I wrote my first resume when I was about to finish secondary school and begin applying for an apprenticeship. Back in those days, resumes still mentioned your parents’ professions, your religion, and marital status — information that is, luckily, considered irrelevant today.
At that time, I had already been working several jobs during weekends and school vacations, but I’d never heard of such a document. When help was needed, a friend usually referred me, talked to the manager, and started working the next day.
Admittedly, most of these jobs did not require much more than some simple math and a certain amount of responsibility, roles where an open hiring process is already in use in many industries. When hiring for technical roles, does a resume tell us the right things? And if not, is there an alternative?
How does a resume contribute to hiring?
The resume is the "business card" of the applicant; it mentions their skills and experience. It also shows how much effort they are willing to put into their application, which indicates their overall motivation.
From a resume, we can easily deduce attention to detail, language and communication skills, and whether the candidate knows how to create a readable document.
We also get a fairly good understanding of where the candidate currently is in their career. Are they just starting their career or want to mentor others?
When a resume isn’t useful
Do resumes enable us to predict a candidate's performance if they are hired? Intuitively, we would think that their track record helps us to foresee the future — even predictive analytics is based on data from the past.
Surprisingly, research says, “No, resumes are not useful for predicting future performance." According to a study conducted by Florida State University, future performance cannot be predicted based on experience.
The study says our bias against so-called job hoppers is exaggerated. Chad Van Iddekinge (the College of Business Bank of America Professor of Management and an expert on human resources management) found that the duration of a candidate's previous contract does not impact how long they will work for the next company that hires them.
Resumes also say little about a candidate’s cognitive abilities, intelligence, and personality. We've all seen people who looked perfect on paper but underperformed when hired — or simply turned out to be jerks.
Others, who barely made it into the to-be-interviewed pile, outperformed all expectations when joining the team. For example, one of our clients recently hired a junior engineer who outperformed a senior who joined the company at the same time.
It seems like resumes simply do not answer the questions that we’d like to ask.
Resumes — a fertile ground for discrimination
It’s sad but true; we tend to be more biased than we think regarding screening resumes.
Exactly how biased was reported in a study published in 2016 concerning racial bias. The results show that Black Americans got 150% (!) more callbacks after “whitening” their resumes when applying for exactly the same jobs with the same experience.
For Asian Americans, callbacks increased by 95%. This included changing their name and omitting any activities and even achievements, revealing their origins.
What if we ditched resumes?
Open hiring (in other words, resume-free hiring) has produced great results for the Greyston Foundation and The Body Shop.
The latter had been struggling to find seasonal workers and decided to reduce the hiring process to a few essential questions regarding the applicant's work permit and their physical ability to perform the job.
Thanks to these changes, the cosmetics retailer was able to find seasonal workers much faster than in the previous years, years when they had requested a resume from each applicant. Moreover, productivity increased, and the churn rate decreased significantly.
It is certainly easier to ditch resume screening for entry-level roles that do not require any specific skills or training. But how could this method be applied when hiring highly skilled knowledge workers such as software engineers?
Our applicant tracking system (ATS) includes a form with which we can ask the applicants some prequalifying screening questions, such as working time zone, notice period, and salary bracket.
If we wanted to introduce open hiring to our industry, we would certainly need to add a few more questions directly related to the role, such as:
- Which SAAS applications have you shipped to production, leveraging the job-relevant technologies? Please provide some links or a portfolio.
- How many people use(d) the largest / most complex product you’ve ever worked on?
- Which technologies are you the most experienced with?
- Which technologies would you like to work with in the near future?
- What got you interested in this position and why is it a good fit for you?
Having applicants write down the answers to these questions would also give us a fairly good idea of their English level and communication skills.
To provide more context, candidates could add their relevant social media profiles (Linkedin, Stack Overflow, GitHub, blogs) so we can take a look at their track record and coding style.
Tooling for open hiring
At madewithlove, we constantly aim to improve our process by acknowledging and minimizing bias.
With this objective in mind, we tested the solution of the Belgian startup Equalture whose approach is based on neuroscience and cognitive abilities. Applicants are requested to play a set of games to evaluate their problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, leadership, and adaptability to change.
Most of our applicants enjoyed this gamified approach. However, it does not provide a filter for the hard requirements, making it difficult to use for roles where technical expertise matters.
I recently had the opportunity to test another hiring platform, Bevopr.be. It mainly focuses on IT professionals and functions similarly to Tinder. Companies can show interest in candidates by a simple click or swipe and vice versa. If both parties match, the messaging function becomes available.
The tool's usability is simple, and the idea itself sounds promising. However, the application does not distinguish between active and inactive profiles, leading to a fairly low connection rate.
Finally, the French startup KOANN offers a solution that combines the functionalities of an ATS with gamification and matching. The combination of these functionalities is fairly new and appears promising. Today, the platform seems to be mainly used for blue-collar workers in French-speaking countries and markets.
Companies can create jobs in the ATS that are automatically published on numerous channels. Gamified skill tests can be integrated into the application process, and candidates who use the free app automatically enrich their profiles with the results of completed skill tests and challenges.
LinkedIn is not Tinder
As a recruiter, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn headhunting candidates for different roles. Previously, I would ask candidates to apply via our career page or at least send me a resume before arranging an interview with them. Just like in dating, I considered that interest should go both ways.
The problem is LinkedIn is not Tinder. You don't match with the candidate before writing them. It's a saturated market where you are the salesperson selling a new job to someone who already has one.
A golden rule in sales? Make an appointment as soon as you can!
So far, it works pretty well. Admittedly, I still ask for a resume after the interview, but mainly to have a nice document to send to our clients. And who knows? Soon, maybe we won’t even need to do that.