Recruiting

It’s Time for HR Pros to Throw Out Résumés and Unstructured Interviews

Workforces and talent pools have changed dramatically in recent years; labor is more mobile than ever, diversity and inclusion have become increasingly vital for all companies, and the recruitment and retention of skilled workers is crucial to remain competitive in the global economy. Meanwhile, employees are demanding greater flexibility, professional development opportunities, and higher wages—all trends that show no sign of slowing down.

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Despite these shifts, many companies’ HR teams still rely on the hiring tools they have used for decades: résumés and unstructured interviews. This means they’re failing to assess candidates objectively, increasing their susceptibility to bias in the hiring process and harming their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

At a time when there are powerful tools for identifying which candidates have the skills and attributes necessary to be successful in their new roles, companies should take advantage of these tools instead of clinging to the status quo.

It’s long past time for companies to abandon antiquated hiring resources like résumés and unstructured interviews. Scanning a piece of paper and chatting with a candidate aren’t enough to determine whether that candidate will add value to your company, and these methods are notoriously prone to bias and fraud. The workforce has undergone a fundamental shift, and your hiring platform has to keep pace.

Obstacles to Building a Diverse Workforce

Diversity has never been more integral to the maintenance of a healthy workplace culture, which is why it’s no surprise that three-quarters of companies (according to a 2021 PwC survey) say it’s a priority. A similar proportion of jobseekers (76%) report that diversity is an important factor when deciding where to work. Beyond the fact that a focus on DEI is essential to attracting talent, it’s also a significant contributor to financial performance and innovation.

Although the importance of building a diverse and inclusive workplace is clear, the reliance on résumés in hiring has made doing so much more difficult. This is because the résumé review process is often corrupted by bias.

A study conducted by professors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business found that hiring managers ranked female and minority candidates lower for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs, and these candidates also received “less credit for prestigious internships in all fields.” A 2021 paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “Distinctively Black names reduce the probability of employer contact by 2.1 percentage points relative to distinctively white names.”

The overuse of résumés isn’t just leading to widespread bias; it’s also preventing companies from hiring qualified candidates.

Beware of Unstructured Interviews

Just about everyone has had the experience of a meandering job interview during which the discussion drifted on and off topic, focused on irrelevant information, and didn’t seem like a professional interaction. These are several of the risks associated with unstructured interviews, which are fixtures in many hiring processes even though they have a poor record of success.

A study published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making notes that unstructured interviews are a “ubiquitous tool for making screening decisions despite a vast literature suggesting that they have little validity.” According to the researchers, their own study found that interviewers “form confident impressions” even when answers are “essentially nonsense” produced by a random response system, and “interviews actually led participants to make worse predictions.” Their conclusion about unstructured interviews is blunt: “Our simple recommendation for those making screening decisions is not to use them.”

Beyond the fact that unstructured interviews have poor predictive validity, they can also compound the bias associated with résumés; interviewers’ subjective impressions will always be vulnerable to bias, even if it’s unconscious. Interviews can also make attracting talent more difficult; according to a LinkedIn survey, 83% of candidates say a “negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked.” The perception that an interview isn’t fair is a sure way to alienate candidates, and this is exactly what unstructured interviews often do.

Creating a More Objective Hiring Process

Even if companies could figure out a way to address the fact that a significant proportion of jobseekers lie on their résumés and in interviews (60% say they have claimed or would claim mastery in skills they barely use), they would still be stuck with the fact that these tools require hiring managers to make risky judgment calls. This is why HR teams have to use objective methods to identify and hire the candidates who are most likely to be successful on the job.

The most effective methods available to hiring managers are validated assessments and structured interviews. By evaluating potential employees on a consistent set of traits (such as cognitive ability and emotional intelligence), companies will have benchmarks for objectively determining which candidates are most likely to meet their needs. Structured interviews can complement preemployment assessments, as they present all candidates with a series of specific, relevant questions that minimize the role of subjective impressions. This doesn’t just make the hiring process more predictive—it also makes the process fair and equitable.

As workforces keep evolving to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive global economy, HR teams have to stop using the same old hiring strategies. Résumés and unstructured interviews have long outworn their usefulness, so for the sake of diversity and performance, it’s time for hiring managers to adopt more objective and predictive techniques.

Josh Millet is the Founder and CEO of Criteria, a venture-backed assessment company dedicated to helping organizations make better talent decisions using objective, multidimensional data.