I Am Not My Resume!

Jul 3, 2021

Having been on several sides of the ‘finding a job’ coin; looking for a contract or permanent position, as a hiring manager, and dealing with and assisting internal HR managers and staffing companies (that’s at least a four sided coin, which will get me kicked out of the math guild)…

Having been on several sides of the ‘finding a job’ tetrahedron, several things have become quite apparent, the most important one is this:

It’s all about relationships.

As the economic situation dramatically changed in the past 12 months, the reality is that we are dealing with a buyers’ market. The moment a job position is advertised, the resumes start pouring in, sometimes to the tune of hundreds within a period of a mere 12 hours. Where, in times past, prospective candidates would self-assess against the requirements of a position before submitting a resume, desperation on the side of many job seekers is prompting them to submit their resume for positions they are less qualified for.

This creates an urgent requirement on the staffing side to filter out with extreme prejudice, a time consuming activity for small companies who don’t have the resources to engage AI to do the initial filtering. The prevalence of AI is prompting resume writers to adjust resumes to include as many possible key words and phrases to get past this hurdle, making resumes excessively long and incomprehensible (in my own resume, I’ve included a section that is labeled ‘for AI scanning purposes’ which is maddening on so many levels). Gone are the days where a Curriculum Vitae had to be limited to two pages ‘tops’.

“…only those who can use the government patois can find gainful employment, which significantly decreases diversity in government hiring.”

Note that in government circles, not using the correct key words is a sure way to not be considered. It is interesting to note that to provide an unbiased and equal playing field, the end result is that only those who can use the government patois can find gainful employment, which significantly decreases diversity in government hiring. A tricky problem to address, for sure.

With the smaller companies, and the smaller staffing agencies, such AI may not be of the highest quality, if it is available at all, and such filtering exercises will fall on junior recruitment staff who must use their experience and judgement to make such filtering decisions. Note the word ‘junior’ in that setting. This fuels a common criticism among job seekers that they’re being filtered out too quickly. This criticism is both fair and unfair. It’s fair because the determination of a match of technical experience and skills is better left to a hiring manager (combined with assessment test) instead of a filtering based on the non-appearance of key words in a resume. It’s unfair because the expectation has slowly been set that only those with the highest matching skillset will be presented from the pool of resumes, and arguably, this is NOT what a boutique staffing agency should be doing.

“…bring the right parties together, and make sure that these relationships remain in the best interest of both parties.  This is WHY staffing companies exist.”

Unfortunately, Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix has kicked in where the Urgent requirement to (efficiently?) filter out hundreds of resumes takes precedence over the Important requirement of knowing the candidates. After all; there are only so many hours in the day.

Lest there be any misunderstanding about this: a staffing company knows their clients AND they know their candidates. They evaluate the client’s company culture and business requirements, and the candidate’s demeanor, skill set and experience, and they bring the right parties together, and make sure that these relationships remain in the best interest of both parties. This is WHY staffing companies exist. It is their raison d’être. It does not stop there, obviously, because the advancement through an individual’s career helps making sure that they remain invited to the right parties, and the guiding influence of a staffing company can help individuals and companies grow beyond that initial engagement for many years.

And all of this boils down to relationships.

The way to ‘know’ an individual when they are looking for a new position, or at any point in their career, is by knowing key components about a person, which includes but is not limited to (and in no particular order):

  • Demeanor
  • Remuneration expectation
  • Flexibility
  • Family
  • Morality
  • Ethics
  • Empathy
  • Stress resilience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Intelligence (emotional, business, logic, book smarts, common sense)
  • Curiosity
  • Commitment
  • Skillset
  • Experience
  • Charm
  • Irritability

The bulk of this information is not available on a resume, and yet the argument can be made, quite successfully, that it’s specifically these key components that are of the utmost importance in a work setting. Getting an idea of these key components is hard work. It’s why companies put so much value in having their current staff recommend new candidates and are willing to pay significant bonuses for this. The staffing company needs to fill that role where it can recommend new hires that will fit well within the company. A staffing company places itself at a disadvantage if it primarily acts as a resume filter. Likewise, it can provide greater value when it can recommend candidates who diversify the employee base in all the right ways.

“An unbiased review of the client’s existing teams provides several metrics to identify where teams are strong and … if an injection of diversity is needed to get to the next level.”

A proper understanding and an unbiased review of the client’s existing teams provides several metrics that can be used to identify where teams are strong, and where improvement is possible through either training, or the addition of the right candidates. It can also help in determining what kind of candidates (as technically skilled as they may be) would be suboptimal additions because it would upset an existing balance in an existing team, or if an injection of different perspectives and an expansion of diversity is just what is needed to get to the next level.

The important thing to not lose sight of is that all of this starts after genuine human interaction.

For candidates that means; when you’re applying to a company directly, do your research on the company. Who is the executive team, how long have they been in business, how big are they, who is the hiring manager, who has worked there who can tell you what it’s like? You have a responsibility to not just toss your resume over the fence, but to genuinely pursue opportunities that allow you to grow and succeed. Even now, when the market is a buyers’ market: you MUST distinguish yourself by taking a personal interest.

For the business and internal HR professionals; there’s a difficult task ahead of you in spending time in finding the right person to join the organization, because hiring the wrong person is expensive. A proven method that is used a lot is to use your existing staff as a first resource for new hires with personal recommendations. But you need to be able to cast a wider net.

For the staffing companies; you can provide the boutique service that brings it all together. And you can do that only by the time consuming task of getting to know the candidates and guiding them, and by being a comforting presence with your corporate clients, so that they know that the people you recommend are being recommended because, in your professional opinion, they are the right addition at the right time.

Every resume that crosses your desk is, essentially, an invitation to communicate. It is not a definition of a person.


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