Ditch the Resumes, Hire for Learning Ability, Expert Says

By Roy Maurer Oct 18, 2017
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NASHVILLE—Accenture Global Head of Recruiting Jennifer Carpenter believes that resumes will become extinct in the near future, prompting employers to adopt superior evaluation and screening tools and heralding a shift in thinking about sourcing, assessing and defining talent.

"A candidate's potential is far more relevant than any skill pedigree they may show up with," she told attendees at LinkedIn Talent Connect, a conference for recruiting professionals held by the professional networking site. The first thing to do is toss the resume, she said. "Resumes are screening out exceptional people."

Carpenter described resumes, especially from recent college graduates, as awkward attempts to try to convey their skills and experiences. "And let's admit it, we … increased the font size a smidge to make it look like we had more relevant work history to put down on paper," she said.

Resumes lack any information about creativity, willingness to work hard and love of learning, she said. "That's what is most important when we're trying to evaluate potential in people. Why do we continue to look at these pieces of paper and think they will tell us anything valuable? I believe we can do better than resumes to try to understand people's true potential."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Interviewing Candidates]

Carpenter added that resume screens are inherently biased and may be the most biased evaluation tools used by recruiters. She cited a 2013 Yale University study that found that both male and female faculty at top U.S. research universities were biased toward male students based on fictional student applications—half from a man named John and half from a woman named Jennifer. The faculty were asked to evaluate identical applications and to determine how competent the student was, how likely they would be to hire the student, how much they would pay the student, and how willing they would be to mentor the student. "Hiring managers consistently believed that Jennifer was less competent than John," Carpenter said.

In addition, she cited the startling, now-infamous 2004 study from Harvard University where candidates with white-sounding names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than similar candidates with black-sounding names.

Carpenter said that currently LinkedIn merely offers an online version of the paper resume—a listing of past experiences and skills. "I would encourage LinkedIn to enable signals about a person's values, their passion points and traits. Imagine the insights employers could glean from that. All of a sudden, you would see diversity of thought and personality and we can open up hiring managers to new definitions of what great talent looks like."

Carpenter also believes that more employers will recruit and hire based on a candidate's ability to learn rather than on his or her current skills. "A candidate's learning quotient is [his or her] ability to come into new situations, learn and adapt," she said. "It will be a critical skill for the future workforce. Basically, can you learn, and relearn and relearn again with a smile on your face."

A 2017 Accenture study found that 85 percent of 10,000 workers across skill levels said that they were willing to spend their free time over the next six months to learn new skills. "How can employers harness the power of that trend?" she asked.

One way could be by creating online learning lounges and inviting candidates to visit them.  She asked attendees to imagine giving candidates access to the same learning and development courses employees receive. "It costs virtually nothing and, at the same time, it creates a talent pipeline. We have a fallback candidate upskilled, and we're creating an engagement experience that candidates love."

She said she would use the same concept for all the people who apply to an organization each year but end up walking away without an offer. "Imagine if you could offer them upskilling opportunities they can tap into, and maybe they reapply or get a job somewhere else, but education is empowering, and if we give workers more options, the future for the whole workforce will be brighter."

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