June 14, 2011



SHOP(PING) TALK/Image: Michael Moffa

“http://t.sina.com.cn/1986010511”Tom Cruise’s Sina weibo public account

You’ve received 250 resumes for one job and have narrowed the list to three candidates: “VK9978899697”, “VK9898899697”,” and “VK9978899697”.  But these are not applicant numbers—they are their score codes, much like bar codes, DNA codes or police codes (Coke can bar code, nucleotide AGCC or “Code 3 in progress, send backup.”)

Actually they are performance codes: Each represents a transcription of the match between your posted job requirements and the key information about the applicant, scanned by advanced software through keyword, numerical data and other semantic searches. The first two characters represents the job category, while the remainder represent the applicant’s machine-rated score, from 0 to 10 in the ten key categories you’ve identified as essential to the job, e.g., educational match, years of experience match, supervisory experience match and geographical distance match.

Nano-Resumes and Nanominees

The data were compiled from their nano-resume, so-called because it is much, much smaller than a conventional resume, and even smaller than what has come to be called a “micro-resume”.  A nano-resume consists of a corresponding code that represents the raw data of what used to be simply called their “resume”. Now instead of having to review a lengthy old-fashioned resume, you merely let the software sift, sort and select for you. Because the first applicant’s posted nano-resume was “VK3148538034” the “Nanominator 4.0” software identified him as a very good match and automatically shortlisted him as a nominee (“nanominee”)—each digit representing a software compilation of the ten data-points in his credentials—and then produced his score code. Now, all you have to do is drill into those three candidates’ credentials, while you and they have to do much less than you would using previous resume scanning software.

Now, and more importantly, all that a candidate has to do, if you don’t hire him, is simply post his 10-digit, 12-character alphanumeric code online, in lieu of an old-fashioned resume: “Hi, I am a VK3148538034. Salary negotiable.”  Likewise, all you have to do is to post your corresponding nano-job description: “Fortune 500 company requires a VK2840958326. Only shortlisted applicants will be notified.” They punch in your code, to get the details of your job; your software processes theirs…bingo! A deal in the making.

The year is 2016.

Rewinding to 2011

Now rewind to the present, June 2011. Does the foregoing futurist scenario sound farfetched? A 12-character resume? If that is too much of a stretch, how about a resume that is not more than 12 times as long? Say, one that would be no longer than this:



fueoiuzxcvpoiudffjg;le95oifjwr858ideso483idofdupoaisd”—exactly 140 characters.

I just said “would be”. Correction: “is”. It is here, it is now—it is the “micro-resume”: not as short as the imagined nano-resume, but much, much shorter than the resumes you are used to reading.

The Micro-Resume Age Dawns

On June 13, 2011, CNNgo.com reported that thanks to a massive February 2011 push by Sina Corp, China’s largest Internet portal, through the company’s “micro-blogging” site, Sina weibo—which means “Sina micro-blogging”, the Chinese are taking to 140-character “micro-resumes” like Peking ducks to water. (Visit Sina Corp’s English-language report.)

One Xinhua News report stated that in the three-month period from Sina weibo’s “micro-recruiting” March launch until May 20, 2011, 17,000 micro-resumes were posted there. It is also reported that the site, a Chinese hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, is projecting it will have 200 million members by the end of the year, 60 million more than it has now.

Among the many luminaries already signed up is Tom Cruise, whose February 2011 debut Sina weibo posting can be seen here.

Even without the Last Samurai’s stellar sign-up, the site’s membership is dazzling: Sina Corp reports on its English site that, on a browsing-time basis, Sina weibo had a market share of 86.6 percent in 2010, with Tencent, it’s closest Chinese rival, nibbling off a meager 9.1%.

Longer than the fictitious “nano-resume” described above, the new Sina weibo 140-character micro resume format is  the latest development and tool in the battle against recruiter information overload, applicant fatigue and heavy recruitment time demands. Moreover, at Sina weibo and other portals, recruiters are getting on the bandwith-wagon and uploading micro job-postings.

A Japanese China Syndrome?

Has the West lagged behind a technologically chugging China in the arena of micro-resumes? Or have the Chinese, like the Japanese before them, simply adapted and improved a Western invention? In fact, the micro-resume in at least one form debuted well before Sina weibo’s micro-resume launch—and even before Sina Corp’s micro-blogging 2009 launch.

