I’m Not Looking for Your Résumé

By | February 2, 2021

[February 2, 2021]  Why do you need a résumé?  In today’s job market, it has become overwhelmingly the way to impress a potential employer.  We are told that without a résumé, you are at a disadvantage.  However, as a senior military officer, while still serving and after I left, I tell folks that I am not looking for a résumé; I’m looking for character.

That’s right.  I find that résumés are overrated, rarely informative, and often full of intended and unintended distortions.  I can understand an employer, who has to sort through hundreds of possible job applicants, using a résumé as a way to sort out unqualified candidates.  This is pure laziness.  Interestingly, in hiring many people for jobs, sometimes an unqualified person is the better choice.

People should keep this in their mind; sometimes, an unqualified individual might just get the job.  If that is true, we can ask the question, “What is it that matters more than a résumé?”

Character matters.  Simple!  I want someone I can trust, someone with the moral sense on top of the drive to get the job done.

In taking over military units, I quickly discover those that are trustworthy and those that are not.  Many of the untrustworthy soldiers were also highly skilled, highly intelligent, and highly motivated.  But when the crap hits the fan, and you need them, they are not available or want something in return for their work.  This smacks of narcissism, and I’m not too fond of it.

Senior military and civilian leaders think alike on this issue.  We would much rather spend more time training and mentoring less capable but trustworthy employees with moral character than watching our backs for the more qualified employee.

I once had working for me, one of the smartest Air Force Lieutenants I’d ever met.  He was a Stanford University graduate in nuclear physics and on the U.S. Air Force fast track for promotion.  After his tour of combat duty, he was being sent to MIT for a Ph.D. in physics.  I gave him several jobs that required his level of intelligence and position.  Yet, he failed me each time.  The reason was that he thought his priorities were more important than that of the mission.

Keep this in mind when applying for a job; tell the truth.  Show that you can be trusted.  Show that you will do everything you can to complete any task assigned without complaint, within legal and moral guidelines, and to the best of your ability.  Never make excuses.  It works.  You will be hired and, if not, good, because you don’t want to be there.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “I’m Not Looking for Your Résumé

  1. ZB22

    The lack of ‘trust’ is a huge problem in any organization that starts with two or more people. That is why, in my opinion, that there must be a special effort to build up trust at every opportunity that presents itself. Let’s be really clear on this issue, without trust, nothing works.

  2. JT Patterson

    I agree wholeheartedly with Gen. Satterfield that we can begin with simply telling the truth and letting everything else fall into place. Admit our weaknesses and improve upon them. But be mindful that we are not perfect.

  3. Janna Faulkner

    Character matters more than skill. That is the message here but I would politely suggest that there must be a balance and the tilt is toward character.

  4. Mikka Solarno

    “What is it that matters more than a résumé?” Character matters. Simple!
    Sage advice for the masses.

  5. Max Foster

    What the heck, a real article on a real subject that most of those reading today would not care much about unless we are in some HR dept. I know, this is not a criticism but let’s move along. The govt under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want more individuals hired that have not earned the right because they “care” about us. What a bunch of hogwash. The Biden-Harris Administration will be known as the worse White House couple ever in the history of the USA.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      But they will be praised endlessly by the media, Hollywood types, and other fawning politicians.

      1. Silly Man

        Yep, and would you expect something different?
        Good moral character no longer matters.
        Serve up the popcorn, it’s going to be a bumpy, wild ride for the next four years with the most incompetent President ever.

    2. Sally DeMarco

      Max, you are great. Thx for erudite comment. Go USA. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  6. Tom Bushmaster

    Excellent blog post to get my morning thinking juices going. Keep up the good works, Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Audrey

      Ha Ha Ha Ha ….. yep, and a good reason to follow this leadership blog. I would like to suggest, in my opinion, a subject for the future that deals with resumes. I suggest for Gen. Satterfield to write about job interviews. There are many who do write about them but I would like to have Gen. S’s view on how to do well in a job interview.

      1. Mr. T.J. Asper

        I agree, good suggestion Audrey. I would also ask that Gen. S. pivot a little and give us his thoughts on preparing for an interview as well. 😊

      2. Linux Man

        Yes, I too agree. Any other recommendations. Let’s lay them out. I would like to read about this as well. Since the articles are short, breaking up the whole job application process might be beneficial.

    2. corralesdon

      My thinking as well, Tom. I’ve looked around for other leadership blogs and nearly all of them want me to pay or they only have articles weekly, not daily like this one. Plus they don’t often allow comments. That is why I’m a big fan of this one.

  7. Frank Graham

    Very good article, Gen. Satterfield. Another way to look at those who apply for jobs. The problem today, however, is that we are NOT allowed to use our judgment to determine who is best for a job (read that “best” as a racial minority having nothing to do with the job). Racial discrimination is on the uptick thru govt fiat.

  8. Army Captain

    Yes, character does matter, and esp. ‘moral’ character. Let’s never forget that it is the moral to the physical as 2 is to 1.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      … and character remains an overlooked but necessary requirement to succeed in the workplace. Today, we are not allowed to JUDGE anything or use a person’s past to determine if they might be qualified for a job or for anything at all. Standards are thrown out the window.

      1. Jonnie the Bart

        Yes, so I’ve heard. Not a positive sign. If you work hard and stay out of trouble but are white, you are at a disadvantage in the job market to a person who is lazy but also happens to be a racial minority. The reason is that employers would rather hire a less qualified person who is black or hispanic over a white person, just to stay out of trouble with the PC police.

    2. Rev. Michael Cain

      Some common sense here …. ignore what you see, move along here, don’t look around…. you will be retrained. …..


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