I Wish the Resume Would Die

I have probably had about thirteen different jobs in my adult life, and they have run the gamut. I was self employed, formed a two-man partnership, worked at a three-person startup, a few mid-size companies and one or two of the Fortune 500. In thinking back, it occurred to me that I never got a single job as a result of submitting a resume and waiting for someone to call me back and schedule an interview. Some jobs I got did not require a resume, but the ones I did get that required one, the resume was always presented at the time of the interview, like at a job fair. I had a chance to downplay (overcome?) my resume with a good interview.

I am an above-average communicator and I would like to think a pretty good interviewer, but I absolutely suck at writing my own resume. I am genetically deficient in whatever chromosome is required to catalog and quantify my own accomplishments. One of the reasons I struggle is that almost everything significant that I have ever accomplished working for someone else I accomplished as a member of a team.

Resume experts will point out that you have to frame your accomplishments in terms of the bottom line: how much did you make the company or how much did you save the company. Hey, I am an engineer. I don’t save money or make money, I spend it. I work with a team of engineers, we test stuff and hopefully it works. Not much to put on a resume.

The system we have in place today, submit your resume in response to a detailed list of job requirements, does not work. And the main reason it doesn’t work is that most employers do not know how to specify a job’s requirements. I remember one time seeing a job opening for a program manager. The job required a minimum of 18 years of program management experience. Do you know what they call a program manager with 18 years of experience? Retired. Eighteen years? Are you kidding me? If I needed brain surgery and the brain surgeon told me she had only been performing brain surgery successfully for five years I would let her operate. Who came up with eighteen years? Did they do a study and discover that program managers with seventeen years of experience generally didn’t cut it? If you have been doing your job for 18 years you are more likely in need of a career change than a job change.

The only thing the requirements-resume duopoly of insanity has done is to foster a cadre of people who have learned how to job the system by seeding their resumes with key words. Keywords meant to mimic the requirements that target the obvious, but not the valuable. I cannot help but think the day Bill Gates started Microsoft he probably could not have gotten a job at IBM—didn’t meet the requirements (probably 18 years of programming).

Sometimes the prefect employee comes with an imperfect resume. How many of us would get an interview for our current job if we had to submit our resume? It seems to me there are much better ways to find employees.

Why does any employer hire anyone? To solve a problem. You are not an employee, you are a problem solver. If an employer wants to find their next great employee they should not post the job’s requirements, they should post a problem. Or a test. Or solicit some creative work. See who responds.

It takes nothing to fire off a resume, but it takes some initiative to do a homework assignment. Requiring a challenging submittal would eliminate all but the most enthusiastic candidates. And it would do something else.

I do not know how many job openings there are on Monster.com right now. Let’s say there are two million. Do you know how many of those job openings list as requirements “good communication skills?” Two million! Everyone wants an employee who can communicate. Can you learn that from a resume? Probably not. But you can learn it by requiring it as part of the submittal.

And if the employer finds a candidate who responds to their posted problem with enthusiasm, good communication skills and a creative solution, does it matter any longer what is on their resume? Of course not.

I think it is time to put the resume out of our collective misery and start using the new technology available to us to find better and more efficient ways to match employers and employees. What do you think?