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Career Coach

To print or not to print — a CV, that is

About the author

Elizabeth is a freelance writer in California and a former Career Q&A columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

Will paper CVs or resumes go the way of typewriters and landlines? (Thinkstock)

Will paper CVs or resumes go the way of typewriters and landlines? (Thinkstock)

Ask most people when they last printed out their resume or CV to submit for a job application, and they’ll probably have to search their brains and go back at least a couple of years. 

With most companies offering online uploads when applying, it’s easy to wonder if a printed CV ever needs to make an appearance. Is the paper CV dead?

Depending on their field, personal preferences and geographic location, many career experts will tell you that printed versions still hold a place in the job application process — especially during interviews. BBC polled a number of experts to get the inside scoop on the value of a paper resume in a digital world.

Shikha Arora, senior recruiter with SAP Asia, based in Singapore

Only in an interview. “Early this year I received a courier [package] and found a resume in [a] nicely sealed envelope. Someone in this electronic world spent [money] on stamps, envelope, courier charges, to send a resume,” she said. You’d think Arora might be impressed, right?  “But my reaction was: ‘who does that?’.”  

“For me, paper resumes can’t be the first point of contact with a recruiter for a simple reason. If it is not in a soft copy, then it can’t be found in an online search, and if it can’t be found, then it does not exist,” she warned. “However, I still use paper resumes when I interview candidates, and it is to take notes relevant to a particular section.”

Karalyn Brown, founder of Australia-based job site InterviewIQ

A short life expectancy. “I think they [paper CVs] will continue to be used for the next few years, particularly where there are legislative requirements for an organisation to make a judgment about someone based only on the evidence they present as part of the application process,” Brown said.

But that doesn’t mean the dead-tree version of a CV or resume is here to stay. “The future of the paper-based CV is pretty grim, particularly as the generation who have grown up on social media start to move into roles where they hire people,” she said. “The way people hire people to work for them, using sites like Elance.com, is changing dramatically.”

Irene McConnell, executive coach and director of Sydney-based Arielle Careers

It depends. "The only time a resume ends up on paper is when the candidate is called in for an interview. I personally prefer to have a physical copy in my hands rather than having to refer to a computer monitor. Apart from that, the resume stays attached to an email,” she said.

Charlotte Hågård, Stockholm-based author and executive career coach

Yes… with caveats.  “Yes, there is absolutely a role for paper CVs,” she said.

This is particularly true for “some HR professionals and recruiting managers who are used to the traditional way of going about reading CVs and application letters.” 

Another group that wants to see paper: recruiters. “Although people have a LinkedIn profile, recruiters still want to see a CV,” said Hågård. “The interesting part is that recruiters/headhunters here have told me that the two-page CV is not good anymore. One page is enough. All of them say one page. They don’t have time to read long descriptions of people's career any more.”

Natalie Murray, technical recruiter with Demonware Inc in Vancouver, British Columbia

It’s all about being global. “As a recruiter and career coach in the high tech and digital entertainment space, I have a strong preference for digital resumes and portfolios,” explained Murray.

“With hiring managers spread out across the globe, there is a need to seamlessly share candidate profiles across geographically dispersed teams. The easier a candidate makes this for me, the better. This is also a great reason for people to craft a great online profile, whether it's on Linkedin, a blog or other professional platforms.”

“In this day and age, I don't often see a paper resume, but when I do, I always request a digital copy to follow,” Murray said.

Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York based human resources consulting firm

If you want to be asked smart questions. We find that paper resumes are simply used as a courtesy at an in-person interview but rarely mailed in to respond to a job posting,” explained Klein. That’s in large part due the rising popularity of “applicant tracking systems, which require applicants to post their resume online.” Klein said most companies don’t even provide a physical mailing address for applications or job inquiries anymore.  

“A common mistake we see candidates make is actually not bringing their hard copy resume to their interview,” because they think the interviewer has it on-hand or on-screen, she said. “Studies have shown that the average interviewer spends less than one minute scanning a resume in advance [so] providing a hard copy is actually quite helpful.” 

Career Coach is a twice-monthly column on BBC Capital in which we consider the career turning points and questions many professionals face. We welcome questions from readers at careercoach@bbc.com.

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