More Thoughts On Resumes and a New Idea

October 17, 2008

I was amazed that my post on resumes got so much attention, and it was interesting how diverse the opinions were (both here and on other sites). It seems everyone sees them in a different light. Some people agreed with me, some thought I was a crazy or a braggert, some offered interesting variations on the whole concept.

Nothing is better for a blog post than to stimulate debate. It's like the old editorial writer's wish "love me or hate me but please don't ignore me". I make it a policy on this blog to keep all comments live unless they are spam (very rare) or hateful.

Some folks wondered if I only wrote the post to boast or promote myself. It's tough to write about resumes and not use the only one you have: your own. It's interesting that people sometimes complained about this and then proceeded to suggest for a resume things like "wrote CMS that has 1000 subscribers and little downtime over many months". When you state something true like this, is it simply a fact does it become bragging? Clearly any marketing person will tell you that making your customer want you requires stating something positive about your product (in this case yourself) which can be interpreted as bragging. Would you hire someone who didn't say positive things about themselves in a resume?

However I don't ever want a fulltime employee if I can avoid it; I am committed to building an iPhone app business. I do admit I'd like to do a little contract work to pay the bills in the meantime. So my actual resume is far less important than a body of public work you can look at.

I also was guilty of apparently not making the sarcasm obvious enough; clearly you can't send out a resume "writes good code for good money". The point was that resumes often shade the truth (or outright lie) enough that people have a built-in tendency to discount what people say in their resume, and that makes anything you say in yours subject to the readers experience with other resumes.

A few jobs ago the company requested resumes, and then conducted nearly 30 interviews before hiring me; most of the people who came in were completely unable to answer most of the Java programming questions. I was the first person who answered (nearly) everything correctly. In this case resumes were useless to filter out the candidates. From all the comments yesterday it's clear everyone has had radically different experiences with resumes on both sides of the story.

Another issue with resumes is the reader. Your resume might start out at a "sourcer" who collects any resume that vaguely mentions something (PHP) and they send it to a recruiter. This person may know the job ad but not often not the actual technology (they did a couple jobs in PHP). This then winds up in the inbox of an HR person who also rarely knows the technology (they did PHP and seem to be real). Then the resume winds up in a hiring manager who mind actually know the technologies they are managing (person worked in LAMP projects at three companies and has a CS degree). Then they pass it to a few developers to set up an interview (o great another interviewee) who then quickly glance at the resume right before the candidate is interviewed. Each of these folks has different knowledge, different interests and a different role. Yet you have only one resume that somehow must convince each of these people you are the right person to at least bring in the door.

The worst thing about it is that often you have no idea who or how many of these folks will see your resume, so you are essentially marketing blind. Worse yet, the only feedback you get is a request for interview; you never find out about what people thought or why they rejected you.

So is there any way to create a more flexible resume to help with all the problems of convincing folks that you are the person to hire and that your experience is (1) real (2) meaningful (3) hireable?

I don't know if it will work, but I intend to build an interactive web-based timeline-based resume complete with quotes from coworkers and customers, drillable content and other goodies you can only do on the web.

And yes, I will use my own resume, which is the only one I have, as the basis. Maybe it will be cool, maybe it will suck, maybe it will be ignored and laughed at. Still it should be fun to do, and maybe it can be one suggestion towards getting us out of the 19-century paper resume (in Word format) shuffle.