humanFor as long as I’ve been writing about HR, I’ve been interested in the work of Liz Ryan and Human Workplace, which describes itself as both a “publishing firm, a think tank, and a coaching and consulting business,” and  “an idea, a mindset, and a set of practices for employers, educators, entrepreneurs, career coaches and developers, HR folks, students, and other leaders.” By embracing the weird, quirky, and wonderfully messy stuff of human life, Ryan and Human Workplace serve as a vital antidote to the archetypal “corporate drone” environment.

A little over a year ago, Ryan posted a video about something she calls the Human-Voiced Resume, and while I may be a little late to the party, I still wanted to share the idea with our readers, because it’s as fresh and relevant today as it was last October. 

Ryan was kind enough to answer some of my questions via email, and I’ve reproduced our correspondence below, with minimal editing for style and space constraints.

(Note: the terms Human-Voiced ResumeTM, Dragon-Slaying StoryTM, and Pain LetterTM are all registered trademarks of Human Workplace.) What is a “Human-Voiced Resume,” and how does it differ from the typical resume?

Liz Ryan: A Human-Voiced Resume is a very different type of resume from the traditional one. I was a corporate HR leader for eons, and of course I noticed that every single resume we received looked almost identical to every other resume. The stilted, standard format was choking the life and individuality out of the resumes coming in. I started advising people to put more personality into their resumes, and when I finished being a corporate HR leader I started to teach people how to do that. Now we teach folks how to write their own Human-Voiced Resume and we write them, also.

Liz Ryan of Human Workplace

Liz Ryan of Human Workplace

There are about 20 differences between a typical resume and a Human-Voiced Resume. I’ll highlight some of the biggest differences. A Human-Voiced Resume sounds, when you read it, as though the job seeker is talking directly to you. It uses the first person. In a Human-Voiced Resume, we don’t shy away from using “I.” After all, it’s a branding document about you – why not use “I”? A Human-Voiced Resumes uses very short but very powerful stories called Dragon-Slaying Stories to convey to the reader what you’ve accomplished in your career so far. A Human-Voiced Resume is much livelier and more fun to read than a typical resume, but it’s still blue or black ink on white paper, and still two pages long.

RC:What advantages does a Human-Voiced Resume have over a typical resume?

LR: The advantages of using a Human-Voiced Resume are incredible. People send out 100 resumes and hear nothing back, and then they write a Human-Voiced Resume and they get two or three interviews right away. That’s because the Human-Voiced Resume grabs the reader’s attention and speaks to what’s really important, instead of years of experience and certifications and a lot of stuff that, frankly, most hiring managers don’t really care about.

We teach people to write a Pain Letter and send it out to a hiring manager, directly at his or her desk, together in one envelope with a Human-Voiced Resume. Our clients get a positive response, which is to say a phone call or an email message inviting them for an interview, about 25 percent of the time. That means that for every four Human-Voiced Resumes and Pain Letters a person sends out, they typically get one interview. That’s obviously a lot better than the results they get applying for jobs through the black-hole recruitment portals.

RC: Where did the idea for a Human-Voiced Resume come from?

LR: I recruited thousands of people for U.S. Robotics and then a tech startup in Boston called Ucentric Systems. When I was very young I recruited about 500 people for a greeting card company called Recycled Paper Products. I saw that the more of a person I could get to know through the resume, the more I wanted to meet the person. Human-Voiced Resumes appeal to managers who are interested in more than just where someone worked and for how long. Those bare facts don’t tell us very much of interest. So you worked at XYZ Corp for ten years. Who cares? Why would that matter? We need to know more. We need to know how you roll and what you’ve left in your wake, how you approach a job and what you love to do at work. All of those things come through in a Human-Voiced Resume.

RC:I imagine some recruiters/hiring managers might be resistant to new “styles” of resume, to so speak (in my experience, people can be resistant to anything that’s even the slightest bit different … ). How do we convince the naysayers to hop aboard?

LR: Change is hard for most of us. When we’re comfortable with one system, it jars us to try something new. We’ve had tremendously positive feedback to Human-Voiced Resumes from recruiters around the world. They like the fact that they can glance at a Human-Voiced Resume and already know some important things about a candidate. We’ve led webinars and workshops to teach recruiters how to help their clients write Human-Voiced Resumes. The more people become exposed to Human-Voiced Resumes, the more comfortable they become.

RC: Aside from the human-voiced resume, your company makes efforts to bring humanity to the workplace in numerous ways. Why is it important to inject humanity into the workplace? What benefits does that bring for employees? For employers?

LR: Our company is called Human Workplace, and our mission is to reinvent work for people. We write policies and HR practices with a human voice for employers. We teach organizations to lead their teams with a human voice through courses like Team Mojo, Business Theatre, and Managing Sticky Human Topics.

We care about the human side of work, because we believe it’s the part that has been neglected, and also the most important aspect of work. An energized team can accomplish anything.

Work has to be more than just a way to pay the rent. We launched Human Workplace as a company and a worldwide movement to humanize work in November 2012. Now, as we come up on our second anniversary, there are 450,000 Human Workplace members worldwide.

Human Workplaces are more fun, more profitable, more safe, less prone to discrimination or wage claims or other kinds of problems, and they are able to hire and hang onto the best talent in their industries. The benefits are extensive, but a lot of people are stuck in fear.

They have been leading with an iron fist and they don’t want to let that illusion of power go. We teach them to soften, to relax, and to let the brilliance of the amazing people they’ve hired overcome their addictions to policies and yardsticks. It’s a learning process.

All images credited to Liz Ryan and Human Workplace

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