When a resume is an instant disqualifier

It’s time to move on folks. The resume is dead


Someone called to offer me a job. Then she asked for a résumé. I don’t do résumés, I said. The most I can do is write a paragraph about myself. I didn’t say it out of conceit or a sense of self-importance; I just don’t believe in résumés.

I think I stopped believing in résumés when I sent mine to a magazine in the 1990s and they never responded. A couple of years later, when—in a weird twist of fate—I became the editor of that magazine, I found my résumé tucked away in a thick cardboard binder along with scores of other earnest job applications.

Incidentally, I first started hiring people when I got that job, at 29, and résumés have always been a source of stress for me. I even get irritated if someone calls it curriculum vitae (it morphs into an extremely self-indulgent, puffed-up piece of paper). I prefer just plain old résumé, French for summary. The shorter the better. Biodatas are for government jobs.

If it goes over one page, it means you have added too much irrelevant information, so please delete that paragraph on your postgraduate dissertation and details about your diploma in Hindustani classical music from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. No real world employer cares if you once produced a newsletter for a film festival or if you received the “highest marks” in your postgraduate subjects of Indian foreign policy and public administration.

People embellish résumés all the time. They are invariably full of grammatical and spelling errors. And why add the subhead “key learnings” under each job listing? My key learning after being an editor for nearly two decades is that I don’t have any patience with résumés.

Horror of horrors, these days people even use graphics and post “creative résumés” on Pinterest. Some have replaced the résumé with its evil daddy the 3D Brand Bio, according to an article I read and didn’t understand in Forbes. I was not brave enough to explore the world of video résumés.

My high-flyer CEO friend says she only whips out her résumé once the negotiation is done and both parties have agreed on broad terms. The conversation begins because of her reputation—people know her ability to execute and build teams. “But I go to a meeting with a plan or some idea of how I can add value to their business/product,” she says.

What if you don’t have a reputation? In the eight years I worked at Mint Lounge, my criteria for hiring young writers was simple: Did I like their email to me saying why they wanted to join Lounge? Were they regular Lounge readers? What stories would they like to write for Lounge? In addition, I asked for two references and commissioned a story. A résumé acted as an instant disqualifier if it irritated me (see above).

Of course it’s easier to do this when the scale of operation is small and you’re part of a creative industry like journalism or publishing. I have no idea how engineers, bankers and techies get hired.

Most Indian human resources professionals would probably be aghast at my thinking. But then most Indian gynaecologists don’t think that single women should have an active sex life. It’s time to move on folks. The résumé is dead.

With information available in the public domain, for example, a prospective employer can easily ascertain that I’m reckless, easily irritated and somewhat scary, that I love working with start-ups and fixing things that don’t work, that I won’t win a popularity contest and that I am totally in tune with what readers want. I’m certainly not the right fit for a traditional, hierarchy-conscious company.

Siddharth Mangharam, co-founder of singles network Floh, is currently in the process of hiring and he’s not looking at résumés. “You can get an intuitive sense of whether there will be a cultural fit by scanning the social media profile of a candidate. This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram,” he says.

He checks Facebook and Twitter timelines for grammar, abusive language, troll behaviour and ability to engage. Too much humble brag on Instagram? That’s a no-no. Writes in third person on LinkedIn? Clearly has an inflated sense of self. Are the recommendations on his LinkedIn profile genuine, or just a case of you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours? Common connections? Do a quick informal reference check. Recently, a candidate wrote that his company was acquired within six months. Mangharam used Google to confirm that the start-up in fact shut down.

One expert has invented The Working Resume, which doesn’t list academic credentials, prior employers, past experience or achievements. Instead, says Nick Corcodilos on the blog Asktheheadhunter.com, it lists “a clear picture of the business of the employer you want to work for; proof of your understanding of the problems and challenges the employer faces; a plan describing how you would do the work the employer needs done; and an estimate of what/how much you think you could add to the bottom line”.

It certainly sounds better than the traditional résumé, but isn’t that what job interviews are for? I’m not a big fan of LinkedIn either. The jury is still out on whether people embellish less or more or just differently in public networking spaces such as LinkedIn over the more private résumé.

“Well can I call you up after I get the paragraph and ask you questions to fill in the blanks?” the woman who offered me the job asked me. “You want to write my résumé for me?” I replied. Nobody’s ever offered to do that before. Looks like not having a résumé is no longer an instant disqualifier.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable. She tweets at @priyaramani and posts on Instagram as babyjaanramani.

Also read: Priya’s previous Mint Lounge columns

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