Your Résumé is Useless

Sample Resume

Image from Wikimedia Commons

On a daily basis I see no fewer than 20 articles about job interviews, the perfect questions to ask, résumé advice, and other job-hunting related tips. Career Builder, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, they all have them. It sickens me how the recruiting process works today.

Do a search for “résumé advice” on Google. Actually, I’ll help. Here. 147 million results. So read up and make your résumé perfect. Now start hunting for jobs. Looking for some advice on that, you’ll see that it is customary to craft a résumé for each job posting you apply to. You need to stand out, right? If it doesn’t explain why you’re a good fit extremely clearly, they’ll toss it in the garbage. So instead of making one perfect résumé, you probably need to make hundreds. Dance, monkey. Dance.

The system is broken. The references you provide on your résumés speak to how well you did in your previous jobs. They say nothing about how you’d be qualified for the current position. Your résumé, at least what it should be, is a summary of your education and employment history. Instead it is being used as a major filtering tool, where only the ones with the best résumés get an interview. In most cases, the decision is made by a computer somewhere comparing keywords to a job posting.

So the approach we’ve decided upon as a country is to interview the people who are best at manipulating their résumé in such a way that it can fool a clueless gatekeeper…

The real decision is made in the interview process: talking to someone one-on-one, getting a feel for their personality, their cultural fit, how comfortable they are speaking about their supposed qualifications, in some cases even testing them on those skills. The résumé should only be used as a quick summary to help remember someone.

The real issue here is that all recruiters and most companies are looking for performance indicators. Will you (and can you) jump through hoops? juggle? balance a chair on your chin? play résumé-crossword until the light turns green? The smart companies are looking for talent indicators. Talent isn’t as easy to come by, and it can’t be reflected in words.