Talent Acquisition

Even the Best Resume Is Insufficient For Showing Your Work History in 2022

By Rae Witte

Last updated: Mar 7, 2023

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Looking for a new job? It’s time to look beyond the resume.

Hinterhaus Productions for Getty Images.
Hinterhaus Productions for Getty Images.

"Can you explain the gap in your work experience?"

This is likely a question plenty of hiring managers can ask when they’re talking to candidates today, after an estimated 7.7 million full-time workers lost their jobs at the beginning of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, we’re in the midst of The Great Resignation as droves of workers are voluntarily leaving their jobs amid unsatisfactory long term work conditions and wage stagnation as the cost of living continues to rise. It’s been reported that 4.5 million people quit their jobs during this period.

With the rise of the multi-hyphenate, someone with various skills or professions, and about 59 million gig workers in the U.S. in 2021, the resume, an antiquated biographical document, is an insufficient means of exhibiting a worker’s combination of full-time work, side work and anything in life that may interfere with consistent time at a job, like childcare or taking care of an ailing family member. A resume leaves little room to highlight major projects in time spent at full-time jobs, and forces gig workers to choose between pages and pages of contract gigs, or simply leaving them off, making their resumes seem sparse, and hoping for a call back.

The first recorded use of a resume dates back to 1482, when Leonardo Da Vinci submitted a list of his skills and experience to the Duke of Milan. In the U.S., they became popularized in the 1930s, and by the 1950s they had become a near-universal prerequisite in the job application process.

With all of the advancements that the last 70 years have afforded society, the resume just isn’t cutting it for a sufficient initial screening process — particularly in the creative, digital and startup spaces of 2022. The resume fails to highlight the all-encompassing reality of work in 2022, and the multitudes workers contain.

Landing a job in a nascent field without a resume

Michael Tommasiello recalls getting a job in social media about a decade ago when roles in community management, social media strategy and similar roles barely existed. To the extent that they existed at all, there weren't many people who could list it on their resume as work experience.

“I remember sitting in SoHo House one day. I’d just quit my job because I hated it, and I wanted to do social media but I had no background in it,” he told The Org. Until then, he’d been working at marketing agency Digitas as an analyst crunching numbers and doing digital ad buys.

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His interest in social media as a profession peaked when he ran his Twitter account as an anonymous persona using the same tenets as his work at his full-time job. “I’d launched my Twitter account sort of in the same way that I was launching these paid click campaigns for brands when we were doing things like buying banner ads. I wondered if I could grow my account this way,” he said.

In discussing this with his friend and now-influencer, Brendan Fallis, he suggested Tommasiello meet with his manager, who was working in an experiential marketing agency that represented a few models and other talent and was motivated to leverage social media in a more meaningful and efficient way. Fallis said they could use someone that understood the nuances of social media, but also the data.

Tommasiello showed up to the meeting with the CEO of this agency without a resume, but bearing his iPad, the notes he’d written about his strategy for growing his account and the media sites that picked up his cultural commentary tweets – what one might consider an early form of a media kit for an influencer.

“You didn’t have any impressions or all the data you have now. I just showed him my account, how I grew it and that my following was 50,000 people – which was a lot at that time,” Tommasiello said.

In recognizing Tommasiello was able to build this sizable following from his content on an anonymous account alone and without any celebrity attached to it, the CEO hired him with the intention of him running social media accounts for their talent.

A decade later, as he’s in a position to hire, Tommasiello says he doesn’t find resumes to be particularly interesting or thought-provoking. “I want somebody who approaches it like, ‘You can look at my page, look at my engagement and look at how I've built this community,’” he said. “I want somebody who's proud of the stuff they're putting on the internet and is down to show it. At this point, I think your Instagram should basically just be like your living portfolio.”

Using other tools to evaluate candidates

Similar to the social media editors of a decade ago, there’s plenty of jobs today in quickly developing spaces that didn’t exist five years ago. Searching for talent for a position such as an authenticator at the sneaker, streetwear and collectibles resale marketplace StockX has the potential to make for a challenge in hiring.

The company currently has over 300 workers between its 11 authentication centers worldwide who are responsible for verifying that the products being sold on StockX are authentic and in sufficient condition. Because this position is only about five years old industry-wide, StockX tends to be a little more open-minded in terms of work experience and the job application process.

As the culture around sneakers and streetwear is founded in hype, there are plenty of candidates pursuing those roles. Director of Global Talent Acquisition Melany Austin said more of StockX’s hires are direct applicants today than three years ago.

While StockX does ask for resumes, it’s not a requirement. As it’s very possible for applicants with an acute understanding of sneakers may not have work experience within the space, it’s necessary that StockX is open to candidates listing a range of job experiences, rather than someone who has specifically done sneaker authentication. “We look at retailers, the direct companies [of the products on the marketplace], or people who have experience in reselling. Thrift stores, for example, they do authentication,” Austin said.

