Will Resumes Become Obsolete?

Apr 15, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Did I grab your attention? Well, I personally believe that resumes will remain part of job applications and interviews for a while. But I’d like to explore how the expansion of everyone’s online presence may affect the set of documents and information that accompanies a job application. I’ll look at this mainly from the technical sourcing angle, but not just.

(When I was choosing the title for the article I thought of some recent titles like “Is Internet Sourcing Dead?” or “Will Boolean Be Replaced by Another Language?” or “Why is Twitter So Yesterday?” It’s useful to step back once in a while and question things that seem obvious, isn’t it? Our reality is changing so fast!)

OK, let’s look at the technical side of things. Ten years ago, when I was a hiring manager, I developed a habit of Googling candidates. Though I do not have any current statistics, we all know for a fact that many recruiters and hiring authorities do that. Many will also look the person up on LinkedIn at a minimum.

Let’s imagine now that you can automate getting a person’s list of profiles.

Last week I spoke with my good friend Chandra Bodapati of eGrabber. Chandra pointed out to me that with his product ResumeFinder you can get a list of online profiles at a click of a button. You can then put the links into an email or a document and send them off. He proceeded to send me an email with a couple dozen links to my online profiles and mentions. It took him a split second to do that. You can look at the result on my blog.

There are, of course, other online products and utilities that can do similar things, and they are all better and faster than “just” Googling. There are companies that create complex sourcing solutions like Broadlook; companies that help automate web sourcing for those of us who do not care about Boolean syntax like Autosearch; sites like that help collect this info; and ATS’s that have this functionality integrated. (Note to the readers: I do not have the goal of suggesting a comprehensive list here. I plan to write an overview of sourcing tools elsewhere, and I also do webinars covering people search tools.)

Chandra said to me: since this information is so readily available, shouldn’t it become a new standard of submitting candidates to a hiring manager and/or to HR? We typically send a resume, a short paragraph, a standard questionnaire, and, for some openings, a technical test to our clients. Would it be beneficial to always send a list of profiles along with that?

If I were a hiring manager, I would, of course, review the resume first and foremost. I am looking for professional skills and experience. I want the person to perform well. How would (or should) her kids’ pictures on Facebook affect this? But look: first of all, the person’s profiles are out there on the web and I could glance over them whether this is submitted to me or not. I’d most likely skip Facebook, or will only spend seconds on it if I get a link. But I may look on LinkedIn and blogs; well, maybe on Twitter, too. By spending a few minutes on LinkedIn, I may get additional information about the person’s skills and experience; I also may get a sense of who the person is. We are looking for a live member of our team; this always involves some chemistry, so the person’s style of presenting himself matters. If I have dozens or even hundreds of applications for a position (we do these days) and am trying to choose those people with whom I’d like to start interviews, this quick glance may help me select candidates. Or, if at the end of interviews I am checking the references, I may pull out information from profiles for a more complete picture.

Is this fair to candidates? Is this ethical? Is this all legal even, given that we want to avoid discrimination and would never ask certain questions at an interview? These are all good questions, and it would be great to hear from experienced recruiters, hiring managers, and specialists. I am very interested in comments from the ERE community members.

To make it fair to candidates I as a recruiter can give my candidates a heads-up, so that they could clean up their LinkedIn profile if they choose to do so. I may skip personal sites in my submissions. Or I could have the candidate suggest links that can be added to her submission. There may also be links to information that are specific to a job opening. As an example, many software engineers would be open to including pointers to their code posted online, and hiring managers love that.

If we are looking for standards in a candidate’s submission, then profile information has its pluses compared to documents like resumes. Profiles are easier to parse and to search. Even the greatest resume parsing tools can’t possibly extract the information right in 100% of the cases. Candidates are required to fill profiles at job boards exactly for the reason of facilitating search and browsing.

My personal preference would be to have a professional chronological resume as “the” document (no colors; no pictures, please; substantial content in the “experience” section) and complement this with links to a number of profiles, if my client says that they would be interested in that. But looking into the future, could it happen that a submission of a candidate will not have a resume but will be done with a set of online professional profile links accompanied by a job-specific questionnaire?

So, will resumes become obsolete in their current form? What do you think?

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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