Leaders in management positions hire people. It’s part of the job. To hire, we must read resumes. I haven’t met many that enjoy this part. If you are fortunate enough to have an HR department screening out those that don’t meet basic requirements, you may only have dozens of resumes. If not, you may have hundreds.

When facing the (electronic) stack of resumes, it is tempting to zip through them and minimize the pain. That would be a mistake.

Each resume represents a human being. Someone trying to make their way in the world. Someone who stressed about making the resume just right. Maybe it is a person looking for their first job. Maybe they are in a job they want to get out of. Maybe they are looking for more money. Maybe they want to move to something more challenging. Maybe they want to do a brave thing and move to a different country with a different language, culture and more opportunity.

As we flip though the stack, how long do we spend on each resume? 15 seconds? 30 seconds? A few seconds to evaluate someone’s fitness for the position. To reject or move them on. Some of us default to reject unless something catches our eye. Seems unfair, but I get it. We have dozens or hundreds of resumes to go through and we simply can’t afford to spend five minutes on each one.

Many companies use an applicant tracking system. Vendors design them only to make the hiring team’s life easier. If any of you have applied for a job through one of these systems, you know they did not design them for the applicant’s ease of use.

The vendors are adding automation — AI they call it — to filter on keywords or otherwise start screening for you and the HR team. While the end state is appealing (a real, appropriate, and correct recommendation to accept or reject), it is going to be terrible before vendors get there for all jobs except the most jargon filled. And if you think AI has fewer biases than humans, you haven’t been paying attention to the field.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to this problem. Even in times where we can’t find people, we will still have lots of resumes to go through.

When a friend of mine is about to go through a pile of resumes, they take a moment to remind themselves that each one represents a real person. I think this is a good place to start.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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