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7 Things All Bosses Should Learn After Bill Gates Posted His Resume on LinkedIn

Inc. logo Inc. 7/16/2022 Bill Murphy Jr.
Bill Gates. © Bill Gates. Illustration: Inc.; Photo: Getty Images Bill Gates.

It's probably not fair to judge Gates's 1974 resume against a 2022 standard. But let's do it anyway.

Not for the first time, Bill Gates recently shared his college-era rsum, posting it on LinkedIn.

"Whether you're a recent grad or a college dropout," he wrote, "I'm sure your resume looks a lot better than mine did 48 years ago."

At this point, nearly 200,000 people have reacted to it, thousands more have shared and commented. It's been critiqued, judged, and filleted across the internet -- largely for the benefit of people who are writing rsums and applying for jobs.

That's great. But I'm also interested to look this from business owner's perspective. In short, would you have hired or passed on Bill Gates? And what lessons can we learn?

Here are some things to notice -- and maybe to get past:

1. The format is pretty terrible.

It was 1974, so there weren't many options, but fully one-third of the rsum is filled with biographical details, two addresses, and even Gates's height and weight back then (5 feet 10 inches, 130 pounds).

Plus, who wants to read Courier 12-point? It's easy to dismiss for these reasons, but it's a reminder: Are you hiring someone to write rsums? If not, while the format matters for your convenience, does it matter for the job?

2. The objective is constrained.

Gates says he's looking for a position as a systems analyst or systems programmer.

I'm not sure what a systems analyst did in 1974, but let's assume that people who were reading this rsum probably did. Still, sometimes you as the business owner might have a better idea of what opportunities you can offer than the applicant.

Can you get past the boxes a highly qualified applicant might have put himself or herself in?

3. It lists his current salary.

Even as an 18-year-old Harvard freshman, Gates claimed to be making $12,000 a year in 1974; the equivalent of about $72,000 today. Of course, I don't think anyone would advise putting a current salary on your rsum in 2022 (or, as he wrote, that he was unmarried with no dependents).

Still, this would be an interesting tactic today -- if one that flies in the face of current trends. It might lead you to increase an offer to a promising candidate, or even to weed out those you couldn't afford or whose expectations don't match yours.

4. It completely violates the X-Y-Z rule.

Is it fair to judge Gates's 1974 rsum against a standard that Google developed somewhere in the early 2000s, that its former senior vice president of personnel described around 2011, and that I distilled in an article here in 2019?

Let's do it anyway. The most effective rsums are the ones that use the X-Y-Z format: "Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y], by doing [Z]." Gates's didn't really do that.

If applicants don't do that, maybe it makes sense to take the extra step and try to pull out what they might be trying to say in their rsums, even if they don't explain it as concisely.

5. One page is enough.

Gates's rsum gets a gold star for brevity. This is human nature, but it's easier to get a picture of a candidate with a short rsum, even if it offers a little less detail. In fact, I've taken to telling applicants that I'd prefer if they'd keep their rsums to one page, and if they'd provide me with a link to just one work sample to start.

6. Look for the benefit, not the feature.

Again, it's frustrating if you receive a poorly organized rsum to have to hunt for details yourself. Gates has all the details of some of his positions, but it requires some patience to read them as written and get to the good parts: for example, how he built and sold a school scheduling program in Fortran for $10,000.

Still, if you're an employer who takes the extra time to decode what applicants are saying, you might have an advantage over competitors.

7. It comes from a go-between.

The version of his rsum Gates shared is interesting because there's a business card stapled to the top: Howard Levin and Ralph P. McIntyre of RSVP Services, which stood for "Recruitment, Selection, Vocational Counseling, and Placement."

As Marc Cenedella, founder of Ladders, wrote, this "was a standard practice in recruiting when search consultants mailed rsums to clients. And by mailed, I mean physical, United States Post Office snail mail, not email or text!"

Yes, recruiters did business a little differently back then. I'd just take this as a reminder that good candidates can come from a lot of unexpected places.

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