Why Resumes Are Obsolete

By Caroline Roberson on June 14, 2022

Do you ever find yourself relying on a tool or a process that doesn’t meet your needs because that’s how it’s always been done? Our work lives are full of these workflows and annoying added steps.

While some processes get replaced by innovative business leaders, who are willing to say ‘we can do better’ most linger far longer than they should. Resumes are one of these tools.

Resumes and CVs have been around for centuries. Some people trace the first resume back to Leonardo Da Vinci though it wasn’t until the 1940s that resumes came into fashion and became the cornerstone of the job-hunting process. During that time, employers sought to formalize the hiring process and were looking for ways to get a better sense of the candidates and to compare candidates’ skills and experience. With that in mind, candidates were expected to provide a formal resume outlining their skills and expertise to help managers make the right hiring decision. Thus the keystone to the recruiting process was born.

For decades (before computers, email, and LinkedIn), the resume served a valiant purpose. Job hunters printed dozens of these mini-biographies onto fancy matte paper, which they snail-mailed along with cleverly written cover letters, to whoever was advertising a job in the local newspaper.

But just as rotary phones and VHS tapes are relegated to antique shops, the resume is a relic of the past that no longer works for today’s job-hunters or hirers.

Sure, we may be more likely to email our resumes today than to print them and slide them into a paper envelope. But not much else has changed about this format, and that’s a problem.

The resume emerged out of necessity and limited options for information gathering and communication. Candidates needed a way to showcase their experience, and recruiters had few other ways to vet and get to know candidates. Without digital communication channels, mobile phones or LinkedIn, the only way recruiters could efficiently choose between candidates was by reading their resumes — with their own eyes. That made resumes both efficient and useful.

But fast forward to 2019, and resumes are no longer the most efficient way to get to know candidates, nor are they the most effective.

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Time to let go.

Recruiters today have lots of ways to find candidates and vet their backgrounds and skills. Virtually everyone today has an online footprint that includes at least a LinkedIn profile and social media accounts. Looking at candidates’ digital footprints, recruiters can gather information that brings candidates to light, in a personal way. You can find information like whether someone participates in hackathons, does volunteer work, or contributes to coding boards or open-source platforms.

This data can give recruiters a deeper sense of who the candidate is, not just what they’ve done. It can help them suss out whether someone has a passion for learning, a natural ability to collaborate, or strong leadership skills – all attributes that likely won’t come through in a resume.

More importantly, resumes these days rarely get even a cursory glance; so it’s worth considering why we continue to place importance on a tool, that isn’t serving its intended purpose. Fully 75 percent of resumes are never seen by human eyes, according to a study from job search services firm Preptel. Instead, companies rely on applicant tracking systems to conduct word searches and basic scans that whittle the pile to a select few. Even if a candidate does make it to the shortlist, a 2018 eye-tracking study found recruiters only spend 7.4 seconds per resume (up from six seconds in 2012!).

It’s all proof that resumes don’t hold much value anymore. The information provided on resumes doesn’t give recruiters the insights they need to vet whether candidates will thrive on the job.

It’s time for the recruiting industry to conduct more transparent conversations about the utility of resumes. If recruiters are using LinkedIn and other methods to screen candidates, let candidates in on the “secret” so they can put their best foot forward.

It’s also time for recruiters to add more tools to their toolbox. Pre-employment assessments are one such tool. Assessment data enriches the candidate profile and helps recruiters get to know candidates on a more human level. Pre-hire tests provide insight about a candidate’s soft skills, something you can’t obtain from resumes.

In a world where good talent is hard to come by, you can’t depend on tools that no longer work. Resumes were useful for a long time, but as they’ve become obsolete, we need to consider alternatives.

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