The Case Against Resumes: Why They’re Unreliable

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case against resumes - resume with glasses and pencilLooking around on career pages and job boards, you won’t find any that don’t ask job applicants to upload or, at the very least, email a resume. These rap sheets, also known as curriculum vitae (or CV for short) have become a staple of the HR world. Because of that, people everywhere are condensing their professional experience into the recommended one-page format (two if they have a brevity problem), hoping that their resumes will be noticed by someone with hiring power.

This is one of the many problems we have with resumes. They simply aren’t a viable or reliable way of finding the right person for your open positions. Want to know why? Let’s build a case against resumes:

Resumes Are Glorified Ads

Would you buy a product based solely on a single advertisement? Of course not. Ads have a history of exaggerating the positive aspects of a product while downplaying its potential issues. And why wouldn’t they? They’re designed to make you want something — and not just want it, but invest money and time into it. Sure, there’s probably some truth hidden somewhere in there, but, ultimately, you’re going to have to check other sources — preferably unbiased ones — to form an accurate picture of the product being advertised.

Resumes are advertisements. The job applicant cherry picks the information he wants you to know, crafts that information in a way that sounds more impressive than it actually is, and leaves out anything that might make you question his potential as a job candidate. Here’s a shocker: the people who apply to your jobs want to be hired. And, unfortunately, many of them feel like they have to be dishonest or misleading in order to do so. How many? More than you think.

If You Don’t Rate, Just Exaggerate

Imagine a small stack of resumes — let’s say ten — sitting on your desk waiting to be reviewed for an open position in your community. Out of that stack of ten, eight of them contain exaggerated, inaccurate, or outright false information. How do you know which ones can be trusted and which ones are lies?

Simple. You don’t.

According to data provided by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 78 percent of job applicants admit that their resumes are misleading. That’s four out of every five people who apply for a job. And the problem is only escalating as new generations enter the workforce. A survey published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking reports that 92 percent of college students have lied on a resume at least once. If you want concrete information on your job applicants, you’re going to have to dig deeper.

Square Peg, Round Hole

Resumes are not personality profiles. They tell you nothing about what kind of person the applicant is. He could have every single skill you’re looking for in a potential employee, but if he isn’t a good fit for your company culture, all he’s going to do is contribute to your yearly turnover number. Resumes don’t delve into what makes people who they are. Resumes tell you what your applicants did, not how they did it. And the “how” can make a huge difference.

Let’s say you hire an RN. She has every single skill you asked for in your job posting. However, once she is on the job, her cold bedside manner leaves your residents feeling like they can’t approach her. They might even be willing to endure hours of pain just to keep from bothering her. She has all the skills you wanted, but your residents aren’t receiving the care they deserve. Yes, this can happen. It’s happened before, and it changed how one administrator approached staffing his organization. Having the right attitude matters — and that’s something that just can’t come across from scanning a few bullet points on a one-pager. How would you feel if you knew you passed over an applicant that had the perfect attitude for your community just because she was missing one of the fifteen skills you listed? Skills can be taught; attitude cannot.

Resumes Are Designed To Deceive

Finally, we come down to the issue of semantics. The language commonly used in resumes is designed to trick you, taking business talk and corporate-speak to a whole new level. Resume language often takes simple job-related tasks and duties and makes them sound far more important than they actually are. For instance, we could put the following three bullet points on the resume of a young man with internship experience:

  • Leveraged cutting-edge communications technology to improve employee engagement
  • Improved employee morale by planning and coordinating company-sponsored functions
  • Brainstormed methods to unite differing viewpoints on hot-button issues

All three are actually referring to the same task. The guy used a mobile phone app to order pizza for an office meeting. There was a disagreement on toppings, so he ordered extra. But all three points apply to that situation, do they not? Resume language is tricky. Good luck finding one that doesn’t use it.


case against resumes - origami swan

Experts agree: Everyone loves origami.

Perhaps we are being too harsh. Maybe resumes can be useful. After all, they make excellent scratch paper for jotting down notes or making quick calculations, and they can even be used to make fun things like paper airplanes and origami animals. Everyone loves those. Beyond that, they aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on. So take note, HR departments: It’s time to stop using resumes to determine who should work for your company and find a better way to hire.

And if you’re looking through your stack of resumes and you happen to find one with “highly proficient in origami folding” listed in the Skills section, make sure to set it aside. That one’s ours.

Ryan Haddock

About Ryan Haddock

Ryan Haddock is a Marketing Manager for HealthcareSource, focusing on the company's senior living and staffing solutions. As a marketing manager, Ryan helps connect providers with a software platform that will help them hire, keep, and grow the right people. When he isn't scrawling plans onto white boards or tapping away at a laptop, Ryan enjoys reading, writing short stories, and spending time with his wife and three boys.