More than 50% of recruiters surveyed by Murray Resources still consider resumés as the most important when assessing a candidate. But can resumés be reliable when predicting future job performance?

Every recruiter’s ultimate goals are to hire at minimal costs, avoid turnover and – ideally – to get the best talent possible. Resumés, however, are flawed to a significant degree. From bias, through possible talent oversight, to questionable predictive validity. And there’s data to back these flaws up.

Factuality versus self-reporting

One of the significant problems with resumés lies within its nature. It’s the candidate who writes it; hence it’s a case of mere self-reporting. Candidates need to select what they think is relevant… or, as it seems, what they believe will simply help them land an interview. Even if it’s not entirely the truth.

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Zippia, The Carrer Expert survey, shows that applicants are not unlikely to colour their past or even lie blatantly. 30% of the surveyed admitted to lying or “bending the truth on their resumés”. The number one aspect most likely to be fabricated proved to be work experience, followed by technical skills.

It clearly shows that candidates know how much weight those aspects can put on the final decision and aren’t scared of taking the risk. Now, of course, a lot of information can be verified; recruiters can run a background check, take time to check references (if provided!). But do they have time for that? It looks like most hiring professionals take resumés at face value, as 80% of people who lie on their resumés are never found out, and only 8% admit to facing negative consequences.  

As an employer, you may, perhaps, not want to risk finding yourself in a situation your employee who claimed to be fluent in Mandarin is now talking to an important client of yours – not feeling so confident anymore.

What’s of value for a candidate may not be so for a recruiter

The generally accepted limit for a resumé is that of two pages. How to determine what should land on paper? People’s experience and education can vary dramatically. While a freshly graduated job seeker may struggle to fill up all the boxes, an experienced one may need to cut out a good part of their work history.

The problem is, what if the information that was omitted could’ve proved vital to a recruiter? Hiring managers are humans, too, and subjectivity is hard to jump over. They have a vision of the right candidate in their heads, and maybe mentioning your hobbies or that one internship a candidate did five years ago would’ve won them the golden ticket. 

The length limitations are understandable from a purely practical standpoint. Who has time to go through a plethora of resumés if half of them is a few pages long? Very few people have the time or attention span to do that. Then, again, maybe that’s why they’re not the best evaluating method?

Recruiters infer from resumés more than factual information

Candidates like to think that their resumés are judged for what they are – a report on their education, experiences, and miscellaneous skills. However, it turns out that recruiters seem to infer from those two pages more than that. They read into candidates’ personality traits.

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Cole et al. (2008) investigated the validity of recruiters’ judgments concerning applicants’ personality traits as inferred from their resumés. As a research limitation, the focus was put on the Big Five personality traits, i.e. neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

For each trait, several adjectives best descriptive of a feature were chosen. In the study, 244 recruiters from various organisations were asked to judge, from given resumés, to what extent the selected adjectives described the person on a scale from 1 (can’t determine from the resume) to 5 (very descriptive of this person).

As the study concluded, hiring professionals seem to use certain resumé information to derive the applicant’s personality traits. And overall, their judgment isn’t that reliable. The results indicated that recruiters’ judgments were relatively low in reliability, as they were generally unable to determine candidates’ personality characteristics from the resumé. Only extraversion was the most valid inference (averaged r = .15). In contrast, internal characteristics such as agreeableness and neuroticism exhibited negative validity coefficients (r = -.05 and r = -.11, respectively).

Everybody makes assumptions daily as a part of our coping mechanisms. However, the validity and reliability of recruiters’ inferences are called into question as it has tangible implications for an organisation. Effectively, theirs is the decision between passing a candidate or rejecting them. If that decision is based on inaccurate assumptions, an organisation’s talent management falls into jeopardy. After all, the average time a recruiter spends analysing a CV is seven seconds. Can you really properly judge two pages of standardised text in such short time?

Raw talent may not show on paper

Resumé is merely a document where one can write whatever their heart desires. Any job seeker has read at least one article on “how to write the perfect CV” with a plethora of tips from layout to the correct use of keywords that will get them through ATSs. The question arises, though. What if talent cannot be documented?

Think about writers. Stephen King, one of the most renowned writers with more than 350 million sold copies, used to work at a laundry mat and as an English instructor before his first book was published. His undeniable talent was finally noticed, but it only proves that some skills cannot be documented until someone gives candidates a chance to show them.

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One of the biggest frustrations, especially for the entering workforce, is how many entry-level jobs require a 2-5 year documented experience. How, however, are they supposed to gain any, to begin with?

What turned into an internet meme is a genuine recruitment issue causing a possible talent oversight. At Innoflow, we believe that everybody deserves a chance to unleash their talent with the right screening tools – and resumés are not among them.

Leave an applicant’s past where it belongs and predict the future accurately

Employers must make hiring decisions, and there is no way around it. Every company strives to amass the best employees who will stay longer and exhibit class-A performance. The question arises – what predicts success? Is it the amount of experience, education, or maybe how many interesting hobbies your candidate listed? The question, although difficult, seems to have been answered already, some 23 years ago.

A paper by Schmidt and Hunter (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998) compiling 85 years of research into the validity of selection methods gave a clear answer to the above question – and it’s not what most employers think.

The scholars rated each variable/method (e.g. education, experience, interests, work samples) on a scale from 0 to 1. The higher the score received, the higher the ability to predict future job performance.

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As found out, both a candidate’s prior work experience and education proved to be of very low validity – 0.18 and .10, respectively. It calls into question the importance employers put on them. As pointed by, for 82% of the surveyed organisations, work experience is still the most vital factor when deciding to pass an applicant.

Although a sort of common logic, scientific data doesn’t support the idea that more experience translates into better future performance. What does then?

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Screening methods focused on evaluating the actual skills and abilities of a candidate proved the most reliable when predicting future job performance. GMAs (general mental ability tests) on their own scored at 0.51 but combined with work samples the score goes up to 0.63 – a 24% increase in validity.

Work samples, or case solutions, are hands-on simulations of the job a candidate would be required to perform if hired. Depending on the position you’re trying to fill in, your applicants would be given a case representative of the job they’d be doing. It’s an excellent opportunity for you – and them – to see how well they’d perform.

Resumés have been with us for a long time, and it’s never easy to give up on an old habit – even if it’s not of much benefit. However, choosing the correct screening method can be a game-changer for your brand. Years of research have proved that there are better means of predicting your candidates’ future performance. Unfortunately, relying on a sheet of paper isn’t one of them.

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Building a diverse team, attracting hidden talent, and test-driving an applicant beforehand. These are only several benefits you gain by opting for case solutions – the screening method of the 21st century. It may be high time to apply changes to your recruitment process successfully and fight the talent shortage.

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