Some 500 years ago Leonardo da Vinci created the first written resume or Curriculum Vitae (Latin for the course of my life). He sent it to the Duke of Milan in an effort to secure a job. One that he’d eventually hold onto for 16 years no less!
Fast forward 450 years or so, and by the 1950’s the resume became an integral part of the job application process. Their use was twofold, first it detailed the candidate’s qualifications and second, it provided a way for recruiters to track and screen them. But has the resume’s time come and gone as the best tool for initial screening?
Let’s begin by taking a look at four shortcomings of screening by resume alone.
Resumes Aren’t Good Predictors of Success
The single largest issue with resumes is that even if they are accurate and the time is taken to review them extensively and objectively, they don’t actually provide details that will help predict the likely performance of the applicant.
Most resumes are bad at predicting performance because they only describe what work was done and for how long – not how it was done, in which setting and what the actual outcomes were. Interviewers need to probe how an individual performed on similar tasks and in comparable situations as to the role on offer.
Other critical elements for determining likely performance are absent from resumes, like behaviors, attitude, working style, motivations, and working environment preferences. Along with their track record performing similar tasks, these are the factors that will predict future success – not if they have had a similar job title or x years’ experience.
Most Resumes Are Misleading
The limitations of the resume are compounded by the fact that a large proportion of resumes cannot be trusted to be completely accurate.
A number of studies have shown that around half of all resumes contain false information of some kind like exaggerated skills and inflated qualifications, or omit key relevant details.
It is worth remembering that the resume is created by the applicant with the sole intention of securing an interview and today there are literally thousands of tools and resources to help them. This means you can find yourself trying to distinguish between a large number of “innovative, driven and effective experts with a proven track-record in a dynamic environment”.
Alternatively, a formatting mistake, or even a layout/design you personally don’t find appealing, could lead you to reject a great candidate.
Many Resumes Contain Lies
In addition to that, 53 per cent of resumes contain falsifications, 21 per cent of applicants lie about their college degrees, and an incredible 70 per cent of college students are prepared to be untruthful on their resume to get the job that they want.
Other misrepresentations that can regularly be found on resumes include inflated salaries (40 per cent), false references (27 per cent), and inaccurate job descriptions (33 per cent). Determining which candidates have stretched the truth is almost impossible, using the resume alone to determine who to shortlist is, consequently, a long way from ideal.
The Six Second Rule
The shortcomings of the resume are not just a result of the candidate’s actions. As we’ve discussed before, on average, recruiters spend just six seconds looking at each resume to make an initial judgment.
Furthermore, at this stage, especially with a large pile of resumes to review, the reviewer is often looking for a reason to reject the applicant to reduce the pool of applicants under consideration to a manageable number. Applicants can often end up in the “no” pile simply based on the format of their resume, a career gap (hence the challenges stay at home parents often face) or many other reasons that have no bearing on their suitability for the role.
Perhaps Not Replaced, But Definitely Relegated
By now it should be apparent that resumes are not a great tool for predicting the likelihood of future performance. Many of them also contain misleading information, or in the worst cases, outright lies.
And because we’ve made it so easy to submit a resume to apply for a job, recruiters and hiring managers often get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of them. How useful can a resume be if it is only viewed, on average, for six seconds?
Relying solely on the resume is, therefore, an unreliable way to generate a shortlist of candidates. The resume still has value as a tool to present an individual’s professional history and past performance. LinkedIn, for example, has done a great job of making these widely accessible and more accurate, by effectively making the resume public and adding recommendations and endorsements.
There is a better way. Use the resume (or LinkedIn) to view the candidate’s past performance, but by combining this with other tools such as psychometric assessments and cultural fit analysis a better prediction of future potential can be had. Doing this at the initial screening, or shortlisting phase also has the benefit of reducing the risk of biases impacting the hiring decision.
The resume still has a place in the early stages of screening and selection, but given the other tools available it should not be the sole decision factor.