Today, I was asked by a consultancy agency to provide a resume (or Curriculum Vitae or CV) with “some more meat on it” than one I had sent earlier which was very basic and with simple bullet points. I have always felt that resumes are bullshit and I have always wanted to blog about it so this was my cue to finally write down my thoughts on the subject. Here are a few reasons why resumes are bullshit:
- Resumes tell what you worked with but not how.
- Your former jobtitle as “Dynamic Creative Supervisor” sounds like it was created with the Bullshit Job Title generator (which indeed I just did).
- A resume does not tell whether or not you can actually solve problems. Like the FizzBuzz problem.
- Paula Bean was apparently able to get a job based on her resume. That was a bad idea.
Resumes might be good for initial weeding out in applications but unfortunately this will often mean that inexperienced programmers do not stand a chance in the job race and I think that is a shame. I myself am a good example of a person with a thin CV when it comes to IT-related experience which is mainly due to the fact that I have spent most of my time at the university being a teaching assistant instead of having a job at an IT-company. But does this mean that my problem solving skills are worse than a person having worked for twenty years doing the same thing over and over? I think not.
I do not deny that experience is important and Peter Norvig’s essay Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years is a good reminder that programming is a skill that is only acquired with hard work over an extended period of time but putting so much emphasis on a piece of paper is sad. Is there no better general alternative?
So after having dutifully updated my CV, I wrote this comment to the consulting agent (translated from Danish):
In a time where one can buy diplomas online, improve on reality in one’s CV and in many ways get by in life by cheating, I think it is very unlucky that choosing employees is still based on something as untrustworthy as a piece of paper with a Latin title and some dates and job titles. I can find out more about a person’s personality in a 10-minute conversation than I can reading a personal description and I can learn more about a person’s competencies by posing a simple IT-related problem and have them solve it than I can by going through every former position the person has had.
And here is his response (translated from Danish):
I see what you’re saying about CVs but actually, I do not entirely agree with you.
CVs are extremely important in our sales process because they decide whether we get the opportunity to come in and further discuss a job with the customer (they often have a number of CVs from different consultants to choose from). I get an enormous amount of bad CVs sent to me and my prejudice from seeing the CV is rarely different from when I actually meet the person later.
Remember that CVs are not about improving on reality but presenting the material in a professional manner and with focus on the essentials…. This is something that is valid for sales in general.
So the jury is up on the question but the title of this blog post remains the same. Meanwhile, I hope I didn’t scare him away :-)
Update: Since writing this article, my views have been challenged from a lot of different people which is a good thing. However, there are plenty of articles to support my point. Here is a few:
Forbes on resume lies
Yahoo Finance on resume lies
Job Bank USA on resume lies
-  I have a first-hand account from a friend who was hiring people and tried out the FizzBuzz problem in his interviews and could confirm what the linked article states. ↩