Saturday, June 09, 2012

I hate resumes

Okay, I know last time I talked about how I hate interviews--or at least how they're used.  I promise this blog isn't turning into 100% rants.  But some things ya just gotta get out.

My dislike for interviews is far eclipsed by my distaste for resumes.  In fact the process of reviewing resumes as a selection device is far worse than most interviews.

Why?  Because, like interviews, resume requirements are ubiquitous, but research has shown their validity (i.e., the relationship between resume scoring future job performance) is worse.

Aside from straight up not working very well as an assessment tool, what else is wrong with resumes?  Here's a sample:

- They're not standardized.  You'll get some information on some resumes, different information on others.  So you end up comparing apples and oranges.  Not exactly what you hope for in terms of reliability.

- They don't lend themselves easily to a scoring rubric.  Sure, you can try giving a certain number of points for a degree or a certain amount of experience (assuming you can support it), but that's assuming the person writes it down in the way you need...Otherwise, it's easy to let them fall into "piles" (definitely yes, maybe, hell no).  Unfortunately at that point you're essentially saying there is no variance within each pile, which is obviously not true.

- They're open to all kinds of bias, ranging from racial discrimination to wild assumptions about education ("hey, look--they went to the same school I did! cool!")

- They're time consuming to review.  We've all seen resumes the size of small novels (hint to job seekers: this does not impress most employers).  Separating the wheat from the chaff is about as much fun as a 4:30 meeting.

- Like training and experience (T&E) measures, they tell you nothing about how well someone did something, just that they did it.  Assuming they're telling the truth, which leads to...

- You're forced to take on faith that the education and experience they describe was actually obtained.  Sure, you'll verify it (right?), but at the very least you've wasted time including liars/embellishers in the process.

- The information you need may not be there.  You will almost certainly find yourself thinking, "gosh, I wish they had given me more detail about X..."

- On the other hand, they contain a lot of information you don't need.  Applicants try to put their best foot forward and are also guessing what you're looking for, so they waste their time and yours.  They're just plain inefficient--for applicants and employers.

So why do employers use them?  For a lot of the same reasons they recycle interviews:

- It's easy; heck, just put "resume required" on the ad...because...well...why not? It doesn't require us to think very deeply about the recruitment.

- It's the devil we know.  It's what people are comfortable with.  People may acknowledge their imperfection, but this personality testing stuff sounds scary...

- Inertia.  Yes, unfortunately "it's what we've always done" has an inordinate amount of influence on the way people in organizations make decisions.

- A lack of attention to and focus on the process.  The reason many selection processes are lackluster is because the hiring supervisors don't take it seriously enough.  Who's fault is this?  Well theirs, obviously, but HR's as well, and upper management.  Hiring should be one of the most important things employees do.

- They don't know any better.  This is perhaps the saddest reason because it's simply due to a lack of education about selection.  Many hiring supervisors are unaware of the range of assessments out there, or maybe they've heard vague rumors about how they can be sued if they use an intelligence test.  HR and upper management, I'm looking at you again on this one.

- They're not held accountable for the quality of their hires and the selection process they're using.  Heck if requiring resumes is easy, it seems to mostly work, and no one's the wiser, why would I change my ways?

So aside from educating supervisors and holding them accountable, what can be done?  There have been several web-based attempts to make resumes more relevant.  But so far there is no "killer app" that both job hunters and employers make a beeline for.  There's no Facebook of resumes (and no, Facebook is not the Facebook of resumes).  In the meantime, here are some tips:

- Don't default to asking for a resume.  Really think about what you're looking for.  Interested in their job-related education, training, and experience?  Then ask for that!  Like...

..."Specifically describe how your experience and training matches the requirements of the position..."

...Or even better: "This job requires an advanced ability to put peanut butter on bread.  Describe specifically how your training and experience qualifies you to perform this task."...

- Don't assume that standard applications solve the problem.  They tend to have a lot of the same problems--e.g., the candidate gets total flexibility in describing their previous jobs.

- If you need, for whatever reason, to ask for a resume, try asking for it in a specific (chronological, functional) format.  And be clear about what it should--and should not--contain.  And limit the length.  Who knows, it may at least speed things up for you.

Resumes and interviews.  Probably the most frequently used personnel selection tools used.  And sadly in many cases severely lacking in validity.  Really the problem gets us back to the core of good selection: taking hiring seriously and spending time thinking about job requirements and a plan for assessing them.

These steps aren't that hard, and simply taking a more critical look at them may give you more payoff than any other revamp of your hiring and promotion process.


Larry Cummings said...

You are so right! I often end my emails with..."Vive La Revolution; Death To Resumes," My work is about finding solutions/vendors that address the rant of your post.

I would like to introduce you to a vendor that has digitized your concepts with his technology, His work is proof of your concepts! It’s not academic it is a mechanism for assuring the good people make the short list.

Blogging4Jobs said...

Bryan, I have to agree with you on this one. For job hunters, resumes can be a stress-inducing nightmare. Unlike CVs, which are fairly standardized, resume requirements vary based on industry. One employer may place more importance on a resume aspect that another employer could care less about. Perhaps the best advice that can be offered to job seekers is this: research your audience (the company) thoroughly and edit your resume/cover letter accordingly. -JMM

BryanB said...

Good advice indeed.