Employers are missing out on a wealth of potential talent because of the restrictive way job seekers are judged on what’s on – or rather not on – their CVs. And I should know.
In my case, at the very start of my first job search, my CV was missing something very few employers would be willing to ignore – something most people probably give little or no thought to.
I had no address. I was homeless, twice, through no fault of my own.
By the usual rules of job selection, I shouldn’t even have a job now, never mind a successful IT career in the City.
I was 19 when my family became homeless for the first time. My mother was a single parent working three or four jobs trying to make ends meet. She couldn’t feed us and keep up with the rent, so the landlord threw us out.
I had left school at 14 with no qualifications to try and help out, but was still too young to get a proper job. In the end, we claimed squatters’ rights in a nearby empty house until the council gave us a home.
It was mortifying.
A year later, my mother died after an accident, and because the house was in her name, my brother and I were told we couldn’t stay. I was homeless for a second time.
I managed to get lucky and landed a live-in job as a barmaid in a pub in London. I knew I was capable of more and, thankfully, the landlady let me continue to live at the pub while I looked for a job.
From this, I was able to put together some form of a CV, with references. There was still a big gap where my education should have been, but this time I had the crucial missing element: an address.
Some employers, like the Spectator which took on a mum-of-three returning to work, are willing to take a chance even if the CV doesn’t match up to the job specification. But not nearly enough.
My first “real” job was as an office temp dispatching engineers to fixing servers and mainframes in the city. They were willing to give me a chance even though I didn’t even have any basic school qualifications.
Armed with this experience, when vacancy for an internal salesperson advertised by a new company, I went for it. With a CV which frankly wouldn’t get me past most HR departments, I managed to talk my way into the sales job. Thankfully, they were more interested in my potential than my CV.
I had a knack for the job, which gave me a steady income, and soon I could afford to rent my very own flat. I had broken the cycle of homelessness and unemployment.
Overcoming these obstacles that most people don’t even think about has made me passionate about helping other young people who find themselves in a similar situation.
This Friday, once again, I will be sleeping rough as part of Byte Night, an annual sponsored sleep-out event held across the UK by Action for Children to raise money to tackle and prevent youth homelessness.
Without the help and support provided by charities, many more young and vulnerable people would miss the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
I feel so lucky to have ended up where I am today, rather than just another homeless or unemployment statistic.
Everyone should have that chance to show that they are more than words written on a piece of paper.
And more employers should be willing to look beyond the CV and give them that chance.
Sarah Morgan will be sleeping out at this year’s London Byte Night event on 6 October.