the context of content (what is a resume anyway?)

Recruiters will use any kind of information to find candidates.  I once literally got contact information off of a bathroom wall and, yes, I made a placement.

We won’t discuss the industry.

Recruiters seek out the people we place, and we find them anywhere they are. It is what we do – especially good recruiters – we leverage information in order to reach out to the folks who are doing what is in demand. We find them where they are in order to put them where we need them to be.

That is how it has always been and that is, I suspect, how it will always be until there is no longer a need for us, and oh how I hope I don’t see that day.  Currently there is a lot of information out there for the parsing.  One might say there is more information on all industries readily accessible to our grabby mitts than there ever has been – thanks to social tendencies, cloudy skies and a growing emphasis on analytics and data.  A savvy recruiter in most any industry can find prospective candidates out there on the internets doing what prospective candidates do – which is working the job they currently have.

Technical recruiters can peruse places like github and stackoverflow to their hearts content, and other industries and specializations also have their special places. While it is incredibly helpful,  there is a dark side to all of this readily available information.  Sometimes recruiters can forget that all of these social profiles or online work examples are not replacement resumes.

A resume, in whatever format, is a carefully constructed argument for consideration. Even without a cover letter it exists in order to be examined in relation to a need.  This is different even than an online portfolio or presence which is more a location for activity as it is an argument for consideration.

Today there was some discussion by some technical recruiters on twitter regarding their preference for stackoverflow or github instead of a cover letter, and we had a few exchanges.twitter talk


I’ve seen a lot of discussion online from developers regarding how employers and recruiters  use of github and stackverflow in hiring, much of it is pretty unpleasant, and deservedly so.  Not only are many recruiters pretty hamfisted in how they use information on these sites, when we pretend that places like this provide  accurate representations of individuals we are missing something important – their own ability to curate and position.  It isn’t about being able to read code, we miss the context for the code, and if we think that isn’t relevant information we are wrong.

I’ve also seen managers become less interested in candidates who didn’t have a github profile or whose profile was pretty empty, even though there may be perfectly good explanations for there being a lack of code they can share publicly or semi-publicly. Sometimes that disinterest continued even after code samples were provided in other ways.  I’ve seen people pass on candidates because they didn’t like the kind of code that was contributed, or didn’t see enough of something they wanted to see, or too much of a flavor they didn’t like. The conclusions we can jump to when looking at prospective candidates doing what they do online are actually pretty amazing – and many times can be terribly off.  We don’t have the context for content we find online. We can’t be sure that the content we find has been positioned for eyes like ours.  In a way we  are interlopers.  We are going out to the places where folks do what they do and seeing them in the wild, so to speak, and some of us, sometimes, think that read in the wild can replace a resume or cover letter. I think we need to be careful.  If it is possible for us to misconstrue carefully constructed information on a resume/cover letter, and it is, how much more careful must we be when assessing a candidate based on information we collect on our own?

We need to remember the difference between information we collect online on our own, and information a candidate provides us in relation to a job search, or interest in an opportunity.  The context of the content can be the most important thing we don’t have.




3 Responses

  1. Steve Levy
    Steve Levy February 12, 2014 at 4:06 pm |


    Wish you had called me first – because you would have heard me say “convergent validity” as in I withhold my opinion of someone until I see information about them that has come from many angles.

    In the scheme of things technical, code is one significant equalizer across languages and cultures – so I’m going to weight it heavier than say a resume or a cover letter. I’m also going to find Forum posts where they interact with others. Perhaps a Tweet, a blog post, or something even more insidious.

    I think the take-home lesson here is that while most average or worse recruiters (that means most of them) lean towards finding ways to knock out someone, the really great recruiters are looking for ways to INCLUDE someone. Code alone can’t do this…

  2. Rob
    Rob February 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm |

    Github? Stackoverflow? Is it more of a problem that I have not heard of either…or that I just have no desire to develop and maintain 52,817 different ‘social profiles?’

  3. paul may
    paul may March 1, 2014 at 12:24 am |

    Very true and interesting read. Thx Lisa 😉


Leave a Reply