Résumés aren’t typically worth much more than a few minutes of your time, and yet Steve Jobs‘s 1973 résumé sold for $174,000 as if it were a piece of art–and in many ways it is. But it’s not its poetic allure of his hurried handwriting or the comedic indifference in Jobs’s responses that make it worthy of six figures. It’s when you read between the lines that you see something far more valuable and what artificial intelligence can’t: how to find the next Steve Jobs.
Why A.I. Wouldn’t Choose Jobs for the Job
Steve Jobs would have been overlooked by A.I. had it been a commonly used tool in human resources the way it is today.
A.I. holds the power to do incredible things, and yet there is still a lot it can’t do. By design, it is still a prepackaged product, that thinks within the box it was created to think within. Data scientists code A.I. so that outcomes are defined by–and therefore largely limited to–a set of specific inputs. While this can provide the perfect solution to particular problems, it can pose a problem for particular use cases. One of which is identifying qualified applicants for innovative roles.
If it had been up to A.I., back in 1973, when Jobs submitted this résumé, it would have gone straight to the garbage.
The Hidden Genius in Jobs’s Résumé
For a résumé that doesn’t include a lot of information, it actually says a lot about Steven Jobs, how his mind works, and even what he believes. Of course, A.I. wouldn’t see it that way. Like the top-grossing pieces in the art world, it’s the art of abstraction that yields such a brilliant piece that captures the essence of Steve Jobs the world has come to discover–even as a mere teen.
First off, Jobs leaves a lot of fields blank, including the year he will graduate from college and his entire job history. Maybe he didn’t know when–or if–he would graduate. Odds are, he simply didn’t find it relevant to the position and therefore didn’t care to conform to filling in the blanks.
Innovators are rebels. For example, he indicates that he has computer skills, but doesn’t check off that he has typing skills. If you have computer skills, you likely have typing skills, making the field redundant. This shows he knows how to focus on what’s important, and likely assumes that you, like him, are intelligent enough to understand that. This would be problematic for A.I., but for the person reading his résumé, this minor example of rebellion against the norm is an example of information architecture–a key aspect of innovation and design.
Jobs notes that while he has a driver’s license, he may not have reliable transportation. And while this isn’t exactly a selling point for many employers–and a ding in his eligibility according to A.I.–it does display character and a prevailing honesty. What you can understand that A.I. doesn’t is that the ability to see problems is necessary in order to discover solutions.
Innovators hold a solutionary mindset–the belief that there’s no problem without a solution. So, if you’re hiring for an innovative role, you need people who will recognize–and, more important, identify–problems. There’s a great deal of honesty and integrity in this–especially when it comes to identifying our own weaknesses. A.I. would translate this into a weak candidate. And yet integrity and quality go hand-in-hand, indicating strength.
Only two words on his résumé are capitalized: his first name and the month he applied. That’s right, he didn’t even capitalize his last name. And despite listing that he’s an English major, he doesn’t capitalize the word “english” and he doesn’t capitalize the name of his college. Psychologically, capitalization denotes importance. What would be grammatical errors in A.I. can actually indicate his perspective of self.
Innovators are nonconformists. For example, by failing to capitalize the name of his school, he likely didn’t place too much weight on his institutional education, as many of the world’s most intelligent don’t. The school he attends doesn’t represent him any more than the town he’s from. A.I. would focus on the degrees he’s accumulated and the clout of the schools he attended. But the most creative people are often the most nonconforming and individualistic–something A.I. can’t identify.
Finding the Next Steve Jobs
There’s no replacing Steve Jobs. But you can replace your hiring strategies to help you find innovative and forward-thinking candidates, like Jobs. When your team is arguably the most important element of your startup’s ability to succeed, it’s crucial to hire the right people. But to hire the right people, you need to hire the right way. To find the next great mind like Steve Jobs, stop limiting your candidates to the prebuilt walls of A.I. and required fields on an application.
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