Page 2 of 3
Dana: If you use yourself as an example customer, what is the target audience you have in mind that you are really gearing this toward?
Mike: Yeah. When we started this off we really looked at the total address of the market in the U.S. We all know what the economy is like right now, there are 13 million people out of work. If you segment those 13 million people by department of labor statistics, there are a set of them, about 8.7 million who are primarily white collar, professional, or creative roles that we think lend themselves to this format a little bit more. It is probably a little bit more of a stretch to think of someone who is going to work in a minimum wage kind of role, or a service role; that they are going to get a huge amount of utility from this. So it is where you have some skill set that you want to communicate your value.
There is another way to segment this. On average in the U.S., there are a 150 million employment events per year. And employment event is someone starting a job, leaving a job. So you can start to view each one of those as an opportunity. On average about $45 is spent per opportunity. So that’s a 2 billion dollar total address of the market across the 150 million opportunities. And that’s the thing to get after.
On average in the U.S., there are a 150 million employment events per year. … So you can start to view each one of those as an opportunity.
Dana: That sounds like a great area of potential.
Mike: It is, it is, and others have tried. Just last Friday, VisualCV sent a note to all their customers that they are ceasing operations December 30th. Which is fascinating.
Dana: Yeah, you’d think in this economy, tools that you’re providing or other tools that help people find jobs, would be of value. One of the other topics I’m writing an article on presently, is about telling your story. And that’s something that you commented on in my blog, and I was hoping to hear you say more about that. Certainly you’ve talked about story, the arc, and about characters in the story, and I’d like to get at your perspective.
Mike: Yeah, this is something that is not reflected as strongly in our product today as I would like it to be. But ultimate if you look at a story, you always have a setting, a protagonist, you have some kind of challenge, whether or not the challenge is in the form of a character or a journey or something else, and you have an outcome. Essentially what I would like to do is allow everyone to create themselves as their own hero in their career journey. Again, it’s not to create something that’s rigid, but it’s to create enough of a framework to allow someone, for instance who is not a professional writer, to be able to take advantage of that long standing traditional story arc. And be able to tell something compelling about themselves.
Essentially what I would like to do is allow everyone to create themselves as their own hero in their career journey.
Dana: And how do you think the story element relates to a resume, or what you offer now?
Mike: Well again, one of the things that I think is powerful about the infographic is if you’re intentional about it, you look at how people read in western culture, you’re going to start at the top left and work your way down. And the extent to which you continue to go down something, and stay engaged, is the extent to which it is interesting to you. “I want to find out what happens.” Why do you read a book? It is kind of the same thing. So I believe there is a sequence that allows us to set that up, where, provided the person who is creating it has enough thought about what they have achieved, or what they want to achieve, they can start to use that framework to trace through and create the outcome. Again, there is some choice involved, about what advances the story.
What is the challenge? I think that we’re not quite there yet in terms of what I have in mind. You’ve got about a dozen or 15 infographics, I don’t think they convey the story I’d like yet. But it’s a start, and it allows you to trace those things out. There is one of our users that I’ve seen that I quite like her re.vu. It’s re.vu/Natalie [http://re.vu/Natalie], and I think she’d done a nice job in terms of showing the progression of her career in sales. She’s a real user, I don’t know her from Adam. But she seems to have really taken it to heart and has created something that you can tell is really her flavor. You know enough about her to say yes, I want to have a conversation. Ultimately if you think about it, that’s all a resume is good for. “This person is interesting enough, I want to have a conversation.”
Ultimately if you think about it, that’s all a resume is good for. “This person is interesting enough, I want to have a conversation.”
Dana: I was going to ask you what you saw as the role of the resume, or the role in this case of the visual resume. [Is it essentially] to entice someone to want to talk more?
Mike: So I’m a hiring manager. I hire a lot of people. I tend to look at traditional resumes as chronological lists of lies. In other words, I use it as a disqualification tool. That’s really bad! If you think about it for a minute, that really horrible. It’s a cynical way to look at things. I think it’s not only visual or infographic, but I’ll call it socially connected… has a different flavor to it. No longer is it a disqualification tool, it’s a, “Humm, does the way this person conveys themselves give me a sense that they would fit in the culture? Does it give me a sense of their creativity? Does it give me a sense of their thought process? What social proof have they offered?” And by social proof, how are they interacting in the broader ethernet or internet world? And those things become a qualification tool, right? To a certain extent, if someone is not participating in the connected community in silicon valley, what does that tell you?
I hire a lot of people. I tend to look at traditional resumes as chronological lists of lies. In other words, I use it as a disqualification tool. That’s really bad!
Dana: So when you do look at resume, those are the kind of things you are really looking to find out?
Mike: As a hiring manager.
Dana: And as a hiring manager, are their other things that come into play for you, like how a person conveys their personality?
Dana: I read a quote where you were talking about a story having a beginning, middle, and end, and the different characters such as the antagonist as your challenges for example. Can you say anything more about that, or that structure?
Mike: So again, to me it is just being entertained. Does this person make me interested enough to get to the bottom of their resume. Right there is a litmus test. I can’t tell you how many [resumes] I see that are just horrible. They are really bad. And just to be fair, I would include my own in that.
Dana: As a boring one?
