John Doe’s Resume

blank name tagAt a recent HR gathering one of the folks in attendance shared the story of a resume he had recently been shown.  The resume, received by yet another HR colleague, was a one page document written as such:




My name is John Doe.  This is my resume.


My name:                John Doe


My wife name:         Mary Doe


My father name:      Bill Doe


My mother name:     Sally Doe


My birthday:            March 1, 1955


My church:              St. John’s


My jobs:                 ABC and XYZ


My reference:           Alice Doe




This is not an exaggeration.  This was how the resume was formatted and the content/spelling that was included.

This gentleman had a work history and background that is quite common in my area, and, let’s face it, most everywhere.  He’s worked in general maintenance/ handyman/laborer roles for decades.  You may note he had no hesitation in listing his birthday and at 59 years of age he’s got a few years of working ahead of him; he quite possibly anticipates working until the day arrives when he just stops drawing breathe.

After all the initial “oh my god, how can people submit a resume like that?’ chit chat around the table died down I pointed out that this was, in my estimation, more than likely the first resume this man had every put together.  I’m quite sure that for all his working life he was able to find a job by walking into a company, completing a paper application, and landing a gig.  I theorized that he was looking for work, admonished by the HR lady to send in his resume, and so he approached a family member or friend to help him put something together.  And, quite obviously, the person who did this for him had never compiled a resume either.  At some company where this guy wanted to work an ATS demanded to be fed or a hiring manager insisted upon seeing a piece of paper.

I get it.

I just wonder – and worry – about ensuring access to jobs for people who don’t spend their days updating their resume or wondering if their online personal brand is sufficiently optimized.


There are solutions out there that focus on connecting the “hourly” job seeker with employers: Snag a Job is a well known job board and Apploi has an app that provides job seekers with the ability to create and store a profile which can then be used to “apply” for various positions at any number of companies.

As I was intrigued with the whole scenario and to satisfy my curiosity I went poking around for some local positions that might be of interest to John Doe.  After finding a Front End Loader opening (full or part time!) I set off to begin the online application process with the local staffing agency filling the position.  I appreciated that the application did not require me to key-in a lot of information (I only had to input name and contact information) but then I was asked to attach my resume.


Perhaps something like that occurred to John Doe.


I think it’s important for folks in the HR and Recruiting space who like to discuss sexy things like mobile, social employee referrals, and the candidate experience to remember that we need to focus on all job seekers.  It seems to me that many of the conversations, whitepapers and conference sessions around this topic always concern either the need to find candidates for high-demand tech positions or the experience for candidates at glamorous global companies.   There are, indeed, large retail or service companies employing tens of thousands of hourly workers who do pay attention to the process across the spectrum of their workforce; read this post about Sears as an example.

And yes, drop-off rates are discussed and some organizations are tracking and attempting to improve the process to minimize frustrations for job seekers – which is great; for every John Doe who takes a pause, types up a resume, and goes back to continue the application process there are a high number of job seekers who move on to something else.

But I wonder… when John Doe the Front End Loader drops off does it cause the same level of consternation as it does when Joe the Java Developer does?


  1. 41 million applicants ago we gave the ‘John Doe’s a face. All by starting with the interview and not the resume. Isn’t that a better reflection? Automating follow up questioning beats the hurdle of ‘did they include the necessary key words.’ Our talent acquisition technology is just now adding resume parsing! I’m glad to see more platforms advocating structured dialogs.

    Championing the Rights of Resume Poor But Potential Rich Applicants, Larry

  2. tombolt says:

    This is closer to home for me than you might guess. I am the product of a loving family with a high school educated father and a stay-at-home mother. They slaved and saved that I could have the advantage of a college degree. My father worked with his hands and probably never knew what a resume looked like. His father died when he was just a boy, so I know how hard it was for him to get ahead. I have always thought that if he had been given the advantages he gave me, I would probably not have to work for a living today.

    When I feel the urge to judge a person by their resume writing skills, I think of Dad. Many of my colleagues today would laugh at him, but here was a brilliant man with an unmatchable work ethic who never found a job he could not do. Opportunity knocked, he answered in his simple way, and paved the way for others to excel. If only more were like him! His personal brand was priceless!

  3. caracarroll says:

    Candidates like John Doe are common, and not just in retail or manual labor, and those who judge could be missing out on talent and, as tombolt pointed out, some great work ethic. I recruit for an internship program and so my job entails looking at student resumes or those of younger age. Was I somewhat shocked at what I saw when I first started doing this, sure (probably just as much as those first saw John Doe’s resume). But now I have learned that the problem isn’t that candidates don’t have talents, because they do, but they need help conveying them – also they tend to sell themselves short. I find it a personal goal of mine to help students and anyone like John Doe! I think as HR professionals part of our role is not to simply dismiss the candidate who has not been taught resume writing skills, or maybe is not the perfect interviewer (after all who is?), but to help them become better. There is no better satisfaction for me than when I have helped any candidate gain some confidence, through some tweaks on the resume, and have really identified what their talents are and make them shine! I do not write resumes for candidates because I do no think anyone really learns from that, rather I provide them notes and it is their job to decide if wish to implement the suggestions. I have found that job seekers are looking for feedback on how they can improve all the time, but many in HR either cannot or do not take the time to do so. It is never too late for a John Doe or anyone to make improvements and learn to be a more marketable candidate!

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