Many companies and recruiters are getting rid of résumés. Experts reveal if you should, too

March 11, 2022, 6:09 PM UTC

Regardless of industry or role, what matters most to a company is a potential employee’s ability to get the job done. And the best workers will meet challenges as they grow in their roles and become experts at their work. 

But it can be almost impossible for a hiring manager to know if a candidate will be a star just by looking at their résumé. So some companies are doing away with the résumé requirement for job applications altogether—arguing in some cases that they’re outdated and can lead to bias in the hiring process.

The pitfalls of algorithms 

Evaluating a potential hire’s relevant skills has long been part of the interview process at technical workplaces, but the idea of phasing out the résumé requirement—in order to add even more weight to skills-based hiring—is new. 

In December 2020, the Business Roundtable launched a program called the Multiple Pathways Initiative—backed by over 80 of its member companies, including General Motors, Bank of America, Walmart, and Hearst. This multiyear plan aims to reform the hiring process so companies can make sure they are doing a better job hiring people from underrepresented backgrounds. A big piece of the process is doing away with the A.I. and algorithms that weed out applicants in the early recruitment stages. 

“We have algorithms that require a bachelor’s degree for all positions, and if you don’t have a bachelor’s, but you have the skills, you still get kicked out of the system before you get an interview,” Dane Linn, senior vice president of corporate initiatives at the Business Roundtable, tells Fortune.  

But it’s not just an algorithm problem, he adds. It’s a problem with how job descriptions are written; they’re often keyword-focused. 

“If you’re not sophisticated enough to know the importance of using keywords, it won’t matter what skills you bring to the table, because you’ve not used the words that will allow you to move to the next stage of the process and get an interview—or at least a phone conversation—with someone at the company,” Linn notes. 

Some members of the Roundtable, he says, have taken the time to go through candidates the algorithm automatically rejected early on. “They manually look at these résumés and say, ‘Wow, this individual really does bring the skills we need for the position.’ And they’re interviewing those candidates and hiring them,” Linn adds. “That’s an indication that we really need to scrub these algorithms and start over.”

Skipping the résumés

In some cases, companies aren’t waiting for the algorithms to change. They’re choosing not to review résumés at all when interviewing candidates.

Thomas Forstner, director of people and talent at London-based software company Juro, has hired dozens of people without looking at their résumés.

“On our entry-level sales team, we just hired an ex–professional basketball player and an 18-year-old,” he tells Fortune. “We didn’t hire them for their résumés. It was because of their answer to two questions: ‘Why do you want to work in a sales role?’ and ‘Why do you want to work for a tech startup?’”

Forstner wants to eliminate résumés from the hiring process entirely, but the application software his company uses requires the submission—he’s unable to make it optional. 

“If I could just say, don’t submit a résumé, I would,” Forstner says. “It’s just a limitation of the app we use. When I go through the candidates, I bypass the résumé entirely. In the future, I’d also like to hide names, just to remove the potential for bias.”

No one at Juro reviews résumés when making a hiring decision, which Forstner says has helped the company’s diversity efforts—especially among entry-level workers.

“The more entry-level a role is, the easier it is to not look at a candidate’s background,” he says. “We also don’t put required years of experience on job listings. In the rare case that we do, we clarify that your accomplishments and impact at a place you worked are far more important than how long you were there.” 

Forstner believes, in a résumé-free hiring process, a candidate’s LinkedIn page can tell him all he needs to know. “If I could, I would basically let anyone apply with their LinkedIn profile, or even just say, ‘Here’s what I’m most proud of at my last job.’ Anything else is a ‘nice to have.’”

For more than 90% of roles at digital ordering platform Lunchbox, Alison Kaizer, the head of talent, will give candidates a case study or skill-based assessment to determine if they’re a good fit. Though the company, which employs just under 250 people, still asks for résumés, the hiring decision mostly stems from those assessments, she says.

Ultimately, Kaizer will hire people even if they lack specific prior work experience or the full suite of skills listed in the job posting. Lunchbox believes in developing its talent, Kaizer says, and the applicant’s eagerness to learn as they go is a huge piece of the puzzle. 

Closing the echo chamber 

Amy Spurling, founder and CEO of Boston-based software company Compt, has hired 50% of her team without ever seeing their résumés. Like Forstner, she gets all the information she needs from LinkedIn.

“The interview process is for assessing skills and seeing a portfolio of work, rather than counting years of experience, which mean virtually nothing,” she tells Fortune. “If you can prove you can do the job, who cares if you went to college?”

A diverse and balanced team is important to Spurling; Compt’s workforce is 67% people of color and 50% female. When recruiting, Spurling makes a point to avoid cronyism, which she says can be endemic to startup culture. 

“If your immediate network is just people who look like you, and you only hire from that pool, you’re just going to get the same people over and over again,” she says of the referral-heavy hiring process. “That’s how you get tech companies that are 80% Stanford or MIT alums—that’s just who’s in the founders’ networks.”

While Spurling and Forstner are pushing their companies away from looking at applicant résumés, both acknowledge they cross-check an applicant’s LinkedIn page—which is essentially a résumé, listing a person’s experience, degrees, and certifications in chronological order.

In Linn’s ideal hiring scenario, managers wouldn’t even look at LinkedIn. He’s most focused on improving the standard interview process to be more thoughtful and strategic.

“Hiring managers must ask themselves how they’re structuring the interview, and which questions they ask, so they’re giving candidates the opportunity to talk about the real skills and experiences they bring to the table,” Linn says. 

Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.

Read More

Great ResignationCompensationReturn to WorkCareersLaborSuccess Stories