- What is Resume Screening?
- Why Do Recruiters Still Screen Resumes?
- What are The Consequences of Screening Resumes?
- 10 Ways Resume Screening Fails
- Will Resume Screening AI Save The Industry?
- How-To Never Screen Candidate Resumes Again
Does resume screening rely on bad practices to find good people? It’s time to ditch these outdated practices. Like any motivated recruiter, you want to learn more about how to screen resumes like a pro. The problem is that the pros have moved on to simpler, more reliable hiring practices.
At some point every recruiter realizes that resumes aren’t the gold standard in hiring anymore. And that resume screening tools are problematic.
I’ve been on both sides of tech recruiting, as an applicant and as someone recruiting talent for large brand projects. So, I’ve written – and reviewed - a fair share of resumes.
- The latest studies show that a CV gets 7.4 seconds of consideration, on average.
- A single job post gets as many as 250 applicants, and the majority of these are shotgun resumes. That’s a polite way of saying resumes with zero relevance.
- Hiring managers often have 40-60 job posts open at a time.
Having as many as 15,000 resumes flying at you from the four corners of the earth is a lot. That’s why the industry created automation and patchwork solutions like AI tracking systems.
What was once the gold standard for assessing candidate talent, is now no better than plastic trash. You’ve been sold an offensively outdated pack of lies about resume screening.
So, I’m re-writing your guide to screening candidates. Only this time it’s going to deliver on its promises and help you find top talent, faster.
Here is the candidate screening guide that you deserve. Along with some eye-opening facts that will keep you from reverting to the five monkey’s mindset.
What is Resume Screening?
And What it Isn’t
Recruiters and their automated tools analyze resumes and look for key indicators that make a candidate a good fit for a certain job. This process is known as resume screening.
Traditionally these indicators have been:
- The qualifications you have (degrees)
- The experience you’ve accrued (years)
- The university you went to (school)
- The companies you’ve worked for (status)
These indicators were once reliable ways to measure if someone would perform well in their job. If they would suit the role. Back in the early 2000s, the resume had its moment.
Leonardo da Vinci himself would have been proud.
But now, even Harvard Business Review is iffy on resumes and using them in recruiting processes.
A New Definition
Harvard Business Review looked at 81 studies and found that there's no connection between what someone did in the past and how they'd perform in a future job. So an applicant's resume is not a reliable way to determine if they will do the required job well.
And get this: Hisayuki Idekoba, the CEO of Recruit (who owns Glassdoor and Indeed) has said many times that resumes are outdated, and better assessment methods exist. I’ll tell you what those methods are by the end of this post.
A better definition of resume screening in 2023 is:
‘An outdated hiring process used by recruiters to prove job suitability, based on pattern matching using resume indicators that were popularized during the nineties’ computer boom, but no longer result in accurate matches.’
That makes more sense.
Why Do Recruiters Still Screen Resumes?
The Five Monkeys
Resume screening is a great example of the five monkeys experiment.
The story goes that an experiment with five monkeys, a banana, and a ladder proved that ‘it’s always been done that way’ is a massive driver of behavior. Monkeys in a cage were sprayed with ice-water when one tried to reach a banana, dangling from the roof.
They learned to stop trying for the bananas, and attacked any new monkeys who tried. Eventually the cage was filled with new monkeys enforcing rules they didn’t understand.
The memory of the ice-water lived on in their behavior, even if the experience came from an older set of monkeys.
While this story was very loosely based on a real study, it does carry an important lesson: Question everything or you could end up perpetrating learned behavior that doesn’t make sense.
How many recruiters question their company’s hiring process? Not enough of them. And the ones who do are put in their place – by the older monkeys.
You’d think that HR teams would listen, given that some 88% of resumes are immediately cast into a fiery abyss and deemed ‘unfit.’ But young recruiters have a bad case of the five monkeys.
There are better uses of your time. Collecting and reviewing hundreds of pointless resumes is not it. When your team accepts that ‘it’s always been done that way,’ they forget to consider alternatives, and get bogged down in the busy-work.
Then you end up bringing a fire extinguisher to a forest fire.
And the cost is unimaginably high.
What are The Consequences of Screening Resumes?
