Do Away With the Resume

Recruiters are their own worst enemies. They perpetuate their own misery by creating websites and cultivating mindsets that focus on getting lots of resumes. Most recruiters bemoan the fact that they do not have enough of the right kind of candidates, yet they still advertise and promote in a way designed to attract all sorts of people, qualified and unqualified alike.

Consider these quotes from recruiters:

“I have received almost 500 resumes in the past two weeks. Over 90% of these people are not qualified or not what my company is looking for.”

“I have been overwhelmed with candidates. Some fit our needs, but most don’t even take the time to read the job description. I wish I could reply to every candidate, but if I did, I would not be doing my job!”

I think recruiters live in fear of not having any qualified candidates at all, so they broaden their reach to include way too many people.

To reduce resume flow while increasing quality, create websites and marketing materials that are targeted at a particular kind of candidate. This keeps candidates from feeling as frustrated as they do now.

Over the past five years, I have consistently heard candidates say things along the lines of:

“Now, as a candidate going through a very bad dry spell in finding recruiting work, I rarely experience this common courtesy among recruiters who post jobs that don’t exist and fail to follow simple due diligence.”

“I’m a downsized corporate executive who has been repeatedly appalled by the way companies and recruiters are treating candidates during this economic downturn.”

So what does the overworked, overwhelmed recruiter do? How can you narrow the supply, increase the quality, and provide more responsive service? Read on for my advice on crafting precise job descriptions, using profiles instead of resumes, and adopting technology to your benefit.

Don’t Post Job Descriptions, Unless They Are Specific

I have taken an excerpt from a job description I found on a website that is representative of many I see every day. Who, with even a modicum of technical ability and a dash of experience, will not feel qualified for this job? There are no specifics, no details, and no firm requirements! I almost feel that I could apply for this and justify why if asked.

You’re looking for more than just a job in Information Technology. You want a career that challenges your IT experience while giving you the freedom and support to succeed. Look no further than Xxxx. Our Professional Services offerings span the entire application life cycle, giving our customers a complete solution and our employees the opportunity to excel on all platforms. With our technical focus and emphasis on delivery, we strive to hire experienced information technology professionals with broad skill sets and the desire and versatility to learn new businesses and skills. We are selective in hiring and serious about retaining those we do hire. We are looking for candidates with the Oracle Financials experience; Oracle 11i application development experience; and strong PL/SQL.

I am sure that this has generated many hundreds of unqualified resumes. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are written this way deliberately so that they will generate a large number of responses.

When we lacked technology and reach, this was a marginally acceptable approach, but today it creates big problems. Most candidates are very concerned with applying for an appropriate job, but how can they really tell from the way descriptions are written? Are the specific requirements spelled out? Are you using technology to screen for these?

We need to focus on a building a new mindset. We do not need mass-marketing for most positions, we do not need to generate hundreds of responses to make sure we’ve “covered the field,” and we can’t ignore hundreds of applicants because of our own inadequacies. Many of us have attitudes that would be similar to those of a store clerk who, when overwhelmed with customers, simply walks off and leaves them.

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Use Profiles and Interactive Tools, Not Resumes

Resumes are increasingly useless. With the Internet and the wide variety of tools that allow for interactive and progressive screening, the resume actually becomes a liability. It’s something you have to store and keep and respond to.

With a profile, you get the information you need to make a decision and then move on. The new recruiting tools and systems have built-in tools for communicating, screening, and maintaining relationships with candidates.

However, the sad fact is that after these systems are purchased, only a fraction of you use their powerful communication and screening features. Most of you are failing to serve your customers, the candidates.

Instead, ask candidates to interactively provide information and take various screening tests. This ensures that candidates are getting feedback on their qualifications and your positions. You can reduce the overall numbers who pass through your screen. Well-designed websites with targeted marketing messages, job previews, fun-to-take simulation tests, and other tools can make applying fun. At the same time, it can help to eliminate unqualified candidates.

Relationships and Referrals Are Keys to Your Success

Posting job descriptions is a process with limited benefit and underlines the desperate nature of most corporate sourcing. Social networks such as LinkedIn and Ning can provide partial solutions to building candidate relationships.

