Diana Meisenhelter, a principal at talent acquisition consulting firm Riviera Advisors and president of the DFW Staffing Management Association, and I were sitting in a session at HR Southwest last month when a presenter made an off-handed endorsement of functional resumes. The next week, I received a functional resume from someone with tangential HR experience who was trying to look more like a seasoned HR pro and I forwarded it to Diana. That started a several week discussion between us about functional resumes and resumes in general, finally leading to Diana’s riff on functional resumes on Riviera’s blog.
Diana and I agree that functional resumes are bad things promoted by well-intentioned people: job counselors, professional resume writers, “my friend who used to sit near the HR guy,” etc. But the problem with functional resumes (they don’t tell recruiters or hiring managers what they want to know: what have you done and where have your done it) begs the question for HR: Why do we accept resumes at all?
Diana and many other recruiting professionals tell me that in this age of electronic applications or position-interest forms, they still like to see a candidate’s (chronologicial) resume. Resumes, they say, give recruiters insight into the applicants’ personalities, organization skills, thought processes, priorities, etc. To which I say “BUNK!”
Many (most?) of the stand out resumes I’ve seen are the product of someone other than the job seeker. (Did you really think that accounting applicant knew just the right amount of white space to leave on the left margin of their resume? Or that the engineering executive was really such a talented wordsmith that he could reduce his expertise and experience to a few powerful succinct lines?) The same goes for the vast majority of the less-than-outstanding resumes out there. Most are patterned after someone else’s less-than-outstanding resume, leading to generation loss and resulting in Doug Four’s resume.
Really, how many resumes have you seen that start out “Accomplished business professional with a proven ability to…”? Zzzzz. Wake me up when we get there. Do you believe that all those job seekers came up with that horrid line independently?
So, let’s say that two in ten resumes are truly reflective of the job seekers’ personal style, organization skills, and communication ability. What about the other 80% of the job seekers who may be fully qualified but who don’t have great resume building skills or took the advice of the wrong career coach or website? The ugly truth is that many of them end up in the “I’ll-look-at-these-resumes-later-if none-of-the-candidates-with-more-aesthetically-pleasing-resumes-pan-out” pile, including in many cases the best candidate for the position.
Job seekers keeping pumping out resumes because employers keep asking for them. Even with technology that allows job seekers to complete online applications, job-interest forms, or profiles that reflect their knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience, employers keep asking for and accepting resumes.
The message to job seekers is “Read my mind to figure out what I want your resume to look like and say. Oh, and if you fib a little, that’s okay – it’s a resume!”
Why do we make job seekers jump through this ridiculous hoop that should have died with the advent of web-based forms? What value does it bring to the selection process? Why not decide as a company what information you want and how you want it presented and then make sure your online career site collects and formats the information that way and, in the process, take the presentation out of the mix.
Let me clarify that resumes do have a place in today’s job market. As long as employers ask for resumes, job seekers will need them. Also, if a job seeker is reaching out directly or through their network to a hiring manager or executive, a great resume that tells the job seeker’s story in a meaningful but concise manner is important. It is a “getting to know you” document. Job seekers should also have a good resume available on Monster or the other job boards (while they last) or on the job seeker’s own website and blog (which is increasingly more important) so that recruiters’ sourcing efforts might identify them as potential candidates. When building their resumes, they should get the help of someone like Brad Smith, who has been there, done that and can advise them in their job search, drawing on years of real-world experience.
My point is that recruiters should be careful not to fall into the trap of favoring one candidate simply because they had a more appealing resume. Whether we’ll admit it or not, resumes appeal to recruiters’ aesthetic biases and often don’t help connect the right job seeker to the right job. It is a classic “we’ve always done it this way” fallacy.