Do you enjoy updating your résumé?

If your answer is “No,” you may be pleased to hear that some companies no longer ask for a résumé.  As explained in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a number of technology firms do not require job applicants to submit résumés.  These companies are more interested in the applicant’s “web presence,” which can include Twitter feeds, LinkedIn accounts, or Youtube video profiles.

This new approach sounds exciting.  You can imagine how a video clip from a job applicant could provide more depth and insight than a one-page summary of education, experience, and charitable involvement.  But companies who seek “web presence” or similar information may get more than they bargained for.

Careful employers often shield their hiring managers as much as possible from any information about an applicant’s protected characteristics – including race, sex, pregnancy, age, national origin, religion, or disability.  This helps to protect against a claim that the employer’s hiring process is discriminatory.  Take, for example, a teacher who applies for a job at a school.  Let’s suppose the teacher is pregnant, but not yet showing.  The teacher’s pregnancy will not appear on a paper résumé and won’t (or shouldn’t) be brought up in a traditional interview.  Because the school would have no knowledge of the pregnancy, the school will be shielded from a claim that it failed to hire the teacher because of her protected status of being pregnant.

Compare that to an employer who explores the same job applicant’s “web presence” and you can see the risks that approach can pose.  In the example above, what if the school checked out the teacher’s Facebook profile or Twitter feed?  The school might see a comment from a friend of the teacher asking when the baby is due, or a link recommending a good stroller.  Once it has this knowledge, the school can no longer claim that it did not know about the pregnancy.  If the school decides not to hire the teacher, it may later need to explain or even prove that her pregnancy did not factor in that decision.

Traditional résumés may be boring, but they are also relatively safe.  Employers who are looking to go “résumé-free” should consider some of the disadvantages of learning too much about applicants during the hiring process.