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Utah Business


Are Résumés Outdated?

Despite Utah employers’ current run on the labor market, fewer employees are dusting off the ole’ résumé—at least not before trading them in for a more up-to-date model.

The majority of job applications still ask for the submission of a résumé, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. But thanks to the rise of social media and other talent-finding algorithms, it’s increasingly less likely that a human will ever read these résumés from top-to-bottom.

Given the diminished role of the résumé, Utah career coaches say prospective candidates are taking a more holistic approach to market their talents. This doesn’t mean candidates spend less time honing their résumé—in fact, the modern résumé is shorter and tailored more specifically to individual jobs than they ever were before.

“Long gone are the days where someone can have a master résumé that’s four pages long,” says Jon Mathews, a work success coach with the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “They really need to do the work to re-write that résumé to each job they are applying to.”

It’s not just job seekers who have their work cut out for them. Employers, too, are finding innovative new ways to attract talent in an increasingly competitive—and increasingly broad—marketplace.


Upgrading a biased, outdated process


As in most every aspect of modern life, the factor driving the most disruption in the hiring process is, of course, technology.

Social media, especially outlets like LinkedIn, are increasingly eliminating the need for employers to sit around and wait for candidates to apply after posting their ad on pertinent job boards. A full 80 percent of recruiters in Utah now use LinkedIn to locate potential talent, Mr. Mathews says.

Even after prospective applicants are located, hiring managers can now use algorithms to screen résumés en mass to identify promising candidates for interviews. Customized applications with tests and questions tailored to a specific job opening assist in the computerized sorting—and are also increasingly common.  Even the interviewing process can now be automated, thanks to services from companies such as South Jordan-based, HireVue.

HireVue’s software screens recorded interviews, not just for the skills described by the subject of the interview, but also for less-apparent soft skills to determine whether the candidate is a likely fit for the company. The technology saves time for hiring managers, according to HireVue CEO Kevin Parker, and is more effective at selecting the right candidate for the job, and company, in question.

Part of the reason why managers are moving away from résumés, Mr. Parker says, is that résumés don’t predict very much.

“A résumé is just a false way of thinking about talented people,” he says. “It’s a great place to have certificates… but it’s not a great deciding point.”

In recent years, employers have moved away from using credentials such as degrees, certificates, and even job history to identify quality candidates. Today’s managers are more interested in skills and capabilities, especially talents that can be difficult to identify such as creativity, problem-solving, and empathy.

Computer algorithms can look for patterns in applicants’ speech and facial expressions to identify these skills—potentially in applicants whose résumé wouldn’t have prompted an interview.

“The things that we have traditionally relied on,” Mr. Parker says, “didn’t really predict success. It had the appearance of a great process, but it was very biased. It had the illusion of a good process.”

This is especially appealing to employers who seek to attract a more diverse workforce. Rather than recruiting from the same universities year after year, employers are using digital tools to identify talented individuals regardless of their background.

New technologies have eliminated the geographical barriers that once made acquiring diversity difficult, Mr. Parker says. Today’s employers can use digital tools to locate and connect with more candidates from more places than ever before—which for job seekers means that the competition for any one job, regardless of the jobsite location, is increasingly global.

And with so many additional tools now available to employers, the résumé now comes into play both earlier—and  later—in the hiring process than it did in the past.


The résumé’s career pivot


With all the changes in the job application process, the modern résumé serves three main purposes, according to Utah career coaches. résumés are still used to narrow the field of applicants for interview, though this process is now largely automated. They help make the case for—or against—hiring a particular candidate. And increasingly, they’re used as a tool for networking.

Even in fields where a résumé is no longer strictly necessary, having one on hand helps present a professional front at networking or industry events, says Tracy Harris-Belnap, who oversees the work success program at the Utah Division of Workforce Services. Some professionals, she says, have even created condensed versions—essentially extended business cards highlighting their personal skillsets—to hand out.

While managers have no interest in unsolicited résumés, job seekers might email résumés to their friends in their target industry to highlight their personal skill set and request help in identifying appropriate openings.

Providing a condensed résumé to connections within a target company, on the other hand, is a smart and growing strategy, according to Amy Adler, a certified master résumé writer and career coach at Five Strengths Career Transition Experts in Salt Lake City. Most new hires, Ms. Adler says, still start with someone on the inside saying, “hey, I know a guy.”

“People hire people. People do not hire résumés,” she says. “Being a person before you’re a résumé is a way to build up advocacy within a company.”

While the value of in-person networking remains intact, Ms. Alder says, the rise of online networking has opened up the “old boys club” to candidates from all manner of backgrounds. Professionals no longer need attend certain schools, or join certain associations, to get their résumés into the right hands.

Good recruiters no longer use online résumé databases, either, Ms. Adler says—they’re spending their time on LinkedIn and other social media sites.  Mr. Mathews says he teaches his clients to research desired industries diligently to identify key terms recruiters may be searching for. Job seekers should include at least 50 desirable skills on their LinkedIn profiles, he says.

Because hiring managers will also likely use software to screen applicants once they’ve solicited résumés, a proper résumé is optimized for search with job-specific keywords and a clean, uncluttered design. Generic openings—such as objective statements—are no longer used, Ms. Adler says, and including salary requirements is more likely than not to screen a candidate out of the process.

Instead of just showing what the candidate is good at, she says, an effective résumé will explain why the candidate is a good choice.


A two-way street


Between the rise of online networking and Utah’s competitive labor market, job hunting has become a much more passive process for candidates as employers take on a more active role, seeking out candidates on their own or through recruiters.

Recruiting talent, Mr. Mathews says, is changing in many of the same ways that finding a job has changed. Businesses are increasingly using social media to meet candidates where they are, rather than waiting for the candidates to find them via job boards. Service-oriented companies that need to hire large number of employees have begun experimenting with new social media aps as they become available. McDonald’s, for example, has set up an application process on Snapchat.

“Employers are trying to engage job seekers and make it easier” to begin the application process, Mr. Mathews says.

Because prospective job seekers have so many opportunities currently available to them, Mr. Parker says, employers need to make the application process as easy as possible. Multiple-choice skill tests, while popular, might drive top candidates away, he says. Interviews may need to take place outside the traditional 9-5 window to accommodate candidates who are already employed full-time.

Indeed, Mr. Mathews says, the majority of Workforce Services clients right now are not looking to locate work, but hoping to upgrade their current job or change their career trajectory.

Smart employers aren’t just reaching out to talent directly, Mr. Mathews says, but also crafting their job descriptions and advertising carefully to attract potential candidates. Job ads include more attention-getting hooks and go beyond describing the responsibilities of the open position to include details about the company’s culture, mission, and perks. Discussing compensation and describing available benefits, though still somewhat taboo, are good ways to attract talent, Mr. Mathews says. Many current job seekers, he says, will not apply to jobs that don’t discuss compensation, assuming the job is poorly paid.

The hiring process, Mr. Mathews says, is a two-way street: just as job candidates should use their résumé to market what they have to offer, companies, too, must make clear what they bring to the table to compete for talent.

The tight market, however, doesn’t mean employers have to settle for less-qualified candidates, Mr. Mathews says. “There are definitely people who are employed looking for that next move.”

Emma Penrod is a journalist based in rural Utah who covers science, technology, business and environmental health. She writes a weekly water politics newsletter at and Tweets about the latest science and industry news @EmaPen. When she's not writing, reading or researching, she's hunting sagebrush-scented air fresheners.