An Engine of Change
What about applicant tracking and automated resume screening? What about AI? Yes, I’ll get to those in a bit, I promise.
First, let’s look at what happens when recruiters don’t question broken practices, like resume checking. Or stifle the people asking these important questions.
The Engine of Change Analogy
There's a mechanic who had his dad’s old car in his garage. It’s rusty, and it’s been in several accidents – heck the engine doesn’t even start.
One day, the mechanic decides to buy a new engine and put it in the car. For the first time in years, the car runs again!
The mechanic is elated and drives top speed everywhere he goes. But soon afterwards, things start falling apart. Every week, there’s another part to replace or repair. The car with the new engine, becomes a black hole of time, energy and hidden costs.
That’s exactly what’s happening with recruitment hiring practices.
Many recruiters are focusing so intently on speeding up the resume screening process, that they can’t see that resumes are the problem. They’re inefficient relics of the past – and much like the old car, waste more resources than they’re worth.
When two thirds of US companies don’t know if their hiring practices result in good employees, it’s no wonder that 75% of employers have hired the wrong person (CareerBuilder survey). Bad hires cost tech companies a fortune – just look at the latest series of tech layoffs.
10 Ways Resume Screening Fails
1. Resume Dressing
It’s a ‘best practice’ for your candidates to tailor their resume to suit your job. Resume dressing happens when a candidate reshapes their cv to look like a great fit, when they’re not one.
That’s what we get for forcing people to sell themselves.
2. Unconscious Bias
You and your team choose candidates based on personal preferences that are completely unconscious. Elements on a resume like someone’s name, address, education, race or sexual orientation all influence your hiring decisions.
- Companies are twice more likely to interview minority candidates who whiten their resumes
- Biases often get hard-wired into resume screening software
3. Resume Fatigue
These days hundreds of people apply for an open job post.
Recruiters are used to being overwhelmed with applicants because of the sheer volume – and it results in resume fatigue. Manual resume screening exhausts recruiters, so they default to personal hiring choices.
4. Resume Overwhelm
With so many resumes on-the-go, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
This translates into never having time or energy to invest in interviews, preparation, or accurate shortlists. Falling behind on essential tasks leads to solutions like screening tools for talent acquisition.
These tools have created an industry built around resume scanners. ATS compliance and resume analyzers are everywhere! No wonder we're all overwhelmed.
5. Confirmation Bias
When speed is a priority, confirmation bias sneaks in. Recruiters will look for information that supports their first impression of a candidate. An Ivy League school or a prestigious award can easily lead to poor screening decisions and bad hiring practices.
6. Standardized Rules
In tech, some jobs are more technical than others. Different industries rely on unique hiring processes to find the right people. When a resume is the benchmark, standardized rules eliminate incredible candidates that don’t fit the average mold.
7. Affinity Bias
Another common form of bias at play is affinity related.
We tend to like candidates who remind us of ourselves or people we already like. That’s why you’ll often find institutions packed with people from similar schools or backgrounds. Too much sameness isn’t good for business or diversity.
8. Resume of Lies
People lie on their resumes. A lot. Recent studies have shown that 56% of people lie on their resumes, which means that you’re screening based on fiction, not fact.
In a survey, lies were told in these areas: 25% job experience, 21% job duties, 16% employment dates, 15% skills, 10% salary.
- 85% of recruiters agree that job applicants inflate their competencies
9. Screening Tools and AI
We are all so grateful for automation and artificial intelligence that as recruiters, we forget applicants also use them. This has led to an industry of professional resume writers, resume scores and prompt engineers that are helping people trick systems.
More and more, applicants aren’t doing their own resumes.
- Candidates who have their resumes professionally written are 32% more likely to get the job and they earn more money
10. Resume Hacking
In a world of ATS software the goal has become: beat them. So, resumes are designed to be keyword-rich, carbon copies of your job description so that applicants can make it past the deeply flawed screening tools you use.
- 75% of resumes are rejected by ATS resume checkers
- 51% of resumes have irrelevant buzzwords, clichés and fluff
You must be so tired of wading through piles of irrelevant applicants and AI-generated career achievements. On the other side of that journey, is a gaggle of candidates who are about as useful as a desert snow shovel. It’s the definition of pedaling backwards on a bike to nowhere.
