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How to show true value in a CV in the gig economy

  • Blog
  • 13th Jun 2024

One in three Australian workers are employed in insecure work, which includes casual work, independent or fixed-term contracting, labour hire and gig economy work.

People in insecure work often accrue valuable skills and experience, even though their  employment history may include frequent job changes, gaps between jobs, or periods of unemployment. 

Unfortunately, such fragmented work histories suffer from social stigma. Employers tend to undervalue skills and experience gained in insecure employment. Workers can then hesitate to list insecure jobs on their CVs, fearing negative impacts on their employment prospects.

Although workers are often dissatisfied with the uncertainty and instability of insecure employment, many feel stuck when it comes to transitioning to secure, stable employment. 

A crucial step for these workers is learning to present their work histories to employers in a way which showcases their valuable skills and experience.

To try and help overcome bias against the insecurely employed, we partnered with the National Careers Institute in the Australian Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to run an online trial. We tested the best way of presenting a history of short-term roles in a CV.

What format best highlights skills in a gig economy CV?

Evidence shows even minor changes to how information is presented can boost job application success. 

A previous BIT field trial, with over 9,000 applications, found highlighting professional experience by duration (e.g. 5 years) instead of specific dates (e.g. 2012-2017) helped overcome hiring biases against breaks in a career and significantly increased positive callbacks for candidates.

Building on this evidence, we wanted to test whether enhancing skills visibility on CVs would similarly increase the job prospects for insecure workers. 

Trialling CV formats

We conducted an online trial where over 1,000 recruiters participated in a hypothetical hiring scenario for an entry-level, secure role. 

Each recruiter reviewed a set of four CVs and selected the candidate they preferred. The content and experience of the candidates in the CVs were matched, and the only thing that changed was the CV format. We tested four different formats:

  • Control: A basic CV without dates 
  • Duration: A traditional CV using duration in a role as opposed to dates in a role
  • Skills: Employment history organised by skills but with no dates provided
  • Hybrid: Employment history organised by skills and cumulative experience listed


Example of the Hybrid CV format, where employment history is listed by skill and experience is listed cumulatively

Recruiters overwhelmingly preferred Hybrid CVs which emphasised skills alongside experience

In our study, nearly half of the recruiters selected candidates with the Hybrid CV format. 

This format also helped recruiters more accurately gauge candidate experience levels, outperforming even the Duration CV which explicitly listed years of employment.  

This suggests the Hybrid CV format may be acting as an equaliser, helping recruiters to fairly appraise candidates with experience accrued in a diversity of roles.

Employers should further unlock the potential of skills-based recruitment

Many progressive employers are shifting towards skills-based recruitment, for instance by removing the requirement for degrees or using recruitment platforms such as Applied. This shift allows for a broader talent pool, crucial in today’s intense competition for skilled workers.

The traditional CV format, which focuses on job titles and cumulative experience, does not align well with this approach. It obscures evidence of the valuable skills recruiters are seeking and disadvantages those with non-linear career paths.

Our trial shows emphasising skills alongside experience in CVs can improve hiring outcomes for insecure workers, and help recruiters more accurately appraise candidate experience. 

The findings suggest job seekers with insecure work histories should adopt the Hybrid CV to best showcase their skills and experience.

We can already see the real-world impact of this trial, with community employment organisations offering free CV templates based on our findings. 

Get in touch to see how you can harness the power of behavioural insights to improve your recruitment methods and make it easier to find candidates with the right skills for the job.