However, the form micro-resumes took here and then was that of a micro-resume business card, to be handed out as a job-greaser teaser. At suite101.com, “micro-resume” is defined as “a small, condensed version of the job seeker’s summary of qualifications. Micro-resumes are typically printed on business cards for maximum portability.” Anyway, there are North American references to business card micro-resumes dating back to as early as 2007. Still, that no more supports a warranted claim to North American priority than would calling your hard-copy magazine the first e-zine.

(In fact, I believe I created Japan’s first “cyberzine” in 1998, for Business Insight Japan Magazine—a single-sheet, glossy, 4-sided hard-copy guide, like TV Guide, to the magazine’s online content and a recruiting tool I highly recommend for long reach, slick comparables and low cost. But that’s another article.)

The Real Future of Resumes: Double-Plus Ungood?

One of the obvious consequences of the now decades-old “information explosion” has been the shortening, abbreviation, consolidation, condensation, simplification and outright obliteration of much of the language of written communication, not unlike George Orwell’s vision of 1984 “Newspeak”—totalitarian English reduced to the manipulative ideological simplicity of the “lowest common dominator” (yes, “dominator”), viz., “Big Brother”, stripped of all moral, logical, political and social complexity, e.g., “double-plus ungood”, as a replacement for subtler distinctions such as “immoral”, “amoral”, “non-normal”, “abnormal”, “illegal” and “dissenting”.  One parallel to be drawn from recruiting is the use of and search for simplistic buzzwords like “team player”, “self-starter”, “go-getter”, which conceal as much as they reveal, e.g., does “go-getter” in a particular instance imply “ambitious”, “assertive”, “aggressive”, “ruthless”, “impatient”, “cocky”, “driven”, or merely “proactively goal-oriented”?

As information overload, overchoice and overtime take their toll on recruiters, clients and applicants alike, the temptation to coalesce job requirements and credentials into even more compact codes is likely only to swell, perhaps to the point of expression as nano-resumes fancifully presaged above. Moreover, just as Orwell parodied what was to him the already evident profusion of acronyms that have been spawned by techno-informational and other language overloads, e.g., his “Engsoc” portmanteau term (a combination of two words to form one new one) for “English Socialism”, 140-character-or-less resumes are very likely to feature disproportionate numbers of acronyms, truncations and portmanteau words.

“Slf strtr with IT exp avalb 4 u 2 day….”—a brutal teen-text truncation of real writing, which if standardized as an acceptable, if not mandatory, resume form, will, like the buzzwords it employs, conceal as much as it reveals, including grammatical and spelling incompetence. Unfortunately, to the extent that non-Chinese applicants may be competing with Chinese, it may become necessary for the former, e.g., us, to resort to such linguistic butchery and obfuscation. That’s because, in general, 140-characters-or-less will convey much more information in Chinese than in English.

Overcoming the Handicap of English Micro-Resumes

Consider the following micro-resume: “I am a recent economics graduate, looking for an entry-level financial management position. Eager to shoulder responsibility, also a highly motivated team player.” Exactly 140 characters. (Yippie!—my first micro-resume haiku.)

Now, here’s the Chinese translation, ????????????,?????????????????????????????????????. Character count: a mere 50 characters. Ninety characters left in the micro-resume to say more than twice as much as the English-speaking job applicant applying for the same job in China (which does happen).

So, what is the handicapped English speaker to do? Fortunately, he can resort to acronyms, which the Chinese cannot, since there are no “initial letters” in Chinese from which to form an acronym, e.g., “C.I.A.” in Chinese is “???????”: seven characters, rather than the English six, including the periods. Sorry to say, however, that “I worked for the C.I.A. for three years” is 32 characters, whereas in Chinese, “??????????????”, it’s only 14. Our penchant for spaces between words, which eats up the format, doesn’t help at all.

Apart from limited advantages like that conferred by many English acronyms, the Chinese will always have the micro-resume edge, creating an unbridgeable Sino-American “micro-resume gap”. Unless, of course, the applicant is Tom Cruise….

…. in which case he can trump all other micro-resumes by merely posting, “I’m Tom Cruise and looking.”

Read more in Resume Format

Michael Moffa, writer for Recruiter.com, is a former editor and writer with China Daily News, Hong Kong edition and Editor-in-chief, Business Insight Japan Magazine, Tokyo; he has also been a columnist with one of Japan’s national newspapers, The Daily Yomiuri, and a university lecturer (critical thinking and philosophy).