Why the Resume is Not Dead and Why You Still Need One

There is an abundance of free advice for job seekers online and a significant amount of it is pure crap. Crowdsourcing for best answers requires a high degree of fine tuning the crap filters to get rid of the outliers of reality. In order to be bold and daring many futuristic thinking individuals have created a new fiction about the resume. This is not all bad because science fiction often becomes fact and appreciating the story makes reality more acceptable. In his 1865 novel “From the Earth to the Moon” Jules Verne proposed a scientifically impossible method of launching three people by cannon to the moon. Its impact on popular culture was to begin the evolution of thought resulting in the Apollo space program that actually accomplished that feat. The frank truth for job seeking in today’s market is that if a resume could talk it would paraphrase the often misquoted line of Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Look very closely at companies that claim that they hire without resumes and you will see unique, highly desirable, and entrepreneurial employers that are only a miniscule part of the total job market. Look at the optimistic forecasters that are selling a better way to hire and you are seeing the embryonic seeds of future systems. The glitz and glitter of new personal branding techniques offer exciting prospects for supplementing traditional systems, but infographic resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and QR Codes do not parse into applicant tracking systems that are in common use in most major companies. Email a link to a recruiter and she may or may not risk clicking on it… less than half of them will. So if you are searching for a job today and not tomorrow, if you want somebody to actually see your qualifications, and if you want to engage those that are actually hiring, the odds lean highly in favor of an effective resume as the way to get in the door.

Before beginning to write or re-write a resume, keep in mind that even if the resume death watch has not already begun there have been significant changes in style and purpose over that past few years. The basic tenet that the primary purpose of the resume is to get an interview is still true, but it is so much more.

  • There is a threefold target audience for a resume: Computer, Recruiter, and Hiring Manager. If this were not complicated enough, composing a document that can pass muster with machines and people makes it worse. Often a one-size-fits-all format is a compromise for one or another of these targets. Read and edit the resume three times from all perspectives. A laundry list of items may help to get screened in by an ATS, but it also takes up valuable space that could be put to better use for eyeballs.
  • The resume is not just for application to jobs. Another primary reason for having one is to settle on a working template for networking. Editing accomplishments down to the page or two that is generally accepted as a standard format means that a detailed thought process has to happen to decide what to discard and what to keep. Touching each point may result in deleting something from the written page, but the process actually reinforces the deletions in active memory for discussion with contacts.
  • The resume is a script for interviewing. Preparation for an interview means a thorough review of key bullet points and adding details in the margin that bring the written page to life. Consider the fact that the interviewer has seen the resume and just repeating the same thing face to face doesn’t add anything new to the conversation. Allowing the interviewer to read between the lines alone is never as effective as the interviewee bringing out key points that need to be emphasized to heighten impact.

There is one more important thing to consider about traditional resumes. As many have learned quite by surprise lately, you never know when you will need one. Everyone needs to have a current log of accomplishments that can be used to update a written traditional resume on short order. Working on a resume is a never ending task and is not mutually exclusive with other more recent developments. Just as there is no reason to disregard traditional thinking, there is also no good reason not to experiment with new techniques and be ready for the future. Try everything!