Resumes are bullshit

Today, I was asked by a consultancy agency to provide a resume (or Curriculum Vitae or CV) with “some more meat on it” than one I had sent earlier which was very basic and with simple bullet points. I have always felt that resumes are bullshit and I have always wanted to blog about it so this was my cue to finally write down my thoughts on the subject. Here are a few reasons why resumes are bullshit:

  • Resumes tell what you worked with but not how.
  • Your former jobtitle as “Dynamic Creative Supervisor” sounds like it was created with the Bullshit Job Title generator (which indeed I just did).
  • A resume does not tell whether or not you can actually solve problems. Like the FizzBuzz problem. 1
  • Paula Bean was apparently able to get a job based on her resume. That was a bad idea.

Resumes might be good for initial weeding out in applications but unfortunately this will often mean that inexperienced programmers do not stand a chance in the job race and I think that is a shame. I myself am a good example of a person with a thin CV when it comes to IT-related experience which is mainly due to the fact that I have spent most of my time at the university being a teaching assistant instead of having a job at an IT-company. But does this mean that my problem solving skills are worse than a person having worked for twenty years doing the same thing over and over? I think not.

I do not deny that experience is important and Peter Norvig’s essay Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years is a good reminder that programming is a skill that is only acquired with hard work over an extended period of time but putting so much emphasis on a piece of paper is sad. Is there no better general alternative?

So after having dutifully updated my CV, I wrote this comment to the consulting agent (translated from Danish):

In a time where one can buy diplomas online, improve on reality in one’s CV and in many ways get by in life by cheating, I think it is very unlucky that choosing employees is still based on something as untrustworthy as a piece of paper with a Latin title and some dates and job titles. I can find out more about a person’s personality in a 10-minute conversation than I can reading a personal description and I can learn more about a person’s competencies by posing a simple IT-related problem and have them solve it than I can by going through every former position the person has had.

And here is his response (translated from Danish):

I see what you’re saying about CVs but actually, I do not entirely agree with you.

CVs are extremely important in our sales process because they decide whether we get the opportunity to come in and further discuss a job with the customer (they often have a number of CVs from different consultants to choose from). I get an enormous amount of bad CVs sent to me and my prejudice from seeing the CV is rarely different from when I actually meet the person later.

Remember that CVs are not about improving on reality but presenting the material in a professional manner and with focus on the essentials…. This is something that is valid for sales in general.

So the jury is up on the question but the title of this blog post remains the same. Meanwhile, I hope I didn’t scare him away :-)

Update: Since writing this article, my views have been challenged from a lot of different people which is a good thing. However, there are plenty of articles to support my point. Here is a few:
Forbes on resume lies
Yahoo Finance on resume lies
Job Bank USA on resume lies


  1. I have a first-hand account from a friend who was hiring people and tried out the FizzBuzz problem in his interviews and could confirm what the linked article states.


  1. Your thoughts and the agents were both interesting. I have to admit, as I work on my own resume, that I have thought often that resumes are bullshit… in fact, I googled that exact phrase to see what came up and that’s how I ended up here… haha.

    To me, I look at example resumes, where the first maybe 7th of the resume is simply a section of bullet-pointed experiences or skills such as:

    proficient at:
    – project budgeting
    – team management
    – product strategy
    – revenue analysis
    – cliente management

    I look at that, and I just wonder, what good is that list? I could put anything in a list, and SAY I have experience or skill, or just copy and past the generic, obvious skills necessary for whatever job, but how does that help the interviewer? There’s nothing to back it up? Or, someone may take a tiny involvement in a part of a project and then list it as a skill or proficiency in this section, in a way that implies a lot more knowledge and experience.

    I suppose part of the point of the resume is the ability to know WHAT the employer wants to see, and the ability to trim this all down into something that fits on one page without being a chore to read through. But still, I do wonder, what constitutes a ‘bad CV’? How can one really get a good impression of the candidate through something that is in so many ways a formulaic?

    I guess also, I just want to scream out “BULLSHIT!” whenever I read the word ‘proven’ in a resume with no substantiation. I guess when it comes down to it, maybe I DO disagree with you in a way in thinking that the work experience you can show is one of the most important things a resume can contain, but at the same time, I agree with you that CVs seem to do an awful job at capturing so many other valuable qualities and skills.

    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for your thoughts!

      I have to admit, as I work on my own resume, that I have thought often that resumes are bullshit

      Writing a resume/CV continues to be a pain for me, even with a few years of experience. I have begun referring more to my personal website instead of my CV whenever possible. However, the CV is still such an integral part of the hiring process for many companies so it is difficult to get around it.

      I look at that, and I just wonder, what good is that list? I could put anything in a list, and SAY I have experience or skill, or just copy and past the generic, obvious skills necessary for whatever job, but how does that help the interviewer?

