In any given day on LinkedIn, various ‘resume coaches’ can be seen offering advice to people who have been looking for a job, in some cases, for six months or longer.
Advice ranges from the presentation of the resume and its length, to the kinds of details that should be prominently featured.
“Remember to state your age and gender”, suggested a commenter – an HR practitioner – on one post. “Your name should be bigger and in bold, placed centre at the top”, said another.
Resumes, and the hiring process itself, is a bit like dieting: everyone has an opinion, and a general consensus appears to be lacking.
There’s likely good reason for this, especially now that we’re in an age that recognises and embraces diversity and inclusion. Names, in many cases, indicate sex or gender and age indicates how old a person is. Neither of these gives insight into a person’s knowledge, skills and abilities.
With the exception of genuine occupational requirements (e.g. washroom attendants, acting roles, the provision of education on a gender, age, or sex-specific issue), employers have no use for the knowledge of whether a person is male or female, married or single, or above the age of 40.
If there’s a genuine desire for equality, then it should mean that, genuine exceptions aside, the only consideration for a job should be the person’s demonstrated capacity to take up the role.
This might sound to some like a New Age, modern approach that goes against the grain of conventional hiring. And yet, a 192-year-old conservative publication in the UK takes the view that ‘talent is evenly scattered’ and that ‘CVs are not much use’.
Every year, The Spectator – a weekly paid-for British magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs – looks for interns to join their team, with the possibility of employment upon completion.
In April this year, The Spectator will become the first magazine in the world to publish its 10,000th issue and is the fastest-growing current affairs magazine in Europe. It hires by asking former interns to join its team, and so grows a closely-knit and diverse group.
Applying to The Spectator, candidates are asked to not submit their CV. In the hiring process, names are withheld. The editor adds, “…we don’t care where (or whether) you went to university.”
Current staff at The Spectator include a podcast editor who was a former Supermarket manager; a news editor who previously worked for a hotel; and a freelancer who is still a student at university. The hiring scheme was created in honour of one of the magazine’s former editors, Frank Johnson, who had ‘minimal formal education’.
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So, how does a two-century-old respected politics and culture magazine hire its interns, if not through reviewing their qualifications and past experiences, or even knowing their names?
Well, as the advert says, it looks for ‘flair, enthusiasm, dedication to the reader and capacity for hard work’, and it does this by setting out a variety of tasks – a number of which candidates must choose and complete to show their creativity and capacity for providing quality work.
The tasks are set across the three main areas of the magazine: Editorial, ‘Political mischief’, and Broadcast. Let’s take a look at two examples from each category in the advert. There are several tasks in each, from which candidates must complete three or four tasks.
- Write two web headlines for any five Spectator magazine articles (so ten in total).
- Suggest three improvements to The Spectator magazine and three to the website.
- Which MP has changed their position on Boris Johnson the most times? Provide evidence for your claim in a 250-word blog.
- Send three topics for a Freedom of Information request.
- Produce and present a short video explaining a news story you have seen.
- Give three suggestions for how to grow podcast listenership.
The Spectator’s approach aligns with current research on hiring, such as findings that suggest past work experience doesn’t predict a new hire’s success, and it also opens the doors to people who might not have had the opportunity to go to a good university (or attend university at all) yet still possess a creative and inquisitive mind.
Alongside the tasks, The Spectator requires a 400-word cover letter stating what candidates feel they could bring to the magazine. It’s a broad process that moves away from the narrow-mindedness of the conventional hiring process, where an otherwise brilliant candidate might be rejected due to an unfortunate typo in their CV.
Of course, presentation and details matter. But employers risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater if they focus solely on presentation and not on a person’s capacity to do a good job.
An Oxford graduate might be incompetent outside the boundaries of their glittering academic transcript. On the other hand, a Supermarket worker might have excellent interpersonal skills and be able to execute several great ideas but was simply unfortunate in missing out on previous opportunities due to external circumstances.
As employers, it can seem like an arduous slog to shake up a hiring process best left to the 1980s. After all, the current system, flawed as it may be, is nevertheless expedient. That said, if new hires are simply brought in to ‘fill a role’, there’s a good chance that the organisation will end up with just that: a candidate who acted well during the hiring process, and who now simply fills up space in the office.
The people we bring into an organisation are surely an investment in the organisation’s mission, vision, and objectives. Fundamentally, all bosses want to know if a person can do the job well, and task-orientated processes give an insight into the suitability of prospective candidates and their abilities.
And by ensuring the removal of names, ages, qualifications, religions and marital status from applications, it allows leaders to go beyond paying lip-service to ideals and proactively serve the growth and enjoy the benefits of diversity, inclusion and equality.
Read also:How Important Is Past Experience in Predicting Job Performance?