HR Still Needs to Solve Its Resume Problem

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend at another company about an intern set to join my team. To my surprise, he was also excited because his team was hiring a summer intern. We expressed our shared excitement over the ability to teach a young professional.

“I have so much to teach him already,” he said to me. “I saw his resume  —  he didn’t even have a hobbies section.”

I’ll be honest, before this conversation it hadn’t occurred to me that a hobbies section was a requirement for a good resume. But I’m certain that good people can disagree on the issue of what makes a good resume. This is fine until you realize that resumes are often the sole measure of whether a candidate will move forward in the recruiting process, and even if a resume manages to pass the screening process, the personal preferences of the reviewer will influence the hiring decision.

For every job posted online, hundreds of people will apply. The majority of resumes submitted along with these applications will never meet the eyes of a human being. That’s because they’ll be eliminated from the process by a computer system. Of the resumes that make the cut, less than 10% will advance to an interview. Then, if the company is lucky, one will belong to an applicant who accepts an offer in the end.

Over the years most companies have evolved their recruiting efforts to keep up with the times. Meanwhile, the submission of a resume has been a tradition since the day Leonardo da Vinci wrote the first professional resume in 1482.

This tradition continues to dominate the recruiting process in essentially the same manner it did over half a millennium ago.

Clearly there’s a valid reason that employers use resumes: They’re the best tool we have to weed out unqualified applicants and prioritize strong candidates. This may seem like a unique benefits of resumes, but careful examination reveals that resumes aren’t as effective at this task as one might believe.

Resumes Are Subjective Recollections of Experiences

One key flaw in resumes is that they’re subjective recollections of experiences. Thus, they can’t provide essential information about the candidate’s potential to succeed at a job.

John Sullivan, a professor and thought leader, wrote that “Resumes are at best, self-reported descriptions of historical events  —  the very definition of a resume highlights its fundamental weakness. Rather than providing information that you really need to hire someone (examples of a candidate’s actual work or a description of what they could do in your job), resumes are merely self-reported narrative descriptions of the candidates’ past work.”

Resumes rely on the candidate to recall their past experiences. Many of these experiences may be partially forgotten or selectively left out. To put it simply, relying solely on self-reported past experiences isn’t a good indicator of a candidate’s potential. Nor does it identify their future contributions in the role they’re applying for.

Applicant Tracking Systems Reward Keywords, Not Qualifications

Another limitation is that resumes are screened by applicant tracking systems programmed to reward keywords and likeness to a job description. In effect, if a candidate puts the “right” words on their resume, they are more likely to get an interview. This is true even when someone else is more qualified but describes their experience differently than the job description does.

Unfortunately, many candidates are still unaware of the impact of keywords. Even though they may be qualified for the job, they can be disqualified from the process because they weren’t keyword experts.

Leslie Stevens-Huffman, a business and career writer, argued more than a decade ago that “Resume keywords are an increasingly critical element of a successful job search. They’re important because recruiters search resumes for keyword matches when sourcing candidates from databases loaded with job-seeker profiles. The more frequently your resume matches the keywords contained in a recruiter’s search, the more calls you’ll get.”

It goes without saying that whether someone is an expert in keywords doesn’t determine whether they’re qualified to fill a job. Yet this continues to be a significant loophole in resume screening.

Resumes Often Misrepresent Experience

Thirdly, resumes often contain misrepresentations of a candidate’s previous experience. This makes it difficult to rely on them as an accurate measure of whether a candidate is right for a position. The 2018 HireRight Employment Screening Benchmark Report stated that as many as 84% of employers found a lie or misrepresentation on a resume.

The report found that candidates at all levels misrepresent information on their resumes. The research around misrepresentations in resumes is clear. But this hasn’t been enough to convince employers to re-evaluate their reliance on resumes.

Looking Forward: Reworking the Resume

Given the challenges with resumes, why do employers continue to rely on them? The answer is convenience.

Resumes are still the most accepted method of applying to a job. But this doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement.

Charles Coy, senior director of analyst and community relations at ReWork, writes that “Today, rather than sift through the thousands of resumes their companies receive, many HR teams rely on keyword-crawling bots to sort out the top candidates. In the future, they’ll have a similar tool  —  but it will be much, much smarter. AI will be trained to process a much more complex set of data, including social media posts, project experience, relevant trainings, personality test scores and more, to assess candidates more holistically.”

The hope for the future is that the resume will be more expansive and gather inputs from a variety of sources. This would allow employers to rely less on self-reporting and to increase accuracy and improve the process. Employers can get a head start by working on ways to rank candidates holistically and by not relying solely on the resume.

For now, it’s imperative that we become aware of the limitations of the resume and the problems with using them as the sole determinant of whether a job applicant moves forward.

