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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.