The Future of Work Won’t Contain Resumes

Running a growing business, I read tons of resumes daily. It’s impossible to tell what a candidate is really like from a resume, so we probably overvalue the signals that we can actually pull out — fancy college, good GPA, sound-bite accomplishments at previous jobs. We also over-select for resume-writing ability — a single typo or ugly formatting is often enough to make us pass — but resume writing is not really part of the job for most of my hires. And the lack of relevant information that resumes give about a candidate means lots of time spent on phone screens and in-person interviews.

Technology is making the resume obsolete faster than we think. Now, some candidates send LinkedIn profiles in lieu of resumes. They’re better than resumes in that they give extra pieces of information: recommendations, which can be misleading but often give some insight into the candidate’s personality, as well as the people we know in common professionally. The website Unvarnished takes LinkedIn recommendations to another level by making the reviewer anonymous, and therefore more candid.

But sites like oDesk and eLance more closely reflect the future of resumes and how companies hire. When you hire someone on those sites (or similar contractor marketplaces), you don’t see things like what college they attended, you see past jobs and employer ratings. This simple reputation score is much more reliable, fair, and is harder to fudge than any resume.

Other sites pull reputation scores out of passive indicators. checks things like contributions to popular open-source projects to determine the best Rails programmers. At CrowdFlower, we assign work in the smallest possible increments, and we’ve learned that past performance on work is essential in predicting future performance.

As companies feel pressure to hire faster and hire more specialists on a part-time basis, it gets harder to even phone screen lots of candidates. At the same time, more people work on a part-time basis and have work experience with more companies. Reputation scores in online workplaces will start to replace resumes as the main initial hiring criteria. As such, the scores will need to become more nuanced. More faceted reputation scores might tell you that someone is good at back-end programming and bad at communicating, a great fit for certain programming jobs but not others.

The resume is just one part of a hiring process, and there’s lots of crucial effort and process that goes into assessing someone’s skill once you’ve contacted them. But there’s a high cost of time associated with every candidate you contact. Improving the initial part of the hiring pipeline — and giving the best people a chance to prove themselves — makes businesses hire better and run more efficiently. At the same time, the ethical and legal issues around who owns our reputation data will grow in importance as that data becomes crucial in shaping our careers.

Will the reputation scores from various sites start to merge over time? Will someone build a site where I can look at someone’s TopCoder rank and their reputation answering questions on Will a site like LinkedIn, or a new upstart like Unvarnished, turn into a one-stop shop for evaluating a potential hire? It seems inevitable that online reputation will become the best first filter on a candidate, and that someone will turn that into quantifiable data, like an SAT score so that candidates can be filtered faster.

Lukas Biewald is the CEO of CrowdFlower which is organizing CrowdConf 2010, an event focused on the future of distributed work to be held in October.