Why You Should Eliminate Resumes
An over-reliance on resume screening may lead your company to overlook great talent.
By Harj Taggar
Companies are increasingly looking to find ways they can use to data to gain a competitive edge. Whether that's analyzing where best to spend their advertising dollars or mining customer data for insights into increasing revenue, the goal is the same -- make the company more successful.
One area that's lagging behind the rest in its application of data is hiring. Most companies still have little insight into what's working in their hiring process and what's not. As this changes, however, companies are realizing there are better alternatives to using the resume as the first filtering step in their hiring process. By finding better-qualified applicants faster and seeing more of them convert into hires after interview, companies can gain a huge competitive edge.
The greater use of data in the hiring process spells bad news for resumes. With a resume, you're relying on what an applicant chooses to tell you. You don't have much insight into what the person can actually do or how skilled he or she is at doing it. For companies seeking efficiency gains (i.e., reducing the hours they spend per hire), the obvious place to start is at the top of the funnel -- the resume screen. A growing number of companies now want to test the skills of job seekers before talking with them at all, and are turning to solutions that let them actually see what these folks can do via online programming tests and services that pre-screen candidates for technical positions before sending them on to companies. In this world of skills-based evaluation, the rise of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) -- which make it easy for anyone to learn new skills online regardless of where they went to college or worked before -- also threatens to make the traditional resume less relevant.
What's exciting about this trend is that, as more employers use services to pre-screen their job applicants based on skills, we'll see more diversity in the workforce. Recruiting today is heavily focused on evaluating the resume credentials of candidates -- specifically, the schools they went to and companies they've worked at in the past -- before deciding whether to invest time in an interview. From an efficiency standpoint, this makes sense. On average, a Stanford University or MIT graduate is likely to be more skilled than the graduate of a less-prestigious college (assuming, of course, that college admissions processes are testing for intelligence). But if you can find other ways to test the skills of candidates before you engage with them, you'll inevitably hire more candidates from a broader pool.
A good way to achieve this diversity is to find alternative ways to test for the skills you're looking for, rather than just reviewing resumes as the first step in your hiring process. One option is to use a specialized recruiting service to find pre-screened candidates. Another option would be to include some kind of take-home project for candidates to complete on their own time. The advantage of this approach is that you'll definitely find skilled candidates you'd have passed on based on a resume screen. The downside is that in a competitive environment, you'll inevitably lose good candidates who'll accept another offer before taking the time to complete such a project. You'll also need to spend internal resources reviewing the output of these assignments. Furthermore, it can be difficult to determine whether the work was actually done by the candidate.
Once you're able to identify skilled candidates and bring them in for an on-site, you want to be sure that your interviewing team is not being influenced by their resume or background. A solution here is to train your interviewers to only focus on asking questions about the skills of a candidate (this is easier for technical roles, where the interview can be focused on problem solving and describing a system the candidate has built in the past). You can also choose to not give your interviewers the resume of the candidate. A number of top technology companies have begun adopting this process of resume-blind interviews for precisely this reason.
Finally, you want to make sure your decision-making process is consistent and not being biased in any particular direction. You can avoid this by adopting two practices. First, establish a clear decision-making rubric that's based on an objective set of skills or attributes you're looking for in candidates, e.g. problem-solving ability, communication. Then, have each interviewer grade a candidate numerically in each area and tally up the final score. This is a much more crisp way of ranking candidates than just going on gut feel. Second, have a centralized decision-maker within your organization who reviews the scorecards from all interviewers and makes the final decision on candidates. This central authority has a bird's eye view of all hiring decisions and is perfectly positioned to spot any drift towards favoring people from a particular background who might not have performed objectively well in the interview process.
Adopting these practices will put you on a good trajectory towards building teams with more diverse backgrounds. This leads to more viewpoints and more ideas, which will result in better products and services.
Although the traditional resume may never go away entirely, companies that de-emphasize its importance as an initial screening tool will end up reaping greater rewards further down the line.
Harj Taggar is the CEO and cofounder of Triplebyte and a former partner at Y Combinator, a start-up incubator.