Whether on paper or LinkedIn, they may tell an employer about a job seeker’s experience and credentials, but they’re frustratingly silent about almost everything else. They have virtually nothing to say about a candidate’s personality, or their character, or their ability to persuade and communicate—all soft skills that employers consider essential ingredients for success.
“Resumes are terrible,” says Laszlo Bock, the former head of human resources at Google, where his team received 50,000 resumes a week. “It doesn’t capture the whole person. At best, they tell you what someone has done in the past and not what they’re capable of doing in the future.”
As knowledge-economy employers seek out the workers whose creativity, drive, and leadership skills set them apart, the conventional resume is a relic. To correct the biggest weaknesses, progressive companies invest time and energy to “blind” resumes by obscuring details that could bias hiring managers.
The resume of the near future will be a document with far more information—and information that is far more useful—than the ones we use now. Farther out, it may not be a resume at all, but rather a digital dossier, perhaps secured on the blockchain (paywall), and uploaded to a global job-pairing engine that is sorting you, and billions of other job seekers, against millions of openings to find the perfect match.
When resumes fail
The corporate world’s reliance on resumes—and its flawed assumptions of what belongs on them—means they can fail employers as easily as they fail candidates.
McTaggart recognized a business opportunity. Last July, she launched SquarePeg, a startup that tests the soft skills of job seekers and provides the results to employers, who pay for a curated slate of candidates. So far, 40 companies have signed up and 15,000 job seekers have taken the test and are looking for a job.
Squarepeg is just one of a number of startups looking to exploit the flaws of resumes and ATS, and provide a more sophisticated match between job seekers and employers. Gap Jumpers works to blind resumes by asking applicants to take a subject-specific test provided by employers, then offering the results stripped of names or identifying characteristics. CodeFights, a site which provides training for aspiring computer coders, connects tech employers with potential hires, depending on how the programmers perform on coding competitions on the site.
Another strategy is to introduce personality assessments earlier in the hiring process, to the widest part of the recruitment funnel, to prevent possible stars from slipping through the cracks in ATS, or from being dropped because of conscious or unconscious bias in the interview process.
“Why do you need a resume?” asks Unilever
Two years ago, the North American division of Unilever—the consumer products giant—stopped asking for resumes for the approximately 150-200 positions it fills from college campuses annually. Instead, it’s relying on a mix of game-like assessments, automated video interviews, and in-person problem solving exercises to winnow down the field of 30,000 applicants.
Applicants for Unilever’s internships and entry-level jobs now upload basic biographical data using LinkedIn. They then answer some questions about their employment eligibility (i.e., do they have permission to work in the US), which eliminates about half the field. If they’re eligible to work, they move on to an assessment developed by pymetrics, a company founded in 2013 by a pair of Harvard- and MIT-trained neuroscientists.
Pymetrics builds custom assessments for companies by testing at least 50 top performers at each employer to determine what set of traits lets them thrive at work.
Instead of asking questions designed to identify preferences, as SquarePeg does, pymetrics uses simple online games, like digitally inflating balloons until they pop, to measure traits like spontaneity, attentiveness, and flexibility. Unilever’s candidates play 12 games, which take about one to three minutes each.
One assessment to rule them all?
There are dozens of assessments in the market, ranging from Korn Ferry’s leadership assessment tool, designed for would-be executives, to Traitify’s simple, 90-second photo-based test aimed at first-time and hourly employees. Short tests risk being overly broad or inexact, while long ones can lead to frustration, and job candidates abandoning them before they’re done.
Lazlo Bock (ex-Google HR) —now the CEO of Humu, a startup planning to apply science and machine learning to the workplace—is a fan of science fiction.