Mike: In boring. You can go check. I’ve got an objective, I’ve got professional experience, these are things that I’m proud of, this is my career history, this is my education… neh!? It’s two pages, you know it’s a lot of information, a lot of buzzwords, but there is a reason we have the quote, “a picture is worth 1000 words.” It is because it conveys more than you just see at face value. It’s the composition, it’s the choices that you make as you write things in, and I think that helps convey more of the whole person.
It’s the composition, it’s the choices that you make as you write things in, and I think that helps convey more of the whole person.
Dana: Well I think I definitely agree in that regard, that visually I see a resume as an example of the work that I can do, that someone can do. The choices they make say as much as about them as any included information.
Mike: Yeah. Look at it this way, it’s not a value judgment. Look at somebody who is 23, 24 years old, they’re fresh out of a university or been knocking around doing some interesting kind of things. And they want to go work at a south of Market startup. We’ll I’m going to be looking at what they do on Facebook, what is their participation on Twitter, maybe they’re on LinkedIn (I think I care less about LinkedIn), I want to see what they’ve actually produced. Maybe they’ve produced something interesting in the form of code, in the form of some kind of some kind of art, or art of the written word, something. I want to see what their product is. And on the basis of that, I can look at a style and say [whether] that style is going to fit in this company or not. And by the same token, if I’m working at Intel, and I’m looking for a particular kind of engineer, and that same applicant comes in, it’s probably obvious to me immediately, without investing a nano-second that this person is not a fit.
Dana: So in what cases do you think the visual resume is not applicable?
Mike: I’m biased, so you know it’s hard for me to think where it really isn’t, but I tend to believe if it’s just a straight “can you breath, can you fog a mirror” kind of thing, who cares. All you are trying to do is collect basic information, why even use a resume, just fill out the application. It is that kind of role. I think in some of the hard technical skills, such as if you’re a brain surgeon or something, still use a visual resume, but you’re going to want to augment that with a fair amount of textual information. That could happen in a word samples example, that could happen in certifications, there a bunch of things that go along with that. I think it’s where the visual becomes a center of gravity, verses its own thing. Very rarely can it only be a visual resume. There has always got to be some supporting information around it.
Dana: Can you tell me about some of the research that you’ve done for this project, or for the company? And what you’ve learned from it?
Mike: Sure, when we started early on, we took a look at the HR professionals. They were pretty interesting because they’re the gatekeepers. One of things that we discovered is that there was definitely a schism in what I’ll call the HR community. Those under 30 really liked the concept of an infographic resume. Those over 30 really hated it. 98% of them, regardless of love or hate, said they would contact a candidate who used it. 100% said they would still want a plain old resume. And the reasons they gave for that was because their system were augmented to be able to eat PDF or eat text files or eat doc files, and database-ize them (there are things like Resumix I guess that have been around), and there was no way for them to do that on an infographic resume.
98% of them, regardless of love or hate, said they would contact a candidate who used [an infographic resume].
Dana: I assume you are trying to solve that problem in future releases?
Mike: Yeah, I think we’ve got it solved now to a large extent. If you were to look at the source code in a web browser of your re.vu, you would discover that everything that’s in the infographic is also available as searchable text. That not only helps for this problem, it helps for search engine optimization and a bunch of other ancillary activities. And I believe there are some ways we can improve it. But that was one of our primary considerations right out of the gate.
Dana: Were there cases in which your research changed the direction in which you were going, or helped you make decisions related to the product?
Mike: You should come to my Tyranny of Benchmarking talk tomorrow. Because I’m actually going to go through a fair amount of this. The answer is that, I think it informed what we were doing, I don’t think it changed it. This is in part just a bias for me. I really don’t believe in a lot of research. Let me tell you why. For instance, when you go do customer research, you’re asking customers about something were one of two things happens. There is an existing model and they’re so locked into that they can only give you incremental improvements over what exists, and they can’t imagine what doesn’t exist. So as a consequence, the feedback they give you isn’t highly likely to lead to any insight that would cause you to change something. It might cause you to tune something, but you’re not going to change the fundamentals. The second aspect is, and in fact we did uncover this in the research, and I’ll just call it confirmation of what we thought. Given that nothing like this had existed before, when we showed prototypes to potential candidates, what we heard was, “Wow, this is awesome! We never had any… why didn’t anybody do this before?” Those were the kinds of things which told me that it was a new category. It was a new approach. And we found that people were really enthusiastic about looking forward, and it wasn’t just the seekers. On the hiring managers side, distinct from the HR professionals, hiring managers were the same. “Aw, this is great. Have you ever faced having 400 resumes stacked on your desk given to you from your HR business partner?”
Have you ever faced having 400 resumes stacked on your desk given to you from your HR business partner?
Dana: In your research, did you find out how many hiring managers or people rely on printed documents, or get a PDF and then print it, or do they view it online?
Mike: The vast majority, greater than 90% of the hiring managers we talked to still deal with paper.
Dana: And how do you account for that in what you’re designing?
Mike: So it is very simple for a re.vu user to be able to do File > Print as a PDF, and create a nice looking physical manifestation. And again they have a choice as to how they choose to produce that. If you’re thoughtful about it, you can make a very compelling single page that acts, if nothing else, as a cover page. We also believe that in the longer term we can entice those hiring managers, who were much more interested than HR professionals frankly. We’d like to solve their problem. We think we can entice them to participate a bit more online, and leave the paper behind. But that is another shift that has to happen, that’s a barrier.