Thursday, May 23, 2013

 

The Europass Schema and Wizard Have Matured


The Cedefop Europass

About a decade ago (perhaps longer), the European Union undertook development of a system which could ultimately facilitate a common pan-European employment market by helping everyone "speak the same language." That is perhaps too charitable (or scary) an assessment, since there are many other, more serious obstacles to international labor movement, including language per se, licensing and other administrative aspects. The system in question provided for convergence of resumé or c.v. (curriculum vitae) document content: this could remove some of the difficulty of comparing and choosing among candidates when their profiles were presented too differently.
A full history of that project is beyond the ambitions of this note. I did begin using the Europass CV format some time before about January 2006. I compared it to the XML schemas being developed at the time by the HR-XML consortium, too, and chose to use the Europass because it was both simple enough to use (with templates provided for common word processor formats, including rtf I believe) and clear, thought through, sensible. Within a few years, 2009 judging by documents in my archives but perhaps earlier, the cedefop agency provided an interactive wizard for capturing one's CV data via Internet, then downloading the result for local storage and printing. Templates for a couple of commonly used word processing applications were still provided, and are today, too.
Once one captured, or captures, one's data via http://europass.cedefop.europa.eu, the file one obtains may be of a word processor format or, my preference, a pdf file ready to print. What's more, the data are available in structured format in XML according to the Europass XSL schemas. The pdf ready-to-print file contains the XML as an embedded (invisible) attachment, or one can download the XML file separately. In either case, the pdf or XML can later be uploaded for capture of changes.

The Europass Presentation

The europass documents I produced in years past (2006-2009) all are organized to read like a questionnaire one has filled in, only typed instead of hand written. By that I mean they flow with a column of labels along the left side and the data one has captured in an aligned list to the right (about 1/4 of the page width for the labels or "questions" and 3/4 of the page width for one's "answers"). Thus, each work experience began with a line labelled "Dates" in the left hand column, followed by a line labelled "Occupation or position held", and so on.
The current version of the document preparation system produces a much nicer, friendlier document with fewer labels, less redundancy. For instance, an instance of work experience has only the dates themselves (not a "Dates" label) as anchor label in the left hand column, with the position title presented in larger type aligned in the right hand column. Other labels, such as "Address" and "Email" and phone numbers are indicated by symbols, no longer by text labels.

The XML Storage of the Data

The XML schema behind the scenes, and its validity enforcement, are now to a state where one can (and should?) fill in one's information using the pick lists provided in the web interface. The values are provided from chosen reference lists furnished by international agencies and consortia. I presume this should make the XML structured candidate data more amenable to automatic processing.
One aspect of the progress in the use of XML schemas is the need to take care when updating a CV from an earlier version. If, for instance, one has captured an employer address in a simple, free-form way that the system cannot readily parse into valid components (municipality, country, postal code, and so on) then the free-form data will appear on the user entry form, but will not be printed since it cannot be validated as composing an address. It is only in carefully proofreading the produced document that one discovers that some of the information one does not believe one has changed had disappeared. Re-editing the document to carefully recapture the data, parsing what the machine could not, will repair the loss.
Another aspect needing some care is the insertion of new work experiences or educational experiences. They may not be automatically placed in newest-first order in the list. Check, and if not in order, one can easily move them within the list using a mouse; a keyboard-driven way to do so was not apparent, but I did not really look for one.

Discussion

Having gained some proficiency at LaTeX, AucTeX and emacs since 2009, I considered using one of the packages currently available to produce a new CV instead of using the cedefop on line system. At least two of the packages I played with are inspired by the Europass format. But they, and the others I played with, structure the documents as lists of key:value pairs, as the older (original) europass did. Composition of a rich, dense section of personal information (contact information and whatever else one wishes to reveal about gender, age, citizenship) in the way europass now has is just not possible except as special-purpose elements; sometimes lists need to flow and wrap, not just list.
I may have missed advantages to using one of the LaTeX packages, or disadvantages other than those mentioned above to using europass. I did have a europass file started, which saved me time capturing my data. On balance, though, I recommend using the europass web system to produce a CV for anyone who does not have a very strong reason to target a different presentation.

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