      I completely agree that it is easy to add skills on the CV that are unsubstantiated but most recruiters will hopefully see right through this at an interview. Getting to do an actual interview is the key though, but it can be difficult without experience. And when applying for a first job, there is no experience. It is a chicken-and-egg problem that I hear about pretty often. So how does flowery language help the interviewer? I don’t know. It probably doesn’t help anything. But, maybe the choice of skills or wording helps. For example, writing a coherent resume shows that one is good at organizing thoughts and language… or something like that :-)

      But still, I do wonder, what constitutes a ‘bad CV’? How can one really get a good impression of the candidate through something that is in so many ways a formulaic?

      Honestly, I have no idea. But I think having an incoherent resume that does not “flow” so well would be considered “bad”.

      maybe I DO disagree with you in a way in thinking that the work experience you can show is one of the most important things a resume can contain

      I don’t think we disagree actually. I don’t think work experience is the most important thing at all. I think the ability to solve new problems is much more important than many years of experience because it can be difficult to determine what value the many years of experience provide. I like the following quote:

      Do you have 20 years experience or do you have the same 1 year of experience twenty times?Scott Hanselman

      For most jobs that I would be interested in, I would always value the first rather than the latter.

  2. I have to agree with everything you said. I hate resumes with a passion. I think they are useless and dead. As long as you know what you are doing then that is the only thing that should matter. No matter how many times I try to fix my resume it still feels empty or something is missing. I just hate them.

    1. I know how you feel. I always try to point potential employers and recruiters to my website to show that I both write a bit of prose and a bit of code outside of work. It is rare that anyone looks at it, they are mostly obsessed with what’s in the resume :-)

  3. So…fast forward to 2019 and on, Résumés/CVs are still BS to the extreme core, at the point of no return. They make even the copywriters and the SEO experts cringe.

    I would say also; just because someone has 8+ years of experience on a particular position, it doesn’t truly mean that person can perform. He/She might already be burned out and just want that position again to make ends meet (AND can bullshit their way in during the interview…how else they got the experience in the first place.)…ah, the comfort zone…no wonder why employers can’t get that Senior level bastard to do more or be more “innovative.” An external voice yelling at the CEO: _Leave that poor bastard alone, he just wants to die in peace. And give him back his bi-weekly paycheck, you assclown._

    On the other hand, a less-than-1-year or even a newly grad with no experience are more likely to be enthusiastic and be much more willing to learn and adapt. They can absorb like a sponge and could even out-perform the senior levels because they have the energy and drive. And if they do leave and start their own companies, well good for them. That company/employer should support their decisions. Be good to them (employees), and they’ll more likely be complementary rather than competitive.

    Thank you for your post David.

    1. Hi Timothy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Indeed, it’s 2019 and 8 years after I initially wrote this post, yet I still largely agree with myself (what a relief, haha). Having now had the opportunity to be involved in the hiring process a few times, I can see how the CV works as a very basic filter, but it’s no more than that. It’s interesting that consulting (from what I hear from friends) is still largely based on submitted CVs and no coding exercises or problem solving. Having worked a lot with machine learning the last couple of years, I also wonder why no-one has truly figured out how to make an (unbiased) automatic screening process which would hopefully help the less experienced (but skilled/enthusiastic) get ahead in the game. I’m sure that some companies work on this though, but I guess it’s probably not an industry standard yet.

      1. Thank you David for your reply. I’m really glad to see your response. Good to know that you still largely agree with what you wrote lol. Yea, the whole Resume/CV ordeal is just a very basic filter and that’s it. Some recruiters say that it is a way to see if that person is “consistent” or not base on the years that they’ve worked there, wherever it is. To which I replied . . . (ಠ_ಠ)?

        It’s also basic to the point of prejudice tho; just because someone is not putting enough keywords that the w/e ATS picks up, that applicant is automatically rejected. There are literally YouTube videos on how to “game the system” so they can be read by actual fleshy peeps. And of course, the other way of getting hired is by nepotism.

        I have a feeling that solving this problem is something that I’m called to do for some reason lol. Lofty, but hopeful.

  4. Resumes are bullshit largely because NOBODY reads them. In both my current job search and the in those I’ve navigated over the last five years, it is obvious that recruiters, both contract and in-house, rely completely on the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), specifically its keyword search function. The is confirmed by the fact that my inbox is inundated almost daily with spam from recruiters for positions that I am obviously not a fit for, which shows that they spent not even 60 seconds glancing at my resume. One example: at my last job we used Salesforce for everything from Configuration and Change Management to Asset Tracking, and I listed use of the tool as one of those with which I have user experience. Yet at least a dozen recruiters, having had the word “Salesforce” pop up in an ATS keyword search, just assumed right off the bat that I had years of experience as both a Salesforce programmer and administrator. This clearly indicates that they didn’t even glance at the bullets in the resume itself. Had they done so they would never have wasted their time or mine. I know that I am far from the only person disgusted and frustrated by this.

    Given that obviously no one bothers to read resumes anymore, why not just draft up a list of keywords that have anything remotely to do with your past experience and then just upload that list to a site like or CareerBuilder? The effect is ultimately the same as posting a complete resume, but wastes only a fraction of the time and effort.

    It really all comes down to two words where industry is concerned: “laziness” and “carelessness.”

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