Profiles: the New Resume?

May 26, 2010

I’ve been raving for a good while now about the fact that the resume is doomed.

Lets take a quick look at the facts:

  • Resumes are highly subjective, and there is a lack of standardization for the information they present
  • Resumes are loaded with embellishments and misinformation
  • Resumes are hard to deconstruct in a way that helps facilitate automated matching
  • Reviewing resumes causes a serious bottleneck in the hiring process that can tax the bandwidth of hiring personnel as applicant volume increases

Of course, resumes do serve an important function in that they provide hiring personnel with a concise package of valuable information. But the fact that they are a calling card that provides a high-level summary of an applicant’s qualifications means that they end up being used incorrectly. Using a resume as a top-of-the-funnel tool on which to base quick judgments about applicant suitability is a source of major error. The value of the resume lies more in its use as one of many sources of information to be reviewed as one deepens the dialogue with a candidate. For instance, a quick resume review is an excellent way to help one prepare for an interview with a candidate.

I am not alone in my opinions. Over the past decade, many of us have looked for tools that can solve some of the noted problems with resumes and thus serve as a viable replacement. There have been many attempts to provide such tools. At the heart of all these methods is some way to deconstruct the information presented on the resume into a set of searchable, matchable parameters. Some have used parsing technology in which information is evaluated using artificial intelligence. While resume deconstruction methods are a good start, they do not really support the replacement of the resume as a capabilities presentation. These methods are really just quick fixes to something that is fundamentally broken. Anyway, AI and parsing has really have failed to catch on in a way that suggests they represent the future.

A more promising approach to getting around the fundamental flaws of the resume is found in technology that involves a more “live” approach in which applicants are asked to manually enter information into fields that represent key types of information found on a resume (i.e., what skills do you have? How many years of experience do you have?). This essentially asks the candidate to parse apart their resume manually based on parameters that are deemed important by the employer. This type of exercise greatly facilitates the ability to match applicants to job openings in an automated way, effectively replacing the resume’s role as a screening tool. I really believe such methods have value, especially for those using job boards and career sites. These methods are still not a suitable replacement for the resume, as they don’t have the richness of information that a resume does.

So where does this leave us?

Enter web 2.0. The rules are changing again. I had a really great talk a few weeks ago with a friend who works for KODA, an interesting new online job seeker community that really captures the spirit of where we are going. We talked a lot about what her company is doing to build a community in which relevant information flows freely between members and potential employers. She educated me about some of the more subtle ways that new broad-based Internet technologies are changing the way people use the web to find and apply for jobs. I combine this discussion with what I am seeing from other new and interesting companies such as Brazen Careerist, a company based on the idea that social networking can change the way people demonstrate their ability to perform jobs, essentially allowing them to provide factually based capabilities presentations. It is clear to me that deep-seated change is on the horizon.

I am convinced that dynamic, interactive on-line profiles are the replacement for the resume. I bet every single person reading this article has a LinkedIn profile and most probably have a Facebook profile too. Let’s take a LinkedIn profile. It has everything a resume has, and more, including a summary of career history with detailed information about accomplishments at each major node in one’s career, and a thorough overview of skills, experience, and capabilities. The online profile is also a nexus for a web of complex, interrelated information giving it some things that a resume does not and never will have, including:

  • The ability to verify information presented via input from other community users. This includes reference checking and testimonials.
  • It’s dynamic, allowing the user to update info in real time and allowing for links to other relevant info housed in other places.
  • It’s community oriented and allows input and commentary by others whose opinion is relevant.
  • It’s flexible in that information can be extracted and tailored for specific purposes (i.e., presenting a skills profile or a summary of one’s work values).
  • It provides a much richer way to present accomplishments and relevant information (links to an online portfolio for instance).

So, the online profile provides a venue for all kinds of information that can serve to showcase things that are directly relevant for a given job. As a champion for the use of assessment and a futurist, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I think online profiles also provide a great opportunity to integrate important information about an applicant into their profile. Adding assessment results to one’s profile provides an opportunity to help summarize and categorize one’s values, traits, skills and abilities, providing employers with even richer information about an applicant while also providing a way for applicants to learn more about themselves. Imagine the ability for others to comment on and verify assessment-related information or for employers to quickly access a baseline of standardized, trait-based information describing a job seeker, and you are glimpsing the future!

If one thinks about the key tennants of web 2.0 it is clear that technology has provided the foundation for the phenomenon of social networking. The interconnectivity and access to relevant information about any subject under the sun that is now at our fingertips represents a new way of doing things in almost all aspects of our lives. Technology has had a “push” effect such that people find new ways to use technology to create new products and ways of getting things done. Once these are “pushed out,” the ones with real value are adopted and quickly gain critical mass based almost entirely on their value proposition to users. Why should we believe that the world of hiring will go against this trend and ignore the value provided by new technology? Trust me: it won’t.

We have a long way to go; there are some limiting factors to consider including:

  • Reluctance to change.
  • Fighting to become the standard provider. This stuff will work best if one company or venue becomes the standard. This will be a challenge as players jockey for marketshare.
  • Job seekers are reluctant to pay extra. Many sites that offer upgraded profiles or extra information for a fee have not faired well. Any model in which the costs are not borne by the employer is doomed.
  • Technological limitations. For the profile to really work well we will need technology and products that don’t currently exist. For instance, this model really requires the ability to “scrub” profiles found all over the web and repackage information for specific purposes related to hiring

Social networking and dynamic user profiles are still in their infancy. It wasn’t that long ago that you probably faxed your resume to someone. Twenty years ago the world wide web as we know it didn’t even exist. So, if 20 years from now, profiles haven’t replaced the resume; I will gladly eat my hat!! How old fashioned of me.

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