Resume First – Step 1 in your Annual Performance Review

“Before you open up your annual performance review, hand your updated resume to your supervisor.”

My father was an HR VP for tech firms. He was radical.

His “official” performance reviews required managers to submit their employee’s updated resumes with a ‘memo of record’ attached. That ‘memo of record’ would update the manager on the value added to the resume over the past year. The goal was to have both the employed and the manager explore skills, knowledge, achievements, and other areas that can be communicated on a resume. It better indicated the “employee’s impact on the company.” He never found an HR “scientific” performance review system that beat the annual “resume review.”

If there was no value added, then the manager had to explain. There were many stories from my dad when he would sit down with managers, directors, and VPs, walking through why their teams were not adding value to their resumes. Meaning, “Why are they not adding true value to the company?” There was a lot of resistance from “leadership” who did not think it was their job to “help their staff” in that way. But, the technique worked. And, of course, the technique was drilled into me coming into the workforce.

Yes, I’ve often used this with my supervisors. Every year, I pull up my resume, look at my year and update the resume. Reviewing it with my supervisor is variable. Some will be shocked. Some offended. But they all come around to “adding measurable value to the organization.”

Resume First has been the most fun as a manager. Many would find updating their resume a challenge. I would then help them update their resume, using techniques I learned from Brenda Bernstein and other books on effective resume writing. Once we had a working resume, we would then do our review. We then run into the next “questions:”

  • “Why are you taking the risk?”
  • “Are there going to be layoffs?”
  • “Do you want me to transfer?”

It took a few minutes to walk them through why “Resume First” was helping everyone. In the end, my teams would appreciate the approach.

We discussed the Resume First technique during an all-hands at Internet Systems Consortium (ISC). This is a room of +50 top software engineering with a passion for open-source who could all go somewhere else to work. They all neglected their “prepare for the next gig” career hygiene. Of course, they were all shocked by the Resume First “new requirement.” A top engineer said, “You are making it easy for us to leave.” “Exactly,” was my response. “It is my job to help you add to your value every year and provide a roadmap to your growth. Your value add is ISC’s value add. Your growth is ISC’s growth.”

Astonished expressions, hope, and introspection confirmed the wisdom of my father’s approach. What they all did not realize is that the “exercise” of updating their resume impacted ISC’s open-source mission. It forced them to reflect on what they were doing, the impact of their work, how they would explain their achievements to someone outside of ISC, and to think, “Am I making a difference?”

My job a the time was to turn ISC around. The Resume First approach got everyone to rethink their impact. Having +70 in ISC, all “rethinking” and taking action was much easier than a top-down “change” approach.

Resume First before any “performance review form” is a tool for the leader to “express your growth is critical to what we do.”