The idea behind offpaper…

Rob @ offpaper
Feb 12, 2019 · 3 min read

5 years ago, I was helping to recruit at BMW. About 5 minutes before the group assessment, I remember being handed 5 CV’s by Hannah, the HR manager. I put each CV out on the table in front of me, side by side, and saw something…

These all look the same.

All A4, two-sides, black and white, and still slightly warm from the printer.

I started to hunt for differences between the candidates. I was looking at where they went to uni, their names, their addresses, where they’d worked over the summer… anything to give my mind the ‘ranking’ criteria it was craving.

I was judging a human being from two sides of A4 paper.

I was judging a real person with a brain, a heart, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, fears, purpose, values… by looking at who’s paid their wages for the past few years, and where they went to uni. At the time it made me feel angry. Since then, perennially, it has made me feel sad.

So that’s where it started. An obsession with the idea that humans are way more than what we can communicate on paper. It constantly slapped me in the face that we’re still judging people based on surface level stuff, and not by what really matters. I observed it continuously at BMW. I saw it again in hiring at carwow (in theory a more inclusive, dynamic bunch). “Top 10 universities only” policy… “They look too corporate’”… Constant pokes at the fire that something really doesn’t work.

It made me feel violently defensive of people I didn’t know.

Fairness is definitely a deep-rooted personal value of mine, so there’s no question that it’s driving things in the context of offpaper. But I also started thinking about what the meaningful stuff really is that I’m feeling so strongly defensive of. We talk a lot about Artificial Intelligence these days, and there’s loads of effort being poured into automation. But if we’re focussing on making robots that can do what we do, it makes me think…

What’s the real value of being human today, tomorrow, or in the coming years?

I really believe that human value is much less ‘what’ we do, than ‘how’ we do it. In the context of employment, that’s less of ‘I’ve been Product Manager in a bank for 10 years’, and much more ‘I love feeling challenged, I can’t stand rules, and I learn fast’. Creativity. Persuasion. Collaboration. They’re Top 3 skills employers want in 2019 according to LinkedIn — but how on earth do people get these across on such a one-dimensional CV?

We don’t use our CV on dating profiles or when we meet new people — so why do we still use it to find our ‘work partner’ (who, ironically, we spend much more time with than our actual partner…).

I’ve spoken to people who ‘get it’. I’ve spoken to companies who don’t. I’ve spoken to investors who think one thing, and experts who think another. I’m generally feeling pretty pulled in a number of directions. But one question gets me back on track every time -

Who are you doing this for?

That one question takes me back to those generic CVs. Back to the fight for fairness in how people are judged by employers. And ultimately fuels the fire for helping people own and shout about what makes them uniquely valuable.

I don’t know exactly how, nor exactly what will turbocharge this revolution — and that makes me feel incredibly insecure. But one thing’s crystal clear to me when it comes to humans and jobs…

We’re more than what’s ‘on paper’.

Rob @ offpaper

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