Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
A great resumé guarantees almost nothing. Unfortunately, it is the only thing that recruiters look at to exclude candidates.
Ted Lasso is a show on Apple TV about an American College Football coach who is recruited to coach an English Premier League soccer team. The new owner acquires the team as a part of her divorce settlement and wants to destroy it because she thinks the football team is the only thing her ex-husband cherished.
Ted Lasso is a man who does not understand football, but he understands people. Coaches are not recruited to teach players how to play football they are recruited to teach players how to play together and he knows that. To the consternation of the owner, he turns the team around.
If you looked at Ted’s resumé, there would be no reason to pick him. His achievement, he turned around a small college team in the mid-western United States.
Just for contrast, let us take the resumé of Anderson who has coached AC Milan, Manchester United and Liverpool. During his stint, none of these teams won any major trophies.
Given these two resumés, the choice would always be Anderson.
The real-world parallel would be -
Ted worked at First Point Consulting and built a great team and had a small roster of happy clients.
Anderson worked at Accenture, McKinsey and Bain Consulting.
Who would you pick? Anderson would get picked even if he had been just shining shoes at all three places.
Resumé virtues are things that would look good on a resume. They are also things that nobody would ever remember you for. Their sole purpose is to make you look good as a candidate. Also, often it is possible to acquire a lot of resumé virtue through underhanded ways.
The most famous of these is William Shockley, a supervisor, who did none of the work on the transistor at the Bell Labs but managed to sneak in his name as an inventor and received the Nobel Prize for it.
Invented the Transistor at Bell Labs, Nobel Laureate - Great Resumé!
Shockley Semiconductors failed because he was a horrible manager and everyone he recruited kept leaving. They went on to found Intel.
He was then appointed a tenured professor at Stanford University. He went on to tarnish his name there as a great supporter of Eugenics.
Great resumé, horrible person.
When William Shockley died, he was estranged from his entire family and friends. His children claimed to have learnt about his death from the obituary section of the newspaper. Safe to say, he did not have many Eulogy virtues. Things that people will actually remember you for.
We have trained an entire generation of people to collect resumé virtues. Even as a student they intern at companies not because they want to but because it will look good on a resumé. Maybe they could have helped a friend during that time and it might have made them a better person? Maybe… But who the hell is going to recruit you for that?
Most large entities use something called the ATS or the Application Tracking System which scans resumés for keywords. They would not even surface the resumés that do not have the appropriate keywords.
In this context you have companies talk about culture fit. You have an entire category of startups called HR-Tech who promise to provide you with candidates who are the best “fit” for the company while at the same time employing algorithms to screen resumés more effectively.
Who is even looking at the human behind the resumé?
You cannot possibly have people go through three filters which are purely based on resumé virtues and then expect it to surface the great people suddenly!
The entire system is upside down. The incentives are all wrong. You take a person who has a decade of experience and then whittle that down to a bunch of keywords. You talk about cultural fit but that is the last thing you look for.
I don’t know what the solution is, but I can assure you it starts with ditching the resumé.