The continuing problem with resumes

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I would like to say I was shocked when I opened The New York Times recently and read about another research study that highlights the problem with resumes. But the sad reality is this issue is an open secret across human resource departments and hiring managers: resumes are an outdated, biased way to evaluate and hire talent. Period. There is no evidence that the resume is an adequate proxy for how a person will ultimately perform in their role. Yet, it still remains the key to unlock the interview and hiring process for the vast majority of positions.


In the past, I could give some allowance that resumes were a reasonable shortcut. But why, in this age of AI, big data, machine learning and advanced analytics, are HR departments still relying on the equivalent of a divining rod to make some of their most consequential decisions: who to hire into the organization? Where else in the enterprise would it be OK to forego the use of data and just make decisions on a personal whim? Try doing that as a CMO or CIO and your tenure will be short-lived.

It’s not all bad news. The optimist in me is encouraged that some companies in the study were able to hire via resumes without bias. While that is a positive, and a testament to their organization rigor, I suspect these will be the first companies to lean into the advantages that big data can have on hiring and building organizations.

Beyond the foundational issue of bias, what should be most concerning for CEOs and corporate boards are that resumes don’t reflect or predict who will be a high performer once hired. How can they? Resumes are there to game the system. They’re either filled with well-meaning exaggerations or, they’re built with AI in order to appeal to an AI-powered ATS. ChatGPT vs. ChatGPT.

While most organizations are still backwards-thinking when it comes to the problem with resumes and better ways of finding talent, I do believe we’re taking steps forward. We just need to take bigger steps, faster, for the competitive benefit of companies and the economic opportunity for individuals.

Early adopters of a data-driven, AI-powered and fairness-aware process for evaluating and hiring talent will be light years ahead of the competition for two reasons. First, they’ll be able to find and hire talent that others can’t. Using AI and data, in place of resumes, allows you to do things like remove degree requirements or past work experience from job postings. This unlocks new talent oceans, meaning you have more people to choose from.

Second, by screening talent rather than relying on resumes, you can compare apples-to-apples and use your own data to make a more accurate determination if someone will become a high performer in your organization. Research shows that with resumes, only 5-to-30% of hires are considered top performers. Through our own work with companies, screening and hiring with AI results in about 73% accuracy of hiring high performers. Imagine the increase in your productivity and innovation if you were 70% likely to hire a high performer? Incredible!

One of the more overlooked problems with resumes is that they’re bad for the job applicants, too. They limit a person’s future by only relying on what they’ve done in the past. This is especially problematic for people just entering the workforce, who don’t have prior job experience, a professional network or likely even a degree to showcase. Does that mean they’re any less likely to succeed in a role? No. We have over 23 years of data and success stories showing that people who never thought software engineering could be a career for them can be some of the industry’s best developers.

You don’t need to rely on magical thinking to deal with the problem with resumes. All this can be done today! By leveraging data, you can eliminate talent supply issues fairly, creating a strategic, long-term competitive advantage. It’s either that, or prepare to be named as part of the next research study highlighting the problem with resumes.

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