CV Databases Exposed: Are They Really Worth Your Time and Money?

CV Databases Aren’t Right for Many Employers

A sales person from a job site may want to upsell CV database access. These have existed since the dawn of the internet, but may be unfamiliar to new hiring managers, so I’ll go over them in some detail.

Almost every applicant who applies to a job advertisement is automatically added to the job site’s CV database. This means that advertisers paying money to advertise help to grow a database from which other employers and recruitment agencies can benefit. This is because the “ownership” of the applicant remains with the job site rather than the advertiser.

Unless your organisation has an in-house recruiter or HR specialist with time available, I would not recommend CV databases (even if given a free trial). Here’s why:

  • Finding CVs can be a challenge. Using broad search queries can bring up a lot of CVs that take time to review. To generate a more manageable list of results you may need to learn how to do advanced Boolean search queries.
  • Databases contain some old and irrelevant CVs. Trying to contact even a few unsuitable jobseekers can waste a lot of your time.
  • CV databases are very competitive. Recruitment agencies constantly search CV databases, leaving the weaker candidates for everyone else.
  • Contacting jobseekers is tricky. Making contact with applicants can be a real challenge. Even if you manage to speak with them, they have all the “power”. When an applicant applies to your advert, they have to sell themselves, but when you approach them, you have to sell your organisation and role.

Why do CV databases contain old CVs?

Under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation, it would be expected that retaining old data would be unlawful. So why don’t some job sites clean up their data and comply more with the spirit of GDPR legislation? They don’t bother for a number of reasons:

  • Reducing the number of CVs makes the database less marketable. Job sites know that naive purchasers sometimes make decisions based on the quantity of CVs in a database, so there’s no incentive to reduce this number.
  • It’s claimed that candidates are always on the lookout for a job and so worth retaining. I’ve rarely found this to be true, and I’ve wasted a lot of time finding out!

A simple and effective way to search CV databases

If you really want to use a CV database, avoid some of the pitfalls by using these techniques:

  • Use broad keywords and phrases. While it isn’t ideal because it will bring up a large amount of applicants, most people don’t know how to use Boolean logic, so I recommend using broad-generic keywords. For example, instead of “marketing executive” search for “marketing”. Though this generates more results that will take more time to review, it’s often less time-consuming than learning Boolean logic! But I have provided some examples of Boolean searches.
  • Enter a location and search radius. You may have the option of entering a geographical location and a distance around that location when searching for candidates. This has two limitations: applicants may live in a location but wish to work elsewhere, and the radius is calculated as the crow flies and doesn’t take into account commuting time.
  • View active applicants only. I strongly recommend refining your search if possible to include only applicants who have been active in the last 60 days. This will cut out old CVs and increase your chance of contacting an applicant.

When you review your search results, you’ll often see CVs with the contact details hidden. Sometimes, you can reveal the details by clicking on them. Job sites do this to get you to signal that you’re interested in a jobseeker and therefore deriving value from the database. Downloading a CV is an even stronger signal you may have found an applicant of interest.

<span class="grey-callout"><span class="text-color-purple">Note:</span> When placing a job advert, some job sites will automatically suggest “relevant” jobseekers in their CV database. Algorithms aren’t particularly accurate, but it may be worth reviewing the suggestions. Usually, you can invite selected jobseekers to apply, which can be useful, though I find that I get better results by contacting applicants personally.</span>

Oddly, jobseekers who respond to these approaches don’t always appear to have been shown the job by the site and may have basic queries about it. Equally, you may have questions about the applicant because you may not see their CV until they confirm an interest. There can be a bit of back-and-forth at first as everyone gathers the information they need.

Contact applicants you found in the right way

You need to be careful about how you approach applicants. You need to contact applicants quickly before competing recruitment agencies and employers do, but you must do this in the right way:

  1. Send a text message first. Many jobseekers won’t take unsolicited telephone calls; warming them up with a text improves your chances. It will help further to mention that you’re from an employer rather than a recruitment agency.
  2. Call the jobseeker. Remember that when you’re making an approach to a jobseeker, they have all the power. Make the effort to call them to demonstrate that you’re really interested in them.
  3. Follow up by text message and email. If you can't get through, I find that sending another text message increases response rates significantly. Sending an email can also help. At the very least, getting in touch allows the jobseeker to quickly update you about whether they’re considering other jobs so you won’t waste your time.
  4. Ask what they want rather than telling them about your job. I’ve found that if I start pitching a job vacancy, applicants often feel overwhelmed, say yes to be nice and ghost any further communication. A softer style is often better, such as, “Hi Rob. I found your CV on {job site name}, and the reason for my call is that I’m recruiting for a job with my organisation. I wanted to see if you’re still looking for work and, if so, had the time to discuss where you see your future career going? What would you improve about your current role? What do you like about your current role? What would you ideally like to do in the future?” Don’t try to push a square peg into a round hole – if they’re not a good fit, move on. If so, explain the role and ask, “Who do you know who might be a good fit?”

<span class="grey-callout"><span class="text-color-purple">Tip:</span> Don’t be surprised if a jobseeker doesn’t know that their details were on a CV database, as this isn’t always clear to them. They may misunderstand the situation, think you’re in control of the database and ask you to remove their details. Be prepared to explain that this isn’t your responsibility and that they will need to log in and remove their own details.</span>

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment