Resumes are Misleading

Recruiters, Resumes are Steering You Wrong

Self-reported skills are misleading. As a technical recruiter, this isn’t news to you! You’re probably all too familiar with the pain of finding a prospect who looks like a great match on LinkedIn, only to realize that they’re nowhere near as knowledgeable as they made themselves out to be in their profile. Or the pain of having a seemingly great candidate knocked out of the running at the phone screen because they’re not as skilled as their resume implied they were.

Of course, every recruiter knows that some people pad their LinkedIn profiles. And resumes are just as bad! Candidates, if they’re smart, spend a lot of time meticulously polishing their work history, education, skills, and projects into a profile or resume that’s designed to get your attention. The result is a document that looks like it came from the perfect candidate. But the reality is rarely that rosy. Relying on resumes and LinkedIn to find candidates means that you’re relying on self-reported skills – which are notoriously unreliable.

And while there’s certainly some misdirection (or even outright lies) on a lot of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, there’s an even bigger reason that these self-reported skills are unreliable.

People are really bad at judging their own skill levels.

Most people aren’t purposefully trying to mislead recruiters or potential employers. But in all likelihood, they aren’t accurately gauging their own technical proficiency, either! This primarily stems from three problems:

It’s almost impossible to judge your own skills

The issue is that almost nobody has the sort of perspective necessary to objectively assess their own skills. (One study went so far as to state that “In general, people’s self-views hold only a tenuous to modest relationship with their actual behavior and performance.”) This means that most people are constantly overestimating (or underestimating) their proficiency at most things, including their professional skills.

People don’t know what they don’t know

People who are new to the industry are especially prone to this. Someone who’s right out of school or just completed a bootcamp will have very fresh skills, but they lack industry experience. They typically have a good breadth of knowledge, but lack depth. If they lean towards overestimating their own skills, they put every technology they’ve ever touched In their LinkedIn profile’s skills section. But they don’t know enough yet to realize that they still have a lot to learn! Or if they tend to underestimate themselves, they may not give themselves enough credit for a skill that they actually do have.

People compare themselves to others, but not objectively

Engineers compare themselves to other engineers constantly – it’s just human nature. But that comparison is rarely objective. Someone might think they’re a better programmer than a coworker because they solve certain problems more quickly. But they may be ignoring the fact that this coworker is better than they are at different skills. The fact that people are very bad at judging their own skills (see the first point) means that they’re also not good at comparing their skills to other people’s.  

Stop relying on self-reported skill data

When it’s left up to an individual person to tell you what their skills are, you’re unlikely to get a good idea of their actual skills or skill levels. Sometimes this is deliberate. But a lot of the time, it’s simply because people just aren’t good at evaluating their own skills.

Bottom line? It’s hard to really evaluate candidates on paper! Their self-reported skills rarely ever line up with their actual skills and skill levels.

If you can’t rely on self-reported skills, how can you weed out unqualified candidates at the top of your recruiting funnel? If they get any further – to the technical phone screen, or worse yet, the onsite – this ends up wasting a lot of time for the engineering team. Not to mention the fact that it wastes your time! You’ve got better things to do, like concentrate on great candidates with the right qualifications.

1. Use a sourcing service.

The best way to never even see unqualified candidates is to use a developer-specific sourcing service. However, it must be a sourcing service that actually pre-qualifies the candidates that they send you! Many sourcing services and recruiting firms also rely solely on self-reported skill data, which leaves you at square one. A service like CodeFights Recruiter Source, which objectively assigns every candidate a score based on their code-writing skills and knowledge of programming topics, ensures that you only see candidates who definitely have the skills you need. Since skill verification is taken care of already, this saves you and your engineering team a lot of time and energy later.

2. Streamline your outbound sourcing.

You may still need to use LinkedIn for outbound sourcing. If so, you can speed it up and take a lot of the guesswork out of the process with the CodeFights Recruiter Sourcing Assistant. This Chrome extension, available only to CodeFights Recruiter customers, analyzes the skills necessary for your open roles, as well as the data that’s already being collected on CodeFights Recruiter. The assistant then uses your data to identify high-potential prospects on LinkedIn and assign them a matching score. If they seem like a good match, you can immediately send them a coding assessment. Their results will determine whether they move forward in the process.

3. Assess prospects immediately.

Pre-screen prospects right away, at the top of your recruiting funnel. This is a great way to weed out candidates who’ve overstated their skills, before they even get to the technical phone screen. The key here is to create coding assessments that test for the right skills – not just for skills in general. Just because  a candidate can reverse a linked list doesn’t mean they have the skills you need for your open role. Ideally, this coding assessment should require minimal work from your engineering team. A product like CodeFights Recruiter Test allows you send and manage coding assessments at scale, then get back results with objective skill scores. With these, you know exactly which candidates you should move on with. All without having to waste any of your engineering team’s time!


The benefits to you? Since you will be weeding out unqualified candidates right away, this takes the guesswork out of your sourcing and recruiting. You’ll have quantitative data about candidate skills, so you’ll be able to benchmark individuals against your company’s skill thresholds. This also means that you can compare candidates more objectively, instead of relying on gut feelings or poorly remembered interactions.

Once you take self-reported skill data away from your decision-making processes, your recruiting process will speed up. You’ll save time and energy, both for yourself and for the hiring team. Stop relying on what prospects tell you about their skills. Start measuring and quantifying their skills instead!  

CodeFights Recruiter is a skills-based recruiting tool for modern hiring teams that helps companies source, test, and measure technical talent. CodeFights Recruiter gives you the tools you need to stop relying on self-reported skills. Learn more about how CodeFights Recruiter helps you use objective data to make hiring decisions.

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