Why We’re Ditching Resumes

Posted on December 18, 2018

crumpled up resume

We’ve been working on a new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative.  This new initiative has many prongs and one of the pieces I am most involved in is working toward reducing bias in job application screening.  We’ll be training all of our interview panels and eliminating names from job applications.  Why eliminate names from job applications, you ask? Well, there are lots of studies out there that have proven in many instances folks with “white sounding” names are more likely to get an interview than folks with “black sounding” or “Latinx sounding” names, even when the same resume was submitted.

The good news is that most applicant tracking software solutions, like Neogov and Workday, have the option to hide the applicant names, providing just a number to the hiring manager.  The bad news for all you HR folks and hiring managers out there is that applicants LOVE to add attachments to their application, like their beautiful resume and a nicely worded cover letter (and in some instances copies of certificates of completion for every. single. training. they. have. ever. attended.  Good job. Seriously, please don’t do this.).

What to do about all of those resumes and other attachments?  We don’t have time to go through each one and sanitize them and I’m guessing you don’t, either.  I was chatting with my friend Kylie about this and she said that at her former employer, they just turned off the ability to add attachments (gasp!).  I took a look at the language they are using out there at Tualatin Hills Park and Rec District and it’s pretty good:

“In lieu of resumes and cover letters, THPRD evaluates an applicant’s work history and responses to supplemental questions. Please complete the application and answer the supplemental questions thoroughly to ensure our subject matter experts can appropriately evaluate your experience.”

I seriously love this!  Public sector HR people will tell you that they don’t really look at resumes anyway.  We simply don’t have time to open each and every attachment and review it to make sure the applicant meets the minimum qualifications for a job.  I have been telling people for years that proof you meet the minimum qualifications has got to be on your job application.  We have said this in so many nice, but not nearly as direct, ways at so many employers and THPRD just puts it out there.  Thank you, THPRD, for being so transparent about your process.  We can all learn a little something from this (or maybe just borrow the concept all together).

Applicants: I put together some job application tips for the City of Tigard, but these really work for any government job you are applying to.

  1. If you’re qualified, apply! Review the education and experience required and make sure your application reflects these.  Don’t forget to add your degrees and certifications and make sure your job history reflects what the employer is looking for. Short on education?  Back it up with years of experience (I did this when I was working on my degree but had way more experience than they were looking for).  If you know it’s a little shaky, call the HR department and ask how best to articulate your qualifications to get through their screening process.
  2. Tell us about your work history. List each job separately, even within the same organization (I love to see that people have promoted within).  Include your volunteer work if it’s related to the job to which you are applying.  Describe your duties clearly, don’t assume we will know what you do based on your title – tailor this to each job you apply for.  PLEASE DO NOT WRITE “SEE RESUME” – that’s a total deal killer.
  3. Details, details. Does the application form have an area for objective?  Make sure it doesn’t say something about a different prospective employer; I suggest leaving it blank.  Double check your spelling and grammar – hiring managers actually care about this.
  4. Supplemental questions. We know you hate these, but trust us, we need them.  When an organization asks supplemental questions, they are trying to get to know you better.  They want to see your writing skills and ask you something that might not be apparent in your application.  Treat this as your first interview question – you wouldn’t give a one-line answer in an interview, so don’t do it here.  Tell a little story and explain your successes.  Lastly, make sure the job you discuss in your questions is documented on your application.
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