Time to Kill the Resume!

Chuck Smith —  January 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

This article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Strategize Magazine:

Experience resume

It’s time to kill the resume. Plain and simple… using resumes as the primary tool for screening job applicants is ineffective and outdated. Traditionally, resume content includes a summary of academic history, followed by a timeline of employment and unconfirmed accomplishments, but says nothing about the applicant’s on-the-job behaviors, motivations, or attitudes. As a result, it is not surprising that many new hires fail. In fact, a three-year study of 20,000 new hires conducted by Leadership IQ revealed 46 percent failed within 18 months. Lack of skill accounted for 11 percent of the failed hires, while attitude and behavior were responsible for the remaining 89 percent. These numbers are simply not acceptable. After all, what executive is willing to accept a 46 percent failure rate in a core business process?

Identifying, hiring, and retaining quality people cannot be left to chance. When it comes to hiring well, a revolutionary change is in order. Until businesses leave the resume behind, they will continue to hire based on what candidates say they know, only to turn around and fire the same individuals for who they really are.

Why resumes don’t work

Prior to computers and online access, resumes typically provided the only way for potential candidates to show interest in a position. Fast-forward to today. As technology revolutionizes the hiring process with such time-savers as electronic job posting and online submissions, resumes have transitioned from paper to digital format, but they have not changed in substance or effectiveness.

Technology aside, selecting potential employees with such limited information benefits neither the candidate nor the business seeking to fill the position. From the employer’s standpoint, resumes allow candidates to take control of the hiring conversation by telling the story they want the employer to hear. In fact, a 2012 survey of college students reveals 70 percent would lie on their resume to get a job (Accu-Screen, Inc., ADP and The Society of Human Resource Managers, 2012). At the same time, because no two resumes contain the same information in the same format, assessing and comparing skills or experience among candidates is challenging. It’s the hiring equivalent of giving a different test to every student in a class. Using that approach makes coming up with a grading scale next to impossible.

Additional reasons why resumes fail to lead to successful hires include:

  • They equate previous job experience with future success. Unless job variables, such as the manager, product, selling cycles and buyers remain consistent across the board, this is an unrealistic expectation. More importantly, past experience offers no insight into characteristics that indicate future job success, namely behaviors, attitudes and motivation.
  • They lead to dismissing candidates based upon small details or personal biases that likely are not related to future success on the job. Resumes allow hiring teams to select candidates based on a particular gender, race or age, or reject candidates due to typos, misspellings, incorrect grammar, unusual email addresses and uncommon fonts.
  • They result in faulty assumptions. A prime example is the candidate who lists multiple jobs within a certain time frame. Traditional resume-reading leads employers to suspect lack of success when a job change may be the result of a life situation beyond the candidate’s control, such as a spousal move or a company-wide layoff.
  • They lead hiring managers to talk to the wrong people. Overconfident recruiters and hiring managers often assume they can choose a qualified pool of candidates from resumes alone, and then look for desired motivations and behaviors during the interview process. Approaching the process in this way not only leads to beginning with the wrong candidates, but also results in hiring the wrong person or no one at all.

Better tools, better hires

In a 2013 Careerbuilder survey, 66 percent of the US companies surveyed said their businesses had been negatively affected by a bad hire in the prior year, and 27 percent said that each bad hire cost their company more than $50,000. For companies that want to avoid these costly pitfalls, hiring the right people at the right time will require a revolutionary change in hiring practices and mindsets. Here are four tips to accomplish that goal:

  1. Make sure hiring team members understand the company culture. Successfully targeting the right candidate requires knowledge of not just the position, but also of the company.
  2. Create a profile of the target candidate. Use assessments to help teams construct a consensus of behaviors the job requires and the motivations the job rewards.
  3. Gather a wider range of information about candidates to determine behaviors, motivations and personality. For example, before reading a single resume, use an online form to ask candidates to answer the most important questions. Take advantage of applicant tracking systems that offer this process, or create an auto-respond email to deliver questions to applicants.
  4. Recruit continuously, not just when a position needs to be filled. Approach competitors at conferences; connect with friends and acquaintances at social gatherings and through social media. Leave no stone unturned.

Start the revolution

The numbers tell the story. Today’s hiring process is broken, and nothing short of a radical change will improve the rate of success. It’s time to lay the tired resume to rest and make hiring decisions based on the characteristics that make a candidate successful on the job. Only then will companies hire the exceptional people necessary to compete, grow and succeed.

©Strategize Magazine, published by Avenir Publishing, Inc.

Chuck Smith


Chuck is a sought-after speaker on issues of talent acquisition, recruiting and hiring best practices with more than 20 years of experience under his belt. When not running his business, you'll find him in Hyde Park playing ultimate frisbee with his friends & family. Connect with him on Google+.

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