Resumés are the most universally used and accepted methods for screening applicants for job positions. Although they have been widely accepted for many years, they are also inherently flawed. The information included and excluded from these documents can lead recruiters to make poor hiring decisions if they depend too heavily on this information alone.
Professional job recruiters experience success in sifting through resumés to present clients with the best list of candidates because they understand the shortcomings of these documents and know how to avoid over-reliance on the statements they contain. Understanding exactly what a resumé is and is not is the first step to wisely evaluating your next stack of applications.
While resumés are not outright lies, it is entirely plausible that the picture of the applicant is not a true likeness of the individual. Applicants understand well that their resumé is their first chance to make a good impression. Understandably, they will take this opportunity to portray themselves in the best possible light. Accomplishments, awards, and promotions will appear front and center, while the adverse outcomes of projects resulting from poor decisions or project failures will be absent.
Each applicant’s description of their past work experience is also subject to their perception of reality. If you have ever asked several people who attended the same event what happened, you are likely to get a slightly different version from each person. These differences are not intentional but result from a difference of perspective. Each person observed the event from a unique point of view and focused on what they believed was significant. Likewise, employees and employers may remember the same incident quite differently, and an applicant’s report is subject to their own interpretation and bias.
Because applicants want to convince you they have the skills and experience to succeed, they may also exaggerate their involvement and roles in past projects. Overemphasizing the part they played is so prevalent that applicants reporting their responsibilities accurately may be perceived as underperforming when compared to their peers.
Resumés focus entirely on events that have already transpired. They are a self-reported work history. Although past achievements can correlate strongly with future performance, they are not predictors of success. Most employees would agree that their resumé does not accurately reflect their true potential. Notably absent from a resumé are a person’s career goals, sources of motivation, ability to solve problems, and cultural beliefs.
Perhaps more importantly, resumés do not address the fundamental questions employers look to answer about all job candidates.
- What is their interest level in the position?
- Will they fit the company culture?
- Are they currently available to work when needed?
- Do they have the qualifications and skills to perform the job’s duties?
If these factors do not align with the position, the hire is likely to be a poor match even if the candidate is fully qualified to do the work.
Comparing the resumés of multiple candidates to identify the best candidates can be more complicated than comparing apples and oranges. Skills that have little or no bearing on the job at hand can significantly impact the appearance and thus the evaluation of a candidate’s credentials as reported on their resumé.
Some candidates are well-versed in the keywords and skills that will earn them a high score within the applicant tracking system (ATS). Other similarly skilled candidates may not represent themselves as well due to their choice of words. The same holds true for applicants changing industries, who may not be familiar with the jargon in this new field, or international candidates for whom English is not their native language.
Writing and perfecting your resumé is a skill that many applicants learn through repetition. Those who master this skill can appear better because they have honed their resumé-writing skills. However, these skills may have little relevance on the job and may skew the odds in favor of specific candidates.
Looking Beyond Resumés
As Utah County recruiting experts, we recognize the need to gather information beyond what each applicant reports on their resumé to create a clear and accurate picture of their abilities and employ many tools to do so.
- Interaction – Personal conversations with applicants, even before the first formal interview can be enlightening. Asking informal questions in a relaxed atmosphere like a phone call or video chat will showcase their personality, interests, and values.
- Online Profiles – A candidate’s social media accounts can often reveal a wealth of information about their interests and motivations. Posts about family events, activities with friends, and community outreach will show how they spend their time outside of work and may help you determine what you have to offer that will convince them to choose to work for your company.
- Tests – Online skills tests and real-world interview questions will allow you to observe your candidate performing tasks like the ones they would be doing on the job. How do they apply their skills and knowledge? What soft skills are readily apparent and which are noticeably absent? The way a candidate works can separate a suitable candidate from an exemplary one.
- Interviews – The pandemic has highlighted the importance of face-to-face interaction to truly get to know someone. Meeting with a candidate will show you firsthand their personality and help you learn about their career goals and desire to learn and grow with the company. Is their enthusiasm for the job infectious? Are they looking for a long-term position or a stepping stone to the next promotion? These are critical questions to answer before you invest time and energy into training a new employee.
While resumés are, by nature, a flawed method to evaluate job candidates, they are still an essential tool to help recruiters filter the skilled candidates from the rest of the applicants. However, relying solely on resumés when making hiring decisions can be a costly mistake. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your top candidates to ensure they are the right fit for your organization – one prepared to meet and overcome challenges and grow with your company.