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Why you should leave out resumes next time you’re hiring.

Have you ever found yourself gazing intensely at the resume in your hand while conducting a job interview? You might be breathing away some tension or thinking about the next question.
Just like me, you probably have.
And even though this may seem like a harmless distraction from the here and now of the interview, it’s much more than that.
During my years at as an interim manager I had the privilege of being one of the recruitment managers at the Intermin Foundation. I interviewed potential new employees, next to working my interim jobs. This gave me the opportunity to do dozens of interviews every year.
Our recruitment process was kind of different: we didn’t ask candidates to show us their resume. This challenged me in the beginning, but now I consider a recruitment process without resumes a real liberation!
To understand why, let’s take a closer look at the role of resumes in the interview process.

Why we say we use resumes

Resumes can be useful tools for a couple of reason:
– they offer a nice summary of somebody’s past.
– they provide for some fair comparison material between candidates.
– also, they offer a guideline or agenda by which we can do the interview.
They’re simple, they’re clear and everybody understands why we ask for them.
Also, and that alone makes for a perfect reason for most HR teams to ask for them, everybody uses resumes.
But what if we would challenge this status quo?

Why we really use resumes

Resumes provide for an –almost physical– safety barrier between the interviewers and the candidate. Imagine the situation I mentioned at the start of this article. The candidate has entered the room. You shook hands and everyone’s seated. The thing most interviewers do next, is to pick up the resume and take a close look… That’s what I call a safety barrier: it excuses everyone from awkwardly looking into each other’s eyes or at the wall.
Then the interview begins. Again, the resume offers us consolation: it provides for an easy topic of conversation. You ask a question like: ‘I see you worked at so-and-so, what was that like?’ or ‘How come there’s a gap between these two jobs?’
Are these the things you really want to know? Or are they just fluff, to ease into the conversation? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be better to ask something you’re genuinely interested in?
When you decide which candidate to hire, resumes basically offer us an easy way to turn down people who didn’t get the job: ‘I’m really sorry, but the other candidate had better/more/more relevant experience then you’. Of course in some cases, that might be the one & only reason to turn someone down. But much more often, there are other reasons involved too, reasons that are harder to explain & much more personal.

My tip on recruiting: reconsider using resumes

Even if you are the one hiring, the interview process is pretty stressful. How often do you hold so much immediate power over someone else’s future?
It’s understandable that we look for some security in a process that intense, and the resume offers us just that. All the reasons why we’re really using resumes add up to the same thing: a resume is the security blanket of job interviews.
But there’re many disadvantages to this security blanket. For starters, it robs us from the many opportunities to really get to know the candidate. These powerful opportunities come up in every interview. Most often, they’re in those awkward moments I already mentioned. A silence, a question the candidate doesn’t quite answer…
An awkward moment during an interview is actually a great opportunity to learn more about the candidate (and yourself BTW). Tweet that!
For example, an avoided question can be used to ask a courageous question, like: ‘I notice that you’re not really answering my question. Why is that?’
These are the type of questions that bring the conversation to a completely different level and empower both you and the candidate to Speak your Truth.
I experienced many times that the answers to these questions, provide the kind of information that really impacted the decision if the person was right for the job.

What to do instead: 3 alternatives to using resumes

In this article, I’ve focused on the limited value of resumes in the actual interview and I already mentioned some techniques to get through job interviews without them (courageous questions & accepting silences).
I know it takes quite a lot of courage to use these techniques instead of relying on the security the resume offers, but it is very much worth it in terms of added value & clarity about who to select for the job.
The area where I do see some value in using resumes is in the preselection process, mainly when there’s a lot of response to your add. Resumes offer a simple tool to quickly see if people meet the criteria you’ve set.
Do realize that you need to make these criteria very clear, if you want to use resumes to screen for them!
And there’re alternatives too! To name just a few:
• design an online form that applicants have to take, where you ask them to answer some multiple choice and some open questions, that give you an overview about the candidate’s relevant knowledge, skills and personality.
• organize a ‘recruitment event’ where you have all applicants (that made it through the test) participate in some challenges or practices that give you information on how they handle things.
• organize a speed dating event with all candidates.
With these alternatives, you can set aside the resume completely.
And that’s really my tip for recruiting the best people for your team: leave out the resumes and focus on having a real, indept interview.
Let me give you one last reason* why resumes aren’t that great as a recruitment tool:
Writing a good resume is an acquired skill.
Using resumes creates irrelevant competition between the candidates. Being able to write a resume that screams ‘HIRE ME!’, probably has nothing to do with the skills you are looking for in a candidate. I dare to say, that unless you’re hiring a copywriter, it probably doesn’t.

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* There are dozens more reasons why the resume isn’t a very trustworthy companion in the recruitment process. If you would like some more, check out ‘What’s wrong with using resumes for hiring? Pretty much everything’ by the HR specialist Dr John Sullivan.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Conny says:

    Hi Roos, no worries or second thoughts about this post! I couldn’t agree more! What I have come to see as a Great tool for hiring – next to asking questions in order to find Out if somebody is really knowlegeable in the particular topic I’m hiring them for – is to ask yourself if this person would be An acquisition to The team as well considering The other team members characters and strong An weak points! In order to judge this we had everyone in Our organisation fill in The Meyer Briggs test. So now we know exactly which personality type would be An Asset to Zebra or not 😉 It helps and has proven to be worthwhile too since IT appeared most of US have The Same personality type..

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