StockX has considered and hired candidates without resumes. Austin points to the company’s pre-screening questionnaire as a great tool for understanding candidates and their potential fit beyond the resume.

“When candidates come to our site to apply, we have questions about things like their top three items on our site. If they could have any item on StockX, what would their dream item be?” she said. ‘“Then we ask other job related questions around whether they buy or sell on the platform. Are they familiar with our brand? Why StockX? Etcetera.” This provides more context for the role that few candidates have already held and makes it so the resume isn’t a necessity.

“We’ve actually seen some interesting submissions. We've had people submit videos, people tag us on different social media, and they'll send in a quick bio. Others have told us about their [sneaker] collection,” she added.

Videos – like that of a sneaker YouTuber – have also been used and help the StockX team see not only the knowledge an applicant has within the content they created specifically on the items StockX sells, but their passion too. “We've actually had somebody submit a video showing a fake sneaker and the real one and talking through how they knew it was a fake. From an authentication point of view, it was really cool to see that,” she said. Austin added that a submission like that stands out because it’s different.

Taking an intentional approach

However, not everyone is part of a multi-billion dollar industry of enthusiasts who have an opportunity to flip their passion into a career. Companies with less brand cache and roles in the infancy of their existence have to take a much more intentional approach. Deb Feldman, co-founder and head of business recruiting at HR consulting company Gray Scalable, says her organization finds itself consulting clients on their employer branding as much as how they’re filling roles.

She believes the stereotypical resume shouldn’t be a requirement for all applicants, and Gray Scalable helps its clients fill positions by reconsidering the outdated markers resumes typically communicate. “We’re helping clients think differently about resumes by moving away from the former sort of crutches and placeholders for what's important as the indicators for what will make a good and productive and happy employee,” she said This includes emphasizing a focus on both accomplishment and potential rather than education or company type.

Of course, not every company is on board with considering a self-taught developer over a candidate from a top-rated university, but similar to StockX, Feldman says having a consistent evaluation rubric is key in order to hire the best candidate. In terms of the role and subsequent job description, she said, “It really is about evaluating and questioning what is an absolute must [for candidate], versus the things that can be maybe a plus or looking for potential for someone to really learn something on the job.”

These considerations can be challenging to find on your age-old resume full of bullet-pointed skills rather than accomplishments and tangible results. Particularly during the Great Resignation, she says her team has to make a more active effort in recruiting passive candidates who may not have an up-to-date resume prepared at all. She says beefing up a LinkedIn profile with keywords and marking your profile as “open to opportunities” to recruiters is a way for candidates to bring recruiters to them without tweaking your resume.

Regardless of the vehicle – resume, LinkedIn, personal website, video submission – Feldman says, “Concrete examples of specific accomplishments are really meaningful.” This is not the time to be humble. She says to really showcase the way that you've been able to impact the business, the team or the organization in some meaningful way. A candidate’s presentation of that can come in many different formats.

Leveraging social media and building up expertise

This doesn’t, however, illustrate how candidates can show potential on or off of the pages of a resume, and there are currently plenty of avenues to do so. Anisha Sunkerneni leveraged Twitter, Clubhouse and blogging about beta products to land her position as an investor at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Cyphr even though was searching for an engineering job at the time.

Participating in communities on Twitter and Clubhouse grew her network in the crypto and Web3 space. The connections she gained gave her access to startups and their products she would write about on her blog. “I would test out their beta products, and then I would do a write up on them breaking down some of the product features for these startups,” she said. This allowed her to show her thought process around which companies could be worth investing in.

“I don't have a background in finance or economics or business. I never did an investing internship,” she said. Yet, she was hungry to learn more about the space she’d found herself in via social media. Reaching out to and connecting with her now boss was purely to learn more about capital investment and try to pick up these skills. What started with small research assignments grew into Sunkerneni taking on more responsibility and ultimately led to her taking on a full-time role at Cyphr.

Both Feldman and Austin mention prioritizing candidates’ work, accomplishments and potential when discussing what it is they’re looking for, all of which don’t necessarily show up on a typical resume format. If your work experience doesn’t follow a traditional route or isn’t aligned to the type of work you want to do, start small and build your own expertise within the space while establishing something to showcase your process or how you work.

For authenticators at StockX, Austin says, “The expectation is people are going to have this basic set of competencies coming in and then we're going to provide them with that type of knowledge to make experts in authentication through the training program.”

As we’ve learned and experienced first hand, the way we work is in a major transformation, be it due to the pandemic or simply technological advancements. It only makes sense that how we put ourselves in the running for new positions changes along with it. In a time in which employers need to invest more in retaining employees, a resume is insufficient in telling the entire story of how someone’s past experience can and will contribute to their company right away and in the future.

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