Where to from here?
Will Resume Screening AI Save The Industry?
We’ve arrived at the most romanticized solution for resume selection that exists.
And no, it won’t save your hiring process. Applicant tracking systems – and most recently, AI resume screening tools, are awful! They’re being misused so widely that some teams don’t even know the damage being done. But your bottom line knows.
Catfishing happens in hiring. You end up swiping left on great people, only to create shortlists of candidates you never would have considered in real life.
It’s true. Screening software is the Tinder of hiring.
They take the broken indicators from traditional hiring, and use them as actual metrics for dividing potential applicants from duds. So, you may be a coding genius, but if you didn’t go to an Ivy League, are American, and have 2 years work experience at Google, you’re out.
Even if your resume says that you built an app that achieved a million followers in 5 seconds. The job description doesn’t require that, so the applicant tracking system doesn’t look for it. The recruiter receives a neat pile of 5 terribly average applicants that fit your bare minimum requirements.
Resume screening tools are massively flawed.
They force your company to buy into the idea that only a certain type of person can do a certain type of job. ATS software speeds up the process of finding candidates, but whether they can do the job outlined is anyone’s guess.
As we know from Tinder, any kind of inferential system that focuses on indicators is a crapshoot. Just because someone has gaps in their resume, doesn’t mean they’re lazy. Not going to a top 10 US school, doesn’t mean they’re not brilliant. But this is inferred.
For every couple that met on Tinder, there are millions of dud matches based on these same oversimplified criteria.
It doesn’t work.
These systems sacrifice quality for quantity. Considering the vast majority of people aren’t great at keyword stuffing their resumes - the chances of you filtering out a superstar is high. And they’re so expensive. Especially when you factor in the cost of bad hires.
Here's a screening tip: Stop!
AI vs AI
Now, tech companies are using AI in resume screening software.
If applicants are using AI to beat your ATS tool, and ATS software is using AI to find qualified candidates – how is that different from two people catfishing each other?
Like I said, please stop. Surely there is a better way.
How-To Never Screen Candidate Resumes Again
I know – your resume screening process is a contentious thing.
On the one hand, it appears to work, and it saves you time. If you’re happy with baking bias and limitations into your hiring process, while throwing steroids at it for the next few years: great. You’ll get a lot of good-looking matches.
But those matches are all bark and no bite. All that they’ve proven is that they know how to work a system. Not perform at an increasingly complex job.
Experts have been studying job performance for a long time. First there was 85 years of research from Schmidt and Hunter (1998). Later in 2016, this was expanded to 100 years by Schmidt in this groundbreaking paper.
Based on this research the top 3 indicators of performance are:
1: Cognitive tests (26%)
2: Structured interviews (26%)
3: Work samples (29%)
- It eliminates human and machine-programmed bias
- It is a universal equalizer because it’s not based on exclusionary indicators
- It looks for the extraordinary, instead of the basic average
- It saves you and your team 100% of the time you would have spent reviewing resumes
- It allows people to demonstrate what they can do for your company
- It’s nearly impossible to cheat or trick timed tests
- It saves you from the hidden and insidious costs of bad hiring
Pre-employment testing can be customized to suit a specific job, and will lead to motivated, quality candidates applying. These tests can be fully automated, with no human presence required. They can be refined and updated over time to attract the best candidates.
Wasn't that always the goal?
Resume screening is trash, and you should throw it away.
You need a new gold standard in this world of fast-paced change, limited ATS software and foolish AI integrations. And that gold standard is applicant testing.
Don’t allow yourself and your hiring team to collapse into the five-monkey mindset - no matter how many older monkey's beat their chest at you.
"It's always been done that way," needs to change!
Fuel that engine of change with a vehicle that won’t break down. That’s smart enough to keep people at the center of the hiring process. That doesn't discriminate based on nonsense folklore.
If you do, you will avoid the messy, expensive and embarrassing hires that come from bot-to-bot catfishing. You’ll discover true talent is everywhere, and they’re waiting for a shot.
The right people are happy to be tested.
Because when you can do the job, tests are easy.
Easier than writing a resume.
We can help you hire top 1% global talent.