Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Hire People. Not Resumes.
Should the Humble Resume Die A Grisly Death?
This is common knowledge among job seekers new and old, frustrated by attempting to fit a life’s worth of education and experience onto a single page.
Recent research shows that, beyond this, resumes may suck for a completely different reason. In fact, resumes might suck at doing the one job they are supposed to perform, namely identifying the most qualified candidate for a job opening.
As one of the single most important aspects of the staffing industry, resumes represent a critical component for everyone involved in the staffing process.
Many highly technical jobs, like engineering positions, rely almost exclusively on resumes as the primary tool to screen candidates for open positions.
But the best candidate may not be the one with the best resume. Furthermore, it suggests human screening of resumes is dreadfully inaccurate and that’s just the beginning of the problem.
Aline Lerner, a former technical recruiter for Bay Area startups turned founder of her own interviewing company and blogger, recently looked into the hiring behaviors for engineers at start-up software firms and found some interesting, and unexpected, results.
She shared her findings in several great blog postings on the subject.
According to Lerner’s research, a phenomenon is occurring in today’s job market that is causing staffing firms to miss out placing their candidates in jobs that they may fit for based on flawed top-end filtering processes.
It turns out that human beings are not very good at resume writing, and they may be even worse at resume screening.
Lerner’s experiment went something like this…
She took a bunch of really good resumes, all of which had led to successful placements of candidates in real jobs. The resumes were either from engineers she had either placed successfully or engineers that Lerner had actually worked with, and gave them to a group of people to score. The idea was to find out if these professional screeners could tell if any of the resumes would result in an interview. In reality, all of them had.
The screening group was comprised of agency recruiters, engineers, in-house recruiters and end hiring managers. What resulted was possibly the most out-of-whack scattershot statistical variation ever seen in modern science.
Basically, it was all over the place and left everyone involved scratching their heads in wonderment as to how anyone ever gets hired anywhere.
The formal findings were a little more precise. Essentially, the study revealed that resumes are low signal documents that do a very poor job of signaling whether a candidate is a good fit for a particular job. Additionally, it showed that human beings, at least those in this study, don’t do a very good job of screening these already low signal documents.
In short, human error compounds significantly at the resume writing and screening stages to produce the perfect storm of inaccuracy. This means lost opportunities for both staffing agencies and people looking for jobs.
So now what?
Ultimately Lerner believes resumes should die a “grisly death”, and I can’t disagree. In the era of big data and algorithms, it’s astonishing that our modern economy still relies on something so antiquated and arbitrary as the 20th century resume process.
Lerner’s research may lead some to predict the demise of the resume. No doubt, one day it will be an artifact of a bygone era, much like the telephone booth or abacus. However, it’s unlikely that staffing firms are going to stop requesting resumes any time soon.
A better approach may be to simply take a fresh look at how your staffing agency screens candidate resumes.
Are they looking beyond the resume to understand what the candidate is actually capable of? Have they spoken to you to really understand what your requirement is, and are they also having in-depth conversations with the candidates to assess fit? Is your agency adding value by supplementing the resume with a focused summary of how the candidate actually fits your requirement?
If your agency isn’t looking beyond the resume on your behalf, they’ll be prone to making the same errors Lerner discovered, and may pass those errors on to you.