QR Codes in Résumés: Genius or Idiotic?

It seems like nothing is a given anymore in the business world. For example, take the simple résumé. Some places have done away with accepting them altogether. In fact, I recently applied for a freelance gig where they just wanted me to write a paragraph about myself and send some clips. It all depends on the place and the image they have, but some trends that are emerging in the hiring world make little to no sense.

Take, for example, this recent Wall Street Journal piece on the rising tide of people putting QR codes on their résumés. (The WSJ article also delves into other unorthodox ways of gussying up your résumé, but that's the focus of this piece.) If you don't know what QR codes are, and even many tech-savvy people don't, they're bar codes that can be scanned on smart phones to bring you to a website. I'm just one man, but I think this is a needless and not-asked-for development. If you're filing a résumé, you usually put your website with your contact information. And if you're sending a résumé to anyone, chances are you're also sending a cover letter, which means you can tell people to check your website for whatever. With a QR code, you're sending people to who-knows-where and if you want to clarify where its sending people, why not just use a regular old link?

"As a hiring manager as well as an executive with a QR code on his own resume," says Billy Cripe, VP of marketing for Digitiliti. "I think they are great ways of providing innovative ways to get a prospective employer to engage just a bit more with you… that little bit extra may be just the edge you need in a competitive job market."

Maybe. But let's imagine a world where everyone is using QR codes. It's embraced as the new gold standard for résumés. You'd be laughed out of the room if you didn't have one of those ugly, splotchy black-and-white squares on your résumé. It doesn't exactly make you look unique or help you stand out, does it?

"I personally would rather see the space used for something else," says Touristlink.com CEO David Urmann. "It's nice to see that a person is technically savvy but it does not indicate to me that they will be socially savvy."

There's no clear consensus here, to be honest. People are pretty evenly split on one side or the other – it's either the best idea ever, or it's the worst. Obviously, in some cases, it might make sense to go this route if you're applying for a place where such a gimmick – and it is a gimmick – might be appreciated. It's risky and novel, but it just might get you noticed. I still am not sold, though, and I'm not the only one.

"Having hired over 20 people for my two startups, and having reviewed and skimmed at least a thousand résumés, I can say pretty confidently that QR codes would be an active deterrent in m any cases," says LabDoor CEO/Founders Neil Thanedar. "I'm usually looking for talent and creativity, and QR codes don't take much of either."

I know I've been ganging up on QR codes a lot, and just to show it isn't just me, I'll let Jim Meeker, a self-described "technology-oriented elementary school teacher" in Atlanta have the last words: 

"Hi. I'd like to introduce myself to you. My name is Jim and I am applying for a position with your company. I'm not going to give you all of my information. Instead, I have hidden it deep within a puzzle
and I am asking you to take the time to try to unravel the mystery. Oh, did I fail to mention that you will need the secret decoder ring? All I am asking you to do is to pull out your phone and install an app on it that may or may not work and that you will probably never use again. Do I have the job?" 

Your resume needs to be a clear and concise statement of who you are and what qualifies you for the job. If the job involves artistic skills, apply those to the layout, but keep it simple. If not, keep it simple. And so unless you are applying to be an underling to Loki, God of Mischief, keep your QR codes to yourself. 

Finally, if you need some tips on writing a résumé, check out this article I did not long ago. And if you're curious to learn more about QR codes, check out Contributor Jabez LeBret's recent post on that topic as well

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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