A “Politically Correct” Approach to Resumes

Lately, it seems as though the recruiting industry has become challenged by resumes. On the far right there are the extreme conservatives, who still hold on to the traditional values of a professionally printed resume on fine linen paper?kept to one page, of course. On the far left there are the radicals, who believe in banning resumes completely. They believe that a very brief capabilities profile will suffice as an introductory step in the process. There is neither a right or wrong viewpoint as long as the end result is achieved: the best candidates are hired, in the shortest amount of time, at the least cost. I myself take the more centrist viewpoint on resumes. To me a resume is a tool that helps take me to the next step in finding the right candidate, in the shortest amount of time, at the least cost. As a person who often uses a butter knife as a screwdriver and athletic socks as winter jogging gloves, I try to make best use of the materials I have available. I do the same for resumes. Here are a few tips on how I use a resume as a tool:

  1. Recognize that most people do not know how to write a good resume. The first thing I force myself to keep in mind is that most people do not know how to write a good resume. Even Ph.Ds in English Composition have trouble appropriately communicating on a piece of paper called a resume, their entry ticket to the next step in their careers. Keeping this in mind, I do not immediately reject a candidate on the first review of the resume if there appears to be some value in their experiences. Instead, I make an effort to build a total picture of the person, read between the lines, and then determine if they may be worth exploring further through a phone conversation. Additionally, if I only receive a brief profile or capabilities summary of a candidate, I use it the same way I would a detailed resume, and do not reject a potential star because I was not presented with a formal resume. Star candidates are not typically in the job market and as a result do not have updated resumes. Most equate writing a resume with having a root canal, so if I demanded a perfectly written, updated resume, I would never be able to hire these star candidates.
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  3. Utilize information as a resource to finding other candidates. In the event that I determine that a candidate is not appropriate for the position (which is true with over 80% of the resumes I review), I then take a new look at the resume for resource information to help find the right candidate. If the candidate was strong, but just not a fit for my particular position, the resume typically provides a wealth of information. I make notes about the companies for which they have worked, projects they have worked on, organizations to which they belong, and educational institutions they have attended. Later, when I am actively sourcing candidates, I have a list of companies, organizations, projects, etc. that I can use as a basis for my networking and research. Also, if I come across a number of resumes from a particular company, it is a signal that there may be some internal restructuring happening. This is a great time for me to research the company for potential candidates that do fit my needs. It is easier to sell an opportunity when your candidate is in a company that is undergoing change because they are typically more vulnerable and open to listening.
  4. Manage hiring manager’s resume expectations. While I may be a resume “centrist,” the managers whom I support may have the fetishes of the “right-wing resume extremists”. Recognizing this, I try to educate managers on the current state of resumes and then work with each manager differently. I quickly learn their hot buttons on resumes and manage around them. With over 90% of the resumes received today being electronic, formatting becomes the biggest issue. All e-mail and word processing programs are not compatible so from a formatting perspective, often what we receive is dramatically altered from the original. I encourage managers to review the resume for content and not format. I also encourage them to overlook some typographical errors because they may be the result of e-mail conversion process (R’s become N’s, N’s become M’s etc..) and not the result of a poor speller or poorly edited document. Also, before presenting a candidate, I do my best to quickly “clean-up” a resume. I try replace the ?’s and ɲ ‘s back to appropriate bullet points and delete all the unnecessary tabs that have turned the 8.5″ X 11″ resume into a 4.5″ X 20″ resume. In the short run this takes a bit more time, however, it goes a long way in making the best candidate presentation. I would rather spend 5 minutes today reformatting a resume, then 10 hours tomorrow looking for another candidate.

To reiterate, my goal is to hire the best candidate, in the least amount of time, at the lowest cost possible. A resume is a tool to help me get there. If the tool is not perfect, I work with what I have. I also recognize that a tool can be used for other purposes than its original intent and still helps me complete my project. Being a centrist may be boring, but it gives me the flexibility to accomplish my goals faster and more effectively than the left- or right-wing extremists.

Karen Osofsky (karen.o@tiburongroup.com) is a co-founder of TiburonGroup.com, an e-recruiting consulting firm that provides outsourced recruiting solutions to rapidly growing companies and new ventures. The firm provides a broad range of recruiting consulting, sourcing, screening, and strategy development services to help companies manage the front-end recruiting process. Tiburon Group is a Certified AIRS Solutions Partner.


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