How Resumes, Interviews & the Conventional Approach to Matching Talent With Opportunity Destroy Value

This is part of an on-going rant...


Neither party gets what they are looking for. Both parties spend time on the process. Most of this could be avoided, resulting in more people being more satisfied and fulfilled at work. Isn't that the goal of the system? align talent with opportunity and create value? That's what I want, anyway. Maybe I'm crazy.


Resumes are outdated. I spoke recently with a CEO of an online talent tool that ostensibly helps match people with work for which they are suited. He has been in HR for decades. He promptly defended his approach without even having been directly challenged; "The resume is not dead. People come around every few years saying it's dead and it's not." This doesn't mean they're giving you 100% of what you can reasonably 'get' about a prospective hire in 1-2 pages. Real people don't fit in boxes like that. I persisted: "No, I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that there is a lot more information available about candidates than a 1-2 page resume. On one level, this is valuable like a mosaic -- you want to be able to distinguish big-picture patterns that give you insight to a candidate. At the same time, one or two specific data points could be wildly more important than the big picture. How do you distill (to be able to process the stacks of resumes to deliver the RIGHT candiadte, the BEST candidate) without losing the essence of that individual? 


One of my beefs with the conventional resume is that it intentionally reduces out character: don't be funny or playful, don't introduce art / design beyond an unoffensive font. I'm not an artist, who would really suffer from being crammed into such a container, and I still recognize that this is lame. I've used highly stylized, professionaly developed resumes that I think are gorgeous and convey part of who I am. I have used machine-readable-ready black and white, conservatively fonted, keyword optimized regurgitations of my life after college. I have explored a lot of the territory in-between these two extremes. I have had the generous input of friends and family. I have literally more than 30 versions of my resume and at least 50 cover letters from reaching out to try to find a job I thought I wanted. I'm tired of writing resumes; I'm off to find hiring managers.


Liz Ryan is right. They're the ones who are empowered to make decisions, anyway. I recently flew across the country for an interview and the guy didn't even show up at the meeting. We scheduled it for later that week, and there was a good show, but it was stillborn. That happens. What didn't have to happen was the three people I met with wasting time out of their day to sit and meet with me because the guy who was supposed to be there was out. I may as well have introduced them to Key & Peele. Had I had an iPad on me, I think that would have been the best use of everyone's time -- at least we would have gotten a few laughs out of the time spent.


"What are your salary expectations?"


"Why don't you tell me what you have in mind?"


What a dance! I get it. You want to know my reservaton price. Well, I'm not going to tell you... buuuuuut I want the job so I'll give you hints and try to keep the door open for negotiation. The irony, here, is that you want me to be able to negotiate as part of my job function, but let's leave that inconvenient reality over there for now.*


I've done my homework -- I know what the compensation package looks like for this job title in this market, so that's what I'm expecting. Now, we're basically back where we started. Why don't you tell me the comp before I fly 2,000 miles? Then, if you're going to offer me something I'm likely to turn down, we can all save the time and focus our energy on the things we're passionate about. So few interviewers are up-front about this, unless they "feel that you are vastly overqualified for this position."


Bottom-line, new tools are emerging to enrich the matchmaking process. I haven't seen one I like, yet, but I've worked with colleagues on tools that might eclipse the lame ones that exist, now. These tools can't make it to market fast enough, given the amount of value that's destroyed on a daily basis. Smart tools that scrape publicly available data and/or distill it could be what turns this economy around, but we have to want them, first, and be willing to change a search process that has been outdated for a long time. Change can be hard. It can also be great.


This too shall pass.


Part of the way we'll encourage it along on its way is to laugh at it.

 *Update Nov 2012:

I just had a great call with a guy I met for a beer, once. He was introduced to me through family. He's a great guy. That means some of our risk is reduced: I believe we would enjoy working together. This means I don't have to worry as much about turnover and neither do they, if all goes according to plan.


With that out of the way and the shared context of our first meeting, we were able to really TALK about working together - what it might look like, how it might work, pulling many levers of the fantastically complex relationship.


Granted, it's an early-stage conversation. We may not work together for any number of reasons, but this feels more like the healthy unfolding of a business relationship than the majority of what I've seen in the last 6 months of my search. Yet another reason to be hopeful and grateful...