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[Teamwork Musings] Hiring should focus on candidate journeys rather than candidate outcomes


This may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm not a fan of the way we/hiring managers look through resumes. I think we should focus on the journeys to outcomes (good or not-so good) vs the outcomes themselves.

  • Current state: candidates submit their best achievements, focusing on the outcomes from past jobs--how much they grew social followers, number of sales secured, average hot tickets they were able to resolve weekly, etc.

    But how can we qualify those numbers?
    • Did the 200% growth come from a higher-than-average budget?
    • Did the team grow 100% in size under your leadership because the company itself was growing that fast? 
    • Did the innovation come from solely the candidate's work? Or did they have an entire team's time and support?

  • Suggested state: what if resumes provided more qualitative storytelling? Provide contextual details--what resources were you given, how much did you have to learn to get those results, how much your manager provided a blank slate of possibilities vs specific direction, etc.

    I'd love to know what the journey was like to accomplish the outcomes written on a resume.

Context is everything. Working at a specific company, going to a specific school, earning a specific title--we cannot assume that association with great things means that a candidate is perfect for us. If a team is in need of someone problem solving under specific conditions, it would be great to understand how candidates look for alternatives around similar blockers. Or, if a team is in need of someone who doesn't need a lot of direction to uncover and resolve issues, then tell me about a time when a candidate went through something like that.

Perhaps the cover letter should be replaced with prompts that would have been questions during an interview. Perhaps resume bullets should not just include outcome metrics but the conditions present to achieve those outcomes. Whatever we do, I think the current information we include doesn't tell us enough about how a candidate works. And that's what we should be looking for in new team members.


What do you think?


Oh man, I love this question! I strongly agree that largely, the way we (corp. America as the royal we, not any one particular company) go about the hiring process is deeply flawed. Reading 3 different work-advice books will give you 3 different ideas of what a cover letter should and should not do. Open with a mission statement, no, open with a formal introduction, no wait, don't be too goes on and on.

Sometimes applicants can guess what the company is looking for based on the job description and website, but oftentimes those can reflect more of what the company aims to be, not what their culture truly is. 

A great solution would be just as you suggested, short, open-ended questions as part of the online application. A few questions to test the applicant's knowledge paired with a few questions to get a sense of their personality and work nature could go a long way.

Resumes are a whole other bucket of questions, and as you said, can be easily written to pitch an applicant one way or another, not necessarily ever capturing their true nature of work. I do think we're in a historic time for changing the way we interview and select candidates and hope that as that evolves, so do the applications themselves.  

Like # people like this

I relate, @Mel Policicchio! So many different expectations for applications. In a world where companies should want to know what potential looks like, I wish companies would do everything they could to tell candidates what they want so that they can see what candidates might look like at their best.

Also, what you said about resumes changing feels ripe for a time when reading data without context is dangerous. I read Cathy O'Neil's book, "Weapons of Math Destruction," recently and it reminded me that there are multiple ways to look at data. And I feel like resumes are still being read through a one-sided lens.

Totally agree, @Christine P_ Dela Rosa ! Like you said, without context, numbers on a resume don't really give a hiring manager a good idea of a candidate's accomplishments, only their ability to market themselves (which is sometimes what they're looking for, but certainly not always!)

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

I love the idea of the structural shift of resumes. I think resumes, in general, are long overdue for a complete reevaluation. 

I think achieving what you outlined would be a great change of pace. I'd be concerned about length needing to grow because of it. I do think 1-2 pages is still the desired length. 

I've always looked at resumes as: Do they have the bare minimum to warrant an interview? If they do, I don't really care what else is in the resume. At that point, it becomes completely about the interview, conversations, personality, and determining if they are a good fit for our team and company. 

Like # people like this

For sure, @Josh Costella. The balance between skimmable resumes alongside contextual information is the ideal we may not yet know how to achieve. But to your point, maybe we shouldn't need context to accompany resumes and we simply need a "minimum bar" to be achieved so that the next step (interviews etc) can drop in that qualitative layer. And in that scenario, then we wouldn't even have to revamp resumes besides standardizing them to provide pass/fail or move forward/discard-level information. 

Like Bill Sheboy likes this

Quite an interesting topic!

Yes, and...I wonder in conditions where bots often perform much of the initial sourcing/filtering of submitted resumes/cover letters, what would this look like?  How would such a structure get the person noticed enough to get to the next step where they provide the qualitative storytelling, either via intake application Q&A or human-contact interview screening?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

More on that note, @Bill Sheboy ...I'd ask the question: what are we scanning for in resumes that can be automated even if resumes are not yet written in that way? Also, what is not automatable?

@Josh Costella, congrats! You've been picked as the commenter to win this week's March Musing contest. I'll email you to get your shipping info :)

I really like this question.

Im I've done a lot of interviews in the last years and talked to so many different people with totally different backgrounds. One thing I always looked at where their resume sure, but they din't give me any context at all. And there are always two sides of a coin. Often quitting jobs can be interpreted positive and negative for example. 

When being in an interview, I always try to focus on the person, their story, what motivated them to apply for the job, what they are passionate about and how they think it will help us, as a company, to grow in the future.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Yes! The interview is really the important leg. 

But I suppose resumes help whittle folks down to who can make it into the interview...I just wish there was a way to either add more value to resumes or help reduce the vias in resumes.

Darryl Lee Atlassian Team Mar 11, 2022

Awesome points @Christine P_ Dela Rosa ! This reflects the same to my methodology every time when interviewing someone!

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

I love to hear that there are data points (you) showing that we have momentum in this direction!


I think a resume has value, as it's a summary of everything up to that point. If you see something interesting in it, you can ask about in the interview. It also helps sift through the people who took time to actually read the job ad and respond as opposed to those who just send the same resume at everything they apply for.


Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Yes, the tailoring does say something about a candidate's investment. For sure.

Karthick S Atlassian Team Mar 25, 2022

Thanks for sharing this @Christine P_ Dela Rosa and which focuses on how evaluation plays a major role!

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
Brant Schroeder Community Leader Apr 03, 2022

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa - The whole application process is old and needs to be updated.  I agree that resumes lack context and insights into what individuals have actually accomplished.  It would be great if companies like LinkedIn would try and take this on.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Sign me up for updates if/when you build that partnership/feature/product/platform ;)


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