, Google announced that college degrees were unnecessary to land jobs with them. In this part of the world, we know what we do (or don’t do) in order to get good grades, so this decision makes sense.

Employers need to start encouraging applicants to admit their failures. Instruct applicants to draft a ‘Failure CV’, or cover letter, where they admit their failures, what it cost them, and what they learnt from it (if they did).

If I have the chance to be absolutely in charge of the recruitment process of a major company, I want to see the human side of my prospective teammates. I want to hear their missteps. I want to know their struggles. I believe that this will help me develop realistic expectations from them.

If we all agree that failure is a fact of life, and my CV is a concise statement of my life experience in relation to a particular position, does it make sense to deny my failings?

Talking about CVs though, mine desperately needs updating. I’ve “achieved” a lot lately.




Analyst/Emerging Tech Lead, Tech Hive Advisory | AI Ethics & Governance Researcher

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Akin Ifeanyi Agunbiade

Akin Ifeanyi Agunbiade

Analyst/Emerging Tech Lead, Tech Hive Advisory | AI Ethics & Governance Researcher

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