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Why Resumes Are Worthless

People are so much more than a list of facts and dates. That’s why the traditional resume needs to die, and what should replace it.

Why Resumes Are Worthless
[Photo: Flickr user Sebastien Wiertz]

If you’re spending a lot of time sifting through resumes looking for the perfect candidate, you might be spinning your wheels.

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Resumes provide hiring managers with two pieces of information–education and experience–but Tim Stevens, author of Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace, says those are two things a company should care about least.

“A person’s skill set and personality–the things behind the resume–are much more important,” he says. “You need to know if a person has an aptitude for leadership, how they deal with failure, how they treat people when they disagree, and if the role you’re hiring for is their passion or a stepping-stone to something else.”

A team leader with the executive recruiting firm Vanderbloemen Search Group, Stevens realized how misleading resumes can be when he was asked to review a friend’s: “If I didn’t know him, I would have thought, ‘We better get this guy fast before someone else makes him a great offer!’” he says, adding that he had worked with the man before and knew he had a high capacity for negativity and a low tolerance for hard work. “I wouldn’t hire him for any job, anywhere at any time.”

While information about a person’s habits and character isn’t found on a resume, it’s readily available elsewhere. A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that a person’s Facebook profile reveals more about the kind of employee they’ll be than an IQ test.

Look At Social Media

Social media is a hiring manager’s friend, says Stevens. Before bringing in a potential candidate for an interview, he suggests taking advantage of the wealth of information found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts: “I like to look through picture albums to see what a person is posting,” he says. “You learn a lot about someone by looking at what they believe worthy of sharing.”

Stevens also likes to look for articles they mention, vacations they take, and movies they watch because it gives insight on what they find interesting. And he looks for conversations with the person’s spouse, children, and friends because it gives clues to their integrity.

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“How do they treat people? Is it with kindness and grace?” he says. “How they treat friends and family is how they’ll treat your customers and clients.”

Stevens stays away from things that have been written about them because those can be inaccurate. “But you can rely on the things they’ve put out there about themselves,” he says.

While Stevens says his kids accuse him of cyberstalking, he says his process is no different than buying a used car and ordering the Carfax.

“When you invest money in a car, you want to know its history and issues,” he says. “A company invests far more in an employee, and they should want to know all there is to know.”

Test The Chemistry

When a candidate gets to the interview process, the conversation will likely center around the person’s experience, but Stevens says hiring managers should be more interested in the chemistry this candidate brings.

“What is it like to spend time with them?” he says. “Is this a person you can play with in the sandbox? Are you going to want to spend six, eight, or 10 hours a day with them? When you get a text from them, will you be excited or will you groan?”

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You can also get a good feeling for chemistry by going out to eat with a candidate. “This informal time will help you figure out who they are as a person,” says Stevens.

And if the position is for director level or higher, Stevens suggests spending two or three hours with them. “This amount of time allows you to talk about a lot of things,” he says. “I like to see what kind of topics the person presents.”

Conduct Group Interviews

Finally, Stevens says it’s important to rely on the feedback of others. Even people who are great at discerning can miss signs, he says. Bring in the candidate several times. Meet with them yourself first, then have them meet with other members of the executive team, and then again with the people they’ll be working with.

“Sometimes you can read in your own hopes and desires,” he says. “Rely on a team for hiring conversations. It doesn’t have to be HR individuals. Some people are great at asking insightful questions.”

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