Artificial intelligence may open up a world where the resume of tomorrow looks very different from today. In turn this will give us more objective ways of ranking candidates and determining whether they’re qualified. It will mean that we can rely less on subjective preferences and instead focus on actual skills, abilities and potential. Who knows, maybe artificial intelligence will also be able to tell us whether a hobbies section belongs on a resume.

How Social Sleuthing Can Land You A Dream Job

Written by Paul Bailey

Is your job hunt stalled because employers don’t respond to your inquiries? It’s time to rethink your communications strategy. Are you sending generic letters and resumes? Do you emphasize your skills and achievements? There’s a better way to gain an employer’s attention — and it’s easier than you may think.

Consider this — most recruiters rely on social media to check candidate profiles. Why not take a page from their playbook, and leverage social surveillance in your job search? It’s only fair. And it’s entirely free. All it takes is a little bit of digging.

Here’s how you can find helpful information and use it to ace every step of the job application process:

Start By Looking And Listening On Social Channels

Let’s say you find an ad for an attractive job. Your first step is to look at the company’s digital footprint — its primary website, as well as its blog, and presence on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook. At each location search for the following:

•  Hiring manager or recruiter name. Review their Linkedin profiles. Do you have anything in common, professionally? Be sure to check their interests and interview pet peeves on Facebook or Twitter.
•  Company background. Familiarize yourself with the organization’s target demographics, recent news, and products/services.
•  Someone who’s working in the position for which you’re applying. That person has the job you’re targeting for a good reason, so check what you have in common. If they have qualifications or technical knowledge you don’t, and those are related to the job, that’s a clue. Study those differences.
•  Challenges the company and its industry are facing. Prepare two or three suggestions on how you could help address those issues.
•  Company values, vision and mission. This is required baseline knowledge for anyone who wants to be considered a serious job contender in the social era.

Next Steps: Put Information To Use 3 Ways

1) On Your Resume

Take time to customize your resume. Align your skills and credentials with the job you’re pursuing. Highlight related achievements, too.

Remember your research on the person who already has the job you’re seeking? Look at how that person describes the job, and think about how you could insert skills or tasks on your resume that fit with that description. (Of course, don’t list these skills unless you really have them. Authenticity trumps all.)

2) On Your Cover Letter

Don’t start your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Address the the recruiter or hiring manager directly.

Include key phrases from the job ad, and pair them with some phrases from the company’s mission/vision/values. For example, instead of writing “analyst with five years’ experience in banking,” say “analyst with a get-it-done attitude and five years’ experience in banking” (where “get-it-done attitude” is part of the company’s values).

You might think this is cheesy, but it gives the recruiter a subliminal signal that says, “Hey, this candidate will do well in our culture.” It’s also much better than using generic cliché phrases, such as “hardworking,” “honest” or “quick learner.”

3) In Interviews

Use your knowledge of the interviewer’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to break the ice. If you don’t have anything in common, try talking about their interests.

Don’t say something like, “I saw you worked at Chase Bank for two years. I worked there as an intern!” This ruins the ice-breaker because the recruiter will sense you’re trying too hard to establish rapport, and it reveals that you’ve been snooping on social sites.

Mention whatever it is you have in common, but don’t drag the recruiter into it. Say, “I was an intern at Chase Bank.” It’s likely that the recruiter will respond by acknowledging his history there.

Assuming you can establish rapport, the next step is to reinforce why you’re the best candidate for the job by eliminating the competition. This is where most of your research will pay off.

Asking questions makes you stand out from the hundreds who simply shake hands and say, “Thank you for your time.” Ask about the challenges new hires encounter, then tell a story about how you successfully handled similar challenges. Your awareness of current employees’ skills will be helpful, as you highlight your job-specific knowledge and competence with necessary tools. If you can confidently use the jargon or lingo associated with the job, use it.

Ask about the challenges faced by the company or industry, then share suggestions you’ve prepared in advance. However, don’t overdo it. Your task is to portray yourself as a problem-solver, not a know-it-all.

The next time you want to apply for a job, do research before you send an application. Customize your resume and cover letter for every job application you send. And use the intelligence to prepare yourself to stand out from the crowd.

Have you tried these techniques in a job search? How did they work for you? What other ideas do you recommend? Share you comments below.

168e7dae52120ad8976f5b.L._V388018754_(About the author:
Paul Bailey is a certified professional coach and business improvement consultant with more than 12 years of experience. He specializes in helping people realize their potential and unleash their inner confidence, so they can find meaningful work that matches their skills and values. Learn more about Paul and his coaching services at Impact Coaching & Mentoring.
Or connect with Paul on Twitter or Google+.

(Editor’s note: This post is republished from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

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