Could a Storied Resume Address Top Resume Flaws?

Dr. John Sullivan’s article on about the many flaws of resumes as the “currency of recruiting”, directed at recruiters and hiring managers rather than job-seekers, lists 30 problems with resumes from the hiring decision-maker’s perspective.

Some of these issues could perhaps be addressed by the elusive storied resume — the form of which I have never quite been able to pin down — or perhaps by a new currency of recruiting that allows for job-seeker storytelling.

Sullivan (pictured) writes: “… resumes are merely self-reported narrative descriptions of the candidates’ past work.” Of course, the content of most resume actually is not especially narrative. The reader sometimes gets some sense of narrative in reading the bullet points that describe the candidates jobs, especially if the candidate has crafted those bullets using one of the story formulas I and other career experts recommend (e.g., Situation (or Problem or Challenge) –> Action –> Result).

But generally, even these storied bullet points don’t address the criteria Sullivan mentions next: “Obviously because resumes are essentially job histories, they don’t tell you anything about the person’s character, how they would act in your job, and their potential.” He’s also looking for evidence of “expectations, goals, motivators, energy, [and] innovativeness.” Would it be possible for a resume to be constructed in a way that it does tell a story about character, potential, on-the-job behavior, and the other traits Sullivan seeks? What form would it take?

The content problems with resumes can be summed up with one question, Sullivan asserts: “Does your resume accurately reflect what you are capable of doing?” to which, he says, “the answer is almost always no.” It’s possible a new form of resume could paint a picture — or tell a story — of what the candidate is capable of.

Sullivan notes that resumes also need to tell a future story:

Resumes are 100% historical, so at their very best they only cover what you have done in the past at other firms. However, those making the hiring decision need to project into the future. They need to know how you will act in this job and at this company when you are faced with this firm’s current and future problems. But unfortunately, resumes don’t include forecasts or projections on how you would act differently in this job and working environment.

It’s possible to hint at a future story on a resume — I’ve done it for clients — but it’s not easy by any means.

Of course, Sullivan lists a number of resume problems, particularly in the way employers assess the documents, that a storied resume could not address.

He also lists a number of alternatives to resumes that could solve the problems of resumes. Of these, LinkedIn profiles, portfolios, and interest-and-skills questionnaires could potentially be storytelling tools that job-seekers could deploy to give a more complete and storied picture of themselves to employers. I could especially see questionnaires written in a way that encourages applicants to tell their stories. They could be asked the same kinds of questions typically asked in a behavioral interview. These questions explore past on-the-job behavior as a way to predict future behavior (sample question: Describe a problem you soled for an employer.)