If You Want a Better Job, Ditch Your Resume

Young Woman Handing Over Her Resume
Young Woman Handing Over Her Resume

By Jay Davies, CEO of Hirenetics

Resumes are so '90s -- 1490s, that is. They've been around for such a long time that even Leonardo Da Vinci had one. Because resumes have dominated the hiring process for hundreds of years, few stop to question their efficacy, despite the dramatic changes that have taken place in technology, the way we do business, and the world.

A growing number of studies are revealing how ineffective, damaging, and potentially discriminatory resumes can be in the job application process. Here are four reasons we need to ditch the resume and find a better way to hire:

1. Resumes waste time and money.

The average job seeker will send out dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes without so much as a confirmation in response. According to a 2013 survey, 75 percent of job applicants never heard back from a potential employer after sending a resume. Although the internet has made it easier than ever to find potential jobs, the downside is that companies have built a much bigger pipeline than they need.

Unsurprisingly, employers waste time and money in the hiring process, too -- it takes an average of 52 days and $4,000 to fill an open position. Companies invest anywhere from $5,000 to millions of dollars into applicant tracking systems (ATSs) to manage the flood of resumes they receive. This is necessary because at least 50 percent of job hunters don't possess the basic qualifications needed for the position.

2. Resumes don't help you find the most qualified employee.

Applicant tracking systems get a lot of other things wrong, too. Effective matches will ultimately be based on a variety of factors, including fit, location, experience, education, and personality, but tracking systems rely on clumsy keyword matching of skills alone. Even the most-qualified applicant is forced to game the system by peppering his or her resume with keywords taken from the job posting or they risk being overlooked entirely. Keywords can't give a true sense of what a potential employee will offer a company, especially with the breadth of job types and descriptions that might not conform to traditional roles.

Unfortunately, for those hoping a hiring manager will personally look at their resume and glean potential from context, they're probably out of luck. Only 19 percent of hiring managers working at smaller companies look at the majority of resumes they receive, while 47 percent say they only review a few.

3. Resumes promote bias and discrimination.

Resumes make an applicant's age, gender, and race obvious at the earliest stages of the hiring process. Discriminating on that basis is illegal, yet it happens all the time. According to an article in Forbes, it takes a person older than 55, on average, three times longer to find a new job than someone younger than 55. Having a graduation year on the resume, or a long list of previous positions containing dates and timelines, makes the applicant's age obvious.

Even just the name on a resume can induce bias. In one study, researchers sent identical resumes to several companies with names that suggested that the applicant was either white or black. The resumes with the "white" names got one callback for every 10 resumes sent, whereas the resumes with the "black" names got one callback for every 15 resumes sent.

4. Most online job search apps are no better.

Sites like LinkedIn ask for and display all the same information as a resume and, thus, provide the same opportunities for bias and discrimination. And, since they usually ask for a picture, they may actually be more revealing of an applicant's race and age. Not to mention the fact that most employers won't let you apply with a LinkedIn profile anyway. Most postings redirect you to a portal on their website where you'll be asked to -- surprise, surprise -- upload a resume.

A number of websites and apps have been developed to make the hiring process anonymous -- but they're rarely as anonymous as they could be. Poachable curates its profiles, meaning that their staff members review resumes like a recruiter would. On GapJumpers and other supposedly blind job-matching sites, applicants also lose anonymity once matched with a potential employer. The door is still open to discrimination and bias.

So what's a job applicant to do? For one, demand that potential employers ditch the resume (and its various online incarnations). Prospective employees have more power here than one would think. HR departments will go wherever the most qualified candidates are. Once the top talent heads to a fully anonymized, transparent job-search platform, it's only a matter of time before the entire landscape shifts.

It's up to job seekers to help employers ditch the resume, once and for all.

This article contains contributions from Alana Saltz and Liz Lagerfeld of Hippo Reads.