In the first episode of Halt and Catch Fire, Joe MacMillan, a “heavy hitting” ex-IBM employee walks into the CEOs office for an interview. After some talk about Joe’s vision of increasing sales for Cardiff Electric, the CEO jabs, “hell, hotshot. You didn’t bring in a damn resume!”

Joe smiles and confidently hands the CEO his most recent W2.

“(that’s) what 200% of quota looks like.”


And how do you think the CEO responded? By asking to see his resume? Or was the performance displayed by the paycheck was enough?

You guessed it. No resume required.

Or better yet, Joe’s evidence of performance was his resume.

While Halt and Catch Fire is merely a TV drama (set in the 80’s for that matter), it illustrates something that HR managers, and company leadership in general, are becoming increasingly aware of:

Resumes often fall short in their role of providing a realistic prediction of employee performance and behavior.

This isn’t a post meant to demonize resumes.

It’s simply a call to action for anyone involved in your hiring process. In particular, anyone incorporating “average” resume review practices into your process.

What’s average?

According to a study by, an average resume “review” consists of a “5 to 7 second” glance. Within this short time, the study’s “gaze tracking” analysis revealed 80% of focus is given to the following:

  • Name
  • Current title/company
  • Previous title/company
  • Previous position start/end dates
  • Current position start/end dates
  • Education

Notice, nowhere on this list do we find a focus on past accomplishments… Projects, online portfolios etc…

With this being the case, it’s no wonder why a quick search of resume “how to” articles brings up advice completely in-line with the above. It tells employees to re-create resumes just like most resumes submitted in the past.

Time magazine, for example, urges applicants with: “don’t get too creative”, “put your skills and expertise at the top”, and “don’t focus on your personal achievements”, among other advice.

…And we wonder why resumes are so bland and useless.

Here’s the point of this post: 

If the primary function of a resume is proving the applicant’s ability to do good work… Why not just cut to the chase and see some samples of the work itself?

When reading through a resume, you should be able to quickly see if the applicant is referencing real examples of work. A URL, an app, a website or blog, a title of a book they wrote, or a name of a project they worked on are all good examples.

Specific projects need to be mentioned, included, or linked to. That’s the point of this post. No evidence of work, no consideration. That’s the formula.

Assuming your candidate submits a resume that actually points to work, here are 3 tips to help you rate each applicant’s work:

1. Consistency:

Was the work consistent? If it’s a blog, for example, how long did they continuously write? Did they follow any particular schedule with their postings, or are there long gaps and delays?

2. Scope:

Is the scope of work large enough that they needed to collaborate with others to accomplish the job? Or were they a lone wolf? If you see a large project in their portfolio, ask them about their role in its completion. Depending on the project, you might find that they’re capable of handling large projects on their own, capable of delegating well, or neither.

3. Client feedback:

Are there any ratings or reviews of their past products/services/projects that they can point to? Yelp/Google+/Facebook etc… all work here.

4. Ask for work examples:

Finally, if you’re going to buy into this concept, call it out on your job postings. This helps qualified applicants to better understand what you’re looking for in a resume, and in a future employee. This way, employees who can’t show examples of actual completed projects won’t even apply. Depending on how many applicants you would have received, this could save you a lot of time!


Don’t let “normal” resume practices get in the way of doing what’s best for your company.

Let’s end with this Instagram post by Sean McCabe (@seanwes):