It’s Time to Rethink the Resume. There Are Much Better Ways to Evaluate Candidates.

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It almost goes without saying: When you are reviewing candidates, you want to see their resumes. The resume is probably the most consistent component in the recruiting process, the only truly universal ingredient across companies and roles of all kinds.

Yet despite its ubiquity, the resume is a deeply flawed method of evaluating candidates. At best, it is only a very small piece of the puzzle when it comes to making the right hiring decision.

The Resume Is Stuck in the Past

The resume, otherwise known as a curriculum vitae (or CV) in some circles, is a relic of an earlier age when the majority of people stayed at a single job for long periods of time. Project-based and freelance work where nowhere near as commonplace as they are today. Because of this, resumes that show a candidate has hopped from job to job every few years don’t reflect well on the applicant, according to conventional HR and recruiting wisdom.

And yet, job-hopping resumes are increasingly common. These days, the average employee’s tenure at a company is shorter; it decreased from 4.6 years in 2014 to 4.2 years as of January 2018. Very few positions offer pensions, the cost of living is rising faster than wages, and renting is common. In other words: The idea of long-term full-time employment — and the stability associated with it — is dead.

There are jobs in which even four years is considered a long time to spend in one role. Take marketing leaders, for instance: The median tenure for a chief marketing officer or equivalent role was about 30 months in 2019. Try explaining a series of two-and-a-half-year stints to a recruiter who isn’t keeping up with the latest statistics!

And we haven’t even accounted for the growing freelance economy yet. As of 2019, 35 percent of US workers were engaged in some type of freelancing, and that number is projected to reach 50 percent of US workers by 2027. Compare that to the 7 percent self employment rate of 1977!

Resumes Present a Highly Curated Version of the Truth

Another problem with resumes is that they can often be unreliable when employers are trying to assess a candidate’s true qualifications. In fact, in a 2019 survey conducted by HireRight, a whopping 85 percent of employers reported having caught candidates falsifying information on their resumes — an increase from 66 percent in 2017.

Think of a resume as a kind of social media profile. While an applicant’s intent may not be to outright lie about themselves, there is no denying that they will try to present themselves and their experiences in the best possible light. The line between vanity and falsehood is often a blurry one, so resumes end up being a lot like Facebook profiles: omitting the bad photos and only sharing the best ones, even if they are a bit retouched.

Resumes Don’t Capture the Most Important Aspects of a Candidate

While a timeline of titles and companies can tell the story of a candidate’s employment, it also fails to capture a lot of important details. If you are comparing dozens of potential employees or contractors based solely on a single document, you may not be finding the best possible candidates.

For instance, someone may claim to have a skill in a particular software application or area of expertise — but a resume can’t really convey their level of knowledge in any concrete way. An assessment would be a much more reliable way to evaluate the candidate’s qualifications. The same can be said for cultural fit: Behavioral assessments can go a lot further than how a candidate describes themselves in a cover letter or resume profile.

Instead of relying on resumes, we should be incorporating a variety of evaluation methods into our recruiting processes to get a better understanding of our candidates. Get started by considering some of the following:

  1. Skill assessments to help you understand a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in key performance areas.
  2. Behavioral assessments to help you understand a candidate’s work and communication styles.
  3. Background checks to ensure the factual accuracy of the candidate’s purported work and educational history, as well as to uncover any potential deal-breakers the candidate may have failed to disclose.
  4. Accreditation and certification checks, particularly in industries where these things are critical to compliance.

Any of these assessment methods — and many others — can provide robust insight into a candidate that a resume simply cannot convey.

Some form of resume will likely always be a factor in our evaluations of candidates, but we shouldn’t let them play the biggest role in our decisions when we have access to more accurate ways of assessing candidates’ skills and fit. It’s time to reevaluate your company’s recruiting process to see whether resumes are playing an outsized role in your hiring decisions.

Greg Kihlström is CEO and cofounder of CareerGig and author of The Center of Experience.

Greg Kihlström is CEO and cofounder of CareerGig and author of "The Center of Experience."