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What's Wrong With Resumes


What's wrong with using resumes for hiring? Pretty much Everything  -

by
Dr. John Sullivan

If you’re getting low quality hires, it’s time to realize that the blind and uneducated use of resumes may be a main contributing factor (note that earlier this year I completed a similar analysis on interviews, the second major contributor to low quality hires). Resumes are the currency of recruiting. Job sites, recruiters, and hiring managers all require them and use them to screen both prospects and candidates in or out.

 

Because at least early on, resumes are the sole determinant as to whether a candidate moves forward or not in the hiring process, it’s important to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Many authors, (including myself and recruiting thought leader Kevin Wheeler) have been forecasting the demise of the resume for years. But despite their many faults, resumes have remained an essential part of the candidate assessment process. The premise of this article is that if you are going to continue to rely so heavily on resumes, everyone involved needs to be aware of each and every one of the many weaknesses and problems associated with using them.

 

The Top 30 Problems Related to Using Resumes for Hiring

The flaws, the weaknesses, and problems associated with resumes are many. I have listed the top 30 problems, divided into five distinct categories.

 

The top five factors that most negatively impact the quality of hire

Of all of the flaws, these five have the highest impact on new-hire quality.

  1. Resumes are at best, self-reported descriptions of historical events – the very definition of a resume highlights its fundamental weakness. Rather than providing information that you really need to hire someone (examples of a candidate’s actual work or a description of what they could do in your job), resumes are merely self-reported narrative descriptions of the candidates’ past work. The bias and selective memory of the candidate frequently results in a less-than-accurate description of what actually occurred. Obviously because resumes are essentially job histories, they don’t tell you anything about the person’s character, how they would act in your job, and their potential.
  2. Resumes frequently contain untruths and half-truths – the next-most-serious problem with resumes is that if you rely on them, you are likely making decisions based on falsehoods. Everyone that has researched them agrees, in fact, that as many as 80% of resumes contain misleading statements. And on average, 53% contain actual lies (The biggest offenders are college students, where 92% of them admit to lying on their resume). Even CEOs lie on their resumes (e.g. at Yahoo). And because references are not usually checked until the end of the hiring process, many candidates will likely move forward based on this false information. Those who are 100% honest may actually be penalized (or even screened out) because recruiters and hiring managers often “discount” what they find on resumes by as much as 30%, to take into account the expected “half-truth” percentage. Individuals in science, the law, or finance would simply laugh at any process that consciously makes decisions based on reports that are known to be so exaggerated.
  3. Negative information is omitted — in addition to inaccuracies, resumes have many omissions. The most significant omission is that resumes almost universally contain no negative or non-positive information. Even though everyone has made errors and bad decisions in almost every job, they will certainly not be prominently found in any resume. If someone has been convicted, flunked out of school, had a bad performance appraisal, gotten fired, or failed on a project, it will almost never be found in the resume. Even though this information may be found out later, many early-stage recruiting decisions will have already been made based on this incomplete information.
  4. Resumes do not cover the future or your firm – resumes are 100% historical, so at their very best they only cover what you have done in the past at other firms. However, those making the hiring decision need to project into the future. They need to know how you will act in this job and at this company when you are faced with this firm’s current and future problems. But unfortunately, resumes don’t include forecasts or projections on how you would act differently in this job and working environment.
  5. Requiring an updated resume will restrict applications – most companies absolutely require an updated resume in order to apply for a position or become an employee referral. But most employed individuals (the so-called passives) do not have an updated resume readily available. So, requiring one in order be considered for a position will eliminate many top potential candidates who simply can’t find the time in their busy schedule to update their resume. To further compound the problem, some individuals feel that updating their resume is an act of disloyalty, so they won’t take that action until they have made the final determination to leave (meaning they won’t apply for your job until they have updated their resume). And even those who have decided to leave may be leery that providing a resume may put their current job unnecessarily at risk if their boss were to find out (note: an alternative approach is to let the recruiter use a LinkedIn profile).

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