I am not advocating technology as the complete solution, because it still has many limitations. What I am advocating is that recruiters begin to accept the advantages technology offers and start using such tools as instant messaging, SMS, live chat, and social networks to augment and enhance the way they communicate with candidates and the way they screen candidates.

Targeted marketing, interactive and well-designed websites, the use of new communication tools, and social networks all let you do more with less.

Sure, there is a learning curve and a lot of experimenting needed to find the right mix of tools and approaches as well as messages. But the benefits are huge and lasting. The way we have done things cannot endure, and the faster you try new approaches, the more you will ensure your own survival and growth.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


6 Comments on “Do Away With the Resume

  1. I agree and I disagree. I agree job postings should be specific-you get what you ask for. A resume serves a need for the candidate- a brief summary of background, skills and experience, it should entice the reader to ask for more, that?s we interview, test and assess.

  2. I have been in the industry for over 14 years and until now ever found an ATS to be truly paperless and have the ability to assess, rank and search files attached to candidates files. The customized questions can be requsition specific and rank applicants based on a point system. We only phone screen and interview those candidates that have a 95-100% ranking, cutting our time and resources required to identify and weed through the hundreds of resumes received each day. In the old days, we had to rely on our memory when a specific job skill was required and then had to locate it on our desk full of file folders. You can also send out screening and assessments to candidates you think might fit the order. GET TALEO! YOU WILL THANK ME!



  3. Bravo Kevin, once again you knock me out with your keen insight into a situation that?s been bugging me for awhile.

    As a purveyor of an ATS, it is dismaying to me the extent that technology such as mine is used to ?manage resumes? and under-utilized or even misused when it comes to the real job of identifying qualified candidates, developing relationships with people, and managing the talent acquisition process to find the right candidates & match them to the right jobs.

    My pet-peeves are increasing reliance on ?artificial intelligence? to generate even bigger piles of useless resumes, and ?skills extraction? that pulls skill codes off of resumes that may be inaccurate, out-of-date, or just plain LYING about qualifications.

    While my software actually can be set to extract keywords from resumes, we advise against it and train recruiters how to create PROFILES based on reality (such as the screening & testing you recommended) and use the skills code & other candidate data storage areas to make value judgments about the relative merits of an individual?s qualifications and ?fit? rather than relying on the machinery to do it for them.

    Anyone can write (or pay someone to write) a great resume. There has always been a disconnect between what?s on the paper, be it the resume or the job description, and an individual?s qualifications for a given job, especially when it comes to fitting within the company?s unique culture. Unfortunately, misuse of technology can make it worse for those who continue to rely on resume generation.

    Write on!

    Sylvia Dahlby
    Phone: (480) 502-4513

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    Any views or opinions expressed in this message via newsgroup posts are those of the author only and not necessarily those of Advanced Personnel Systems, Inc.

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  4. Kudos to a well written article; it touchs on the fact that there is an underlying issue of mass responses to positions that Candidate unfortunately may not be qualified for. I think further steps need to be taken with Universities and Prep Schools that turn out Graduates and blatantly tell them ‘If there is a Job you are interested in, apply for it! No Matter if you have the 5 years experience they are looking for, you never know!’

    And then the Tire Kickers! Let’s not start with them. I have recently placed in my ads that the Ideal Candidate will be proactive and actually craft a cover letter/resume that thoroughly correlates to my client’s needs. And that Candidates that have not done so, will not even be viewed.

  5. One of the ways to use the internet to it full potential is to bridge the gap between the resume and the online form. Candidates have resumes updated and ready to showcase their experience and skills, but experience frustration at having to re-type or cut and paste all of the information at every job board, ATS and recriutment site they visit. By enabling the candidate to upload their resumes and prepopulate the online form, the problem is solved. The candidate can then still go through any screening, EEO, or any other information the online form requires. A number of things are accomplished, the recruiters get fielded information for the best search results, the candidates have a fast application process making a good first impression, the recruiter does not have to deal with a massive amount of resumes and the ability for the site to convert traffic to profiles is greatly increased. HireAbility and other companies have resume parsing solutions that are bridging this gap across the globe.

  6. Of course, there are other resume parsing vendors to consider: Sovren, Resume Mirror, Burning Glass.

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