Resume Weaknesses: Why Resumes Are a Terrible Hiring Tool

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Hiring great people means finding great resumes, right? Nope.

Resume-writing is a skill in its own right, not a measure of any specific skills relevant to your job. Hiring — especially hiring for startups — should focus on the specific skill set and competencies a prospective employee brings to the job.

Anyone can itemize a list of traits on a resume and code that resume to be picked up by job searchers in an ATS. Lying on a resume is equally easy. Skills don’t lie, and the practical tests that assess for these skills don’t lie either. Here’s 7 resume weaknesses that tell why you need to ditch the resume as part of your hiring process.

 

They Create Bias

The structure of a resume creates an assortment of biases that can make more qualified workers look less qualified. A manager who’s excelled at a single job for 20 years, a self-employed entrepreneur, and a journalist who’s held a range of positions at the same paper will all only have one entry on their resume. This makes them look less qualified than the serial job-leaper.

Non-traditional job seekers also suffer from bias. A parent who left the workforce for five years may be imminently qualified, but a resume gap makes that person look like they spent years doing nothing. People routinely take time out of the workforce — to go back to school, to raise kids, to start a nonprofit—but the linear nature of the resume biases recruiters against them.

Resumes are also imbued with racial and gender bias. Studies show, for example, that recruiters unconsciously pass over resumes with “ethnic” names. They also view resumes with male names attached to them more favorably. This harms candidates and organizations, even when it’s completely unintentional.

 

Doesn’t Reflect Worker’s Skills

Resumes are filled with buzzwords and lists of responsibilities, due in part to the fact that many workers are terrible at writing their own resumes. That means that a highly qualified worker’s resume who isn’t great at writing may look very similar to a low-level, low-skill worker’s resume who is great at spinning their experience to look impressive. And because the resume format is uniform across most positions, even highly skilled hiring manager may struggle to discern which is the resume for a skilled worker and which is the resume of a beginner. Hire for skills, not for what’s on a resume.

 

Focuses on Style Rather Than Substance

Most resume advice out there focuses on properly formatting the resume, and this has produced a crop of resumes that look identical. A resume might meet the litmus test of professionalism in formatting, but most resumes do little more than tell a recruiter that an applicant can Google “how to write a resume.” And is that really all you want? The resume format prioritizes style and tradition over substance and achievement. That’s precisely what you don’t want in a new employee.

 

Removes Personality

The resume is a streamlined approach to presentation. Everyone knows that comic sans is unprofessional and that bright pink rarely has any place on a resume. But what if you’re hiring a fashion writer? A graphic designer? A lettering expert? Don’t you want to see their creativity on display? And doesn’t a little wiggle room allow you to see what recruits do with creative freedom? You’ll never know when you rely on resumes.

If you only look at resumes, you’ll see a pile of boring documents that eliminate all personality and design from the hiring process. But personality plays a huge role in the workplace. You want more than just a qualified applicant. You also want someone who fits into your culture. When every resume conveys the same staid, safe approach, it’s impossible for you to assess whether the candidate is a good fit.

 

Attracts Recruiters for All the Wrong Reasons

The resume is designed to be easily scanned. Most estimates suggest that a recruiter can decide whether a resume is worth a second look in a mere six seconds.

Now wait just one second. Can you really decide anything at all in six seconds? First impressions are inherently deceptive. That quick scan you perform may blind you to a highly qualified applicant whose resume is, for whatever reason, organized less well or designed to be less eye-catching. Do you want to hire someone who’s good at making an appealing resume? Or good at their job? Do you want to hire someone that barely scraped by at a top company, or someone that excelled at a company you don’t immediately recognize?

 

Are Full of Lies

If you want to solicit a document full of appealing lies, a resume is a great bet. Eighty percent of resumes contain misleading information such as inflated job titles or taking credit for a team’s effort. And more than half contain outright lies about topics such as educational attainment or job history. So if your ideal candidate is one who lies a lot, especially in writing, then embrace the resume.

Most jobs, however, do not require lying. Most employers frown upon dishonesty. However the competitive nature of resumes, the fact that recruiters spend so little time on them, and the insecurity many applicants bring to the job search all conspire to create a climate of resume dishonesty. It’s easy to say you’re great at something. It’s even easier to take credit for someone else’s work. But faking skills is nearly impossible. That’s why you need an objective, skills-based assessment, not a document full of self-reported misrepresentations.

 

Create Hurdles for Otherwise Qualified Applicants

Picture an imminently qualified applicant. They’re probably busy at their current job, fielding offers from new employers, or maybe working hard on a demanding freelance project. They want to apply to your job, but they also know the cardinal rule of submitting a resume is that the resume must be updated specific to the job for which the applicant is applying. They put it off until tomorrow, next week, next month, until…well, until you’ve filled the position with someone less qualified.

Resumes pose a needless hurdle to busy, qualified applicants. It’s actually less qualified applicants who have the time to beautifully format their resume, hire a resume-writer, and blow you away with a powerful first impression. But are those really the people you want to hire? You’ll never even know which qualified applicants your screening process excluded.

It’s clearly time to ditch the resume in hiring.

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