A few months ago we stumbled across a very interesting article that got the Montani team thinking, “How much should we as recruiters still care about a person’s resume?” In the article, the CEO of the company that owns Glassdoor and Indeed argues that the recruiting field at large is too dependent on this somewhat antiquated form of communicating a candidate’s credentials. And, he says, this is only making the current problems with labor shortage worse.
Do we believe resumes will and should go away overnight? No – they are useful tools for summarizing a person’s experience and skills. But we can acknowledge that they don’t tell the whole story. And sometimes, because of this, recruiters and business owners could be missing out on a candidate who may have none of the direct experience, yet all of the potential for greatness.
In this article, we break down the ways in which we believe resumes can still be useful, but we balance this with a firsthand example of how putting too much weight on a resume would have resulted in a great loss for the Montani team. After reading, we’d love to hear how you feel about the resume debate (send us your thoughts → montani.consulting/contact).
Resumes: The Pros
You can’t deny that skimming someone’s resume offers a general idea of their work experience and the skills they currently possess. But there are a few other takeaways recruiters find in resumes by reading between the lines:
- Whether a resume is well-written or littered with grammatical errors, it gives recruiters a sense of the candidate’s attention to detail and writing skills. A poorly written resume can be a definite red flag, particularly when the candidate is shooting for a role in which effective written communication is imperative. We also have to remember that not every role requires a spelling bee champ, and for some amazing applicants, English may simply not be their first language.
- The timeline of work experience a resume provides can give recruiters an idea of whether this person is a true go-getter who can juggle many responsibilities at once. For instance, entry-level candidates may have held leadership positions while in school. Maybe they simultaneously held internships or jobs outside of being a full-time student. If so, the dates provided on their resume would make this clear to hiring managers, and may be the thing that sets them apart before their first interview.
- Not only do resumes show when a candidate has held a particular role, but for how long. Hiring managers can get a quick sense of their commitment level. There is a caveat to this, and it highlights one of the shortcomings of depending on a resume to learn about a potential employee: It is more and more common to see shorter bursts of experience on a millennial or Gen Z resume. Now, if they have jumped around every two or three months, we do see that as a red flag (unless it’s a seasonal / summer job). But moving to another company after two or three years is now seen as pretty acceptable.
- Resumes show how varied (or not) a person’s work experiences have been. If a candidate has a lot of experience in their particular field, more than likely their resume will showcase work experience specific to their industry. There’s nothing wrong with that! But if a candidate has a more diverse work background – say, time spent in the restaurant industry, customer service, technology, and/or management – these are experiences a resume will reveal to recruiters that may not come up in a traditional interview, yet may make the candidate even more appealing to the employer.
- Resumes do provide a quick and easy way to weed out candidates if the position you’re hiring for requires a certain education level, degree, or technical skill set. There is something to be said about a person’s willingness and ability to learn technical skills and gain experience on the job, so if there’s wiggle room for this, a resume skim may not result in the candidate with the most promising future. However, roles that do require you to, say, jump into coding using a very specialized web program on Day One of the job, those without this skill listed on their resume would be wasting their time – and the time of the recruiter.
Resumes: The Con
There’s no better way for us to illustrate the shortcomings of a resume than to share a story of our very own Suzanne Baker. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the unlikely tale of her journey to becoming a senior consultant here at Montani.
My dad worked in agriculture, which meant the weather determined his ability to work and help his clients (and it still does!). In my household, you didn’t talk during the weather portion of the news. So I grew up with a certain reverence for the weather. In school, I’ve always been more of a math and science- brained person. On the flipside, I also danced and loved performing on stage. So this was Little Me in a nutshell: A lover of science, math, performing, pretty clothes, curly hair, and make-up. So there was no more obvious career path than becoming a Broadcast Meteorologist.
I received my BS in Meteorology from NC State University and interned at WRAL in Raleigh. I worked in television for nearly four years – two years in Charlottesville as the weekend meteorologist and weekday reporter, then a year and a half freelancing in the Raleigh, NC, area. I worked nights. I worked mornings. I worked weekends. I worked holidays. I missed out on family and friend events throughout those almost four years. And so, I chose to search for a new career that would offer me an improved quality of life and time with my family.
When I went hunting for my next gig, this is what was on my resume: Broadcast Meteorologist, Weather Intern, Weather Forecaster for a student-run news show, and Fitness Instructor (Zumba and Cycling). The kicker is, I didn’t want a job in meteorology or fitness…
I applied to countless openings for several months. I even had a few interviews during that time, but nothing ever materialized. That is until someone (spoiler alert: Montani Founder Katherine Daniel) took a chance on me with three unique opportunities at the company she worked for at the time – full-time opportunities in finance or customer service, OR a part-time role in HR.
I enjoy people, I like to talk, and I’m organized and methodical. It was an easy choice – I went with HR. I felt like learning this new craft would translate to more experience in the long run over focusing on finance or customer service. I’m glad to say this story has a happy ending: I’m still working in HR – in fact, I just earned SHRM’s Senior Certified Professional (SCP) certification – and am doing so alongside the one recruiter who decided to look past my resume credentials (or lack thereof) and take time to get to know who I would be as a growth-minded employee.
Suzanne’s story highlights how a candidate with so much potential for greatness in a role could appear to be completely wrong for the job strictly based on a resume. What her resume didn’t tell was her willingness to learn a new field, her aptitude for organization, her dedication to meeting deadlines, or her unique analytical take on issues.
Here’s our stand: Recruiters can let resume screening assist them in the work of vetting candidates, but should not do the job for them. There’s more to applicants than their one or two-pagers. Sometimes the best talent is fostered on the job, if only you find the candidate willing to put in the work despite less “direct experience.”