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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

do resumes matter?

I've always wondered this since I've written my first resume for a job - now that I've been on both the applying and reviewing ends of the hiring process, I want to lean on the side of "no." This may bring gasps to those that have spent countless hours and perhaps dollars refining the perfect resume - I'm not saying that a resume is unnecessary nor am I saying that companies don't review them in the hiring cycle. In fact, there really is no way to quickly screen someone outside of their experiences and credentials they can list in writing, as individual conversations with everyone and anyone is both costly and inefficient.

I want to start this argument "backwards" and think about how many candidates the world as a whole misses out on because of resume screens. Before I get started I want to make it clear that I don't really have a proposition for combatting the problems I'm about to discuss - this is more to provoke my own inner thoughts on this topic as well as challenge you to consider what is actually meant to "drop a resume." I'm of the belief that most jobs are company and job specific - what I mean by this is while the experience you have can build your professionalism and a small array of hard skills, most of what you do in a job is learned on the job and can only be learned from the specific opportunity. Therefore, while what you have on your resume can be a great filter for what you're capable of and the repertoire you've built since becoming a professional, it does not serve as bulletproof evidence that you'll be a great fit for the job at hand nor be able to accomplish what the hiring managers have in mind for you to do. Most of the research on company and individual success points that there truly exists no formula for why things work out or don't, with many startups "winning" due to timing and chance rather than its leadership or innovations. This is quite hard to admit to ourselves as human beings thrive on finding reasons behind everything and can't stand still at the idea that events occur without much reason. We are proud to be the animal of reason, and it pains us to think that things are beyond our control, much less beyond reason.

I think the same way with hiring - we hire in hopes that the person being hired will get the work done and improve the organization as a whole, and in order to prove to ourselves and the outside world that the candidate is qualified and worth the compensation we're about to provide, they must hold a set of credentials and experiences that everyone agrees is "worthy" of what they will receive. It wouldn't make sense for someone to make six figures if they have less than 5 years of experience, if they went to a no name school, and if they don't have certain certifications administered by FINRA (although all investment bankers were taught by organizations that instruct you to pass the test rather than actually remember what it takes to gain the credential - I'm proud to acknowledge I don't recall a single thing in those exams). Although the resume does provide insight into an individual's grit and perseverance as they have attended a top ranking school and survived two years in banking, it does not tell a story of what they're actually capable of beyond the fancy bullet points we've all been taught to write by career services.

As I'm sure those of you who have watched my LinkedIn cringe videos are aware, I'm not against the institutionalization of resumes - in fact, I don't know how else you would screen candidates and why else people would be "building their careers." Human beings are incentive driven and there has to be a reason behind the work that we do and sacrifices that we make. While it's easy to say buzzwordy statements like "my resume does not define me" and "this piece of paper does not pain the full picture," it's also hard to deny that those that have impressive and extensive resumes have put in a lot of work and deserve some recognition. However, solely based on anecdotal experience, I'm made to believe that there's a fundamental flaw with how we hire and whether or not we truly hire the best candidate for the job. This proposition is a headache in itself, as if we don't hire by the credentials and experiences on a PDF, how else would we hire? Will we come up with some psychology-based test that measures someone's "true desires" for a job or their competency for what the job actually entails as opposed to what people believe the job is about? Do we turn to a "The Giver" like society where we prime people from a very early age based on their natural born gifts and reduce optionality for an "optimal" society?

It's hard to say something matters when it does not provide actual value beyond "it always has been that way so we shouldn't question it." I'm made to believe that much of society relies on this idea that we are reluctant for change as we're used to the system that embraces such infrastructure, and shaking things up (especially something so "essential" as a resume) will provide more bad than good. It's also important to keep in mind that I sound like I'm having some existential philosophy big brain moment about the first step of a job process, which in the grand scheme of things means nothing. If you got nothing out of my word dump above, I think what I'm trying to say is that often times pretending like you're qualified and having others also pretend that what you have makes you more qualified even though someone who's bad at pretending like you could be better for the job, is somehow the way that this world currently works. Meritocracy is real though.

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