Technology is making the resume obsolete. Now, some candidates send LinkedIn profiles in lieu of resumes. But sites like oDesk and eLance more closely reflect the future of resumes and how companies hire because they use reputation data to shed light on a candidate.


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. RailsRankings.com 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 stackoverflow.com? 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.

By Lukas Biewald

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  1. Khürt L Williams Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Or maybe you’ll just have to do the hard work of actually meeting and interviewing people.

    1. Spoken like someone who clearly hasn’t done much hiring. If your implication is that you should have a 30 minute phone screen with everyone, rather than using portable signifiers of reputation, then you’re clearly not interested in efficiency, but rather staffing your HR department as much as possible. The naivete of this comment is astounding. (and will probably impact, correctly, your reputation)

  2. what about someone so busy working on it’s public image is not so available to simply work ?

  3. Reputation scores are not all that they are cracked up to be, was using one of these sites that claimed to be reputation based and got hundreds of requests for recommendations from people I never met or worked with.

    Even with a good rep score it can all be meaningless.

    Also, ratings from past jobs are of mixed value as most of my past bosses were laid off when I was (or soon thereafter) as companies made 200 – 2000 person layoffs due to bad management decisions. And in many cases it was expensive employees not under performers that were let go. Even was told at one job it had to do with the year and make of the company car that I had, as my car was up for replacement sooner than a team mate’s.

  4. Wait till you see Hashable. In NYC only now.

  5. researchpaper39 Monday, September 20, 2010

    Creating such a system came to my mind right after a programmer friend showed me how oDesk works. I believe in the future we will have the mixture of employer’s ratings and resumes, but it depends on a profession which type to follow. I agree that in technology and engineer sphere it may be a solution, but I am sure that, for example, an HR manager or a school teacher will not be taken to work only because of their rating. There are professions where seeing a portfolio is enough for defining a person’s qualifications, but there are also some not measurable skills, esp for jobs involving work with people, where simple positive looking and benevolence matter almost as much as previous achievements.

  6. I can tell you for sure than, when it comes to me hiring someone, I won’t need a CV. I’ll just need to see a portfolio, discuss with the person and see what’s he/she capable of.

  7. Great article and very thought-provoking. I seldom believe the “TV means the death of radio” argument so I doubt resumes will disappear, but I would argue that we are already on the path to what this article suggests. When I hire I still review resumes but I also check LinkedIn and Google right away. I completely agree that resumes are a mix of someone’s real experience and their self-marketing prowess, so any way I can use to round out the picture is a huge help.

    My disclaimer is that I work at OnForce, a marketplace for IT field service labor. On OnForce we let people search for a service provider by the certifications they hold (Microsoft, Novell, Cisco, Comptia…), licenses, insurance, drug tests, background checks, previous work record and ratings, etc. All of these things are verified to be true. Obviously, at least for the info we make available, it’s much more reliable than a resume.

  8. Lukas,

    Very interesting article on resumes. As a former hiring manager, I too agree that resumes are quickly becoming outdated and unnecessary in today’s hiring process. As you said, it’s difficult to gauge a candidate’s true personality and interest until the phone interview — taking up a lot of a hiring manager’s time, and frankly, often leaving a person frustrated that the candidate was not who they thought they would be.

    In a sense, this is why I founded Come Recommended – a social networking site for job candidates and employers to connect directly, allowing each to target their best fit on the site. On our site candidates and employers can create detailed profiles, link to their social networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), request recommendations and interact directly with other members. Definitely check it out, and feel free to contact me with any feedback you may have.

    Heather Huhman
    Founder and president of Come Recommended
    Twitter: @heatherhuhman

  9. True that. We actually ask candidates who apply to HeadStartup NOT to send a resume, rather an email discussing their background a bit and why they feel they can be a great fit for the company. It’s amazing the insights (and also the quality) we receive.

    You can actually check out our Internship job description here: http://bit.ly/cATZhk

  10. I think that checking the candidate out through Google is a bad idea. What if he/she has a common name and there are other people with the same name?
    If you find blog posts, Twitter accounts, forum posts, etc. without his/her photos and publicly displayed email address, how can you be sure it is him/her?
    You risk misunderstandings and misjudgements this way.
    Facebook profiles are also useless if he/she is smart enough to have adequate privacy settings and only friends can access it.

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