3 Reasons Why Resumes SHOULD be Irrelevant

Photo cred: "kafka4prez"
Photo cred: "kafka4prez"

Why are resumes still necessary?

We call for a change in how business is done and then we still use this remnant of a professional mindset that is no longer acceptable or effective.

I’ve thought a lot about this topic of resumes…probably too much.  Stuart Foster and I have discussed it a few times but today when he brought it up, it sparked a good conversation with Amy Mengel, Dana Lewis and others.  Amy Mengel just posted her thoughts on the issue which completely made me rethink my argument.

She makes some great points.  Today, to disregard your resume, regardless of your industry, is foolish.  It is integrated into pretty much every company’s hiring process and if you don’t have one, chances are you won’t get a job.

My point isn’t that you shouldn’t have one…my point is that you shouldn’t have to have one.

Resumes are still very relevant, when they SHOULD be irrelevant.

and here’s why…

  1. Resumes usually aren’t a truthful representation of someone’s value. A double standard exists here.  We focus on being honest, human, transparent, selfless, etc…and yet resumes violate every one of these virtues.  Every time I would visit career services, or have my resume reviewed somewhere, it would be analyzed and reformatted to hell!  Every adjective and verb would have to be ideally selected from a list of “strong descriptive and action words”.  I know a lot of people that put things on their resume, that they barely participated in.  Resumes show how the candidate wants to be viewed, not how they’re actually viewed.  How is this human?  How is this honest?  This is painting a perfect picture and there’s no such thing as a perfect picture. And if you don’t do it, you’ll lose to someone who does.
  2. There are more effective methods. Amy made the point that HR has to keep everything on record and have every resume on file.  But resumes are usually outdated within months of their last update.  If you really want to keep an accurate, up to date file on each candidate, why don’t we start using tools like LinkedIn over resumes? LinkedIn also provides short recommendations, which in my opinion, are A LOT more valuable than you saying how great you were at your last job.  It’s greener, it’s smarter, it’s up to date, and it creates a much better view of a candidate than a one page resume.
  3. It’s time to become savvy. Perhaps this is more industry sensitive, so try not to take this as a blanket statement.  I think that companies that aren’t web savvy no longer have an excuse.  Saying I need your resume, because I don’t understand social media isn’t going to fly anymore.  If you’re hiring someone that has a blog, and you haven’t read a good deal of their blog, you’re crazy.  I bleed my thoughts and experiences onto this blog, and my beliefs could completely contradict the culture of your company, but you’d hire me without reading what I’ve openly shared?  A highly overprepared interview with a HR person who doesn’t know diddly about the industry will never give you the same kind of insight into my knowledge and ideas that my blog provides.

I’m not saying that the HR person needs to read every blog, twitter, linkedin, and whatever else for every candidate..

Use linked in as a filter, the same way you would a resume.  Then once you narrow down the selection to a few candidates, YES, you should read their blogs, their twitter and anywhere else they interact online…and wouldn’t you know it, all of those places are linked right there on their LinkedIn page!

To say that something is necessary and acceptable because the current system allows and requires it, is how a lot of horrible things have happened in this world.  This is no different in concept.

brb…I have to go take my blog link off of my resume so that no HR departments read this.

EDIT: Here are some alternatives to the traditional paper resume.  LinkedIn isn’t the only option.

38 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Resumes SHOULD be Irrelevant

  1. Eff HR. It’s where marketers who couldn’t cut it go to die anyway.

    The whole industry reeks of laziness, putting up false barriers to entry, and relying on automation to solve their problems.

    If we did this as marketers we’d get crucified. Why is HR getting a free pass on this?

  2. David – thanks for sparking the discussion here and over at my place, as well. I somewhat addressed your second point over in the comments on my post – basically it’s just as easy to “game” social media sites as it is a resume by controlling which LinkedIn recommendations are visible on your profile, for example. I don’t trust LinkedIn recommendations one iota.

    I think many HR people are using LinkedIn more as a filter and also as a way of finding candidates for jobs. But usually HR is the first stop of many in a job process at a large company. Their job is to screen and filter and present viable candidates to the hiring manager. Hopefully the hiring manager IS someone who is more savvy about social media (if they are hiring someone for an SM role) and will take the time to check out each candidate’s online presence and blog. But you usually have to make it through HR to get to the hiring manager.

    Dave Fleet made a great comment on my post – while you still need a traditional resume, the RELATIONSHIPS that we build via our online social media presence are what’s really important. Those are what often lead to introductions and networking that can really help you get a foot in the door as a trusted candidate. That way the resume/application/HR screening part of the process becomes more of a formality because the hiring manager already knows you.

    1. Amy,

      I agree that LI definitely has it’s downfalls, but that doesn’t mean that we should turn back to resumes. I’d argue that is still much more effective than a resume. You can also create a Visual CV or something like that. We absolutely have the technology, or the ability to create the technology needed to replace resumes.

      Thinking about it more, aside from being wasteful (paper) I think my major issue is the mentality around resumes. Someone on brazen careerist just commented on this post (I hate that the conversation is split) and said that a resume is a way to sell yourself. Well, I don’t like the sound of that one bit.

  3. Stuart – I think your response is quite harsh and makes some really broad generalizations. Most HR folks I’ve worked with are anything but lazy. They deal with issues ranging from hiring and staffing to talent development to employee discipline issues. It’s certainly not where “marketers go to die” and I know plenty of HR professionals who are a heck of a lot smarter than some of the marketing professionals I know.

    What many job seekers see as “false barriers to entry” actually are processes that are in place for legal reasons. I don’t think many people are even aware of the regulatory burdens large companies face when hiring (laws like OFCCP, for example). There are regulations regarding what types of questions you can and can’t ask in an interview, the way job descriptions need to be worded, and the number of minority/diverse candidates that need to be included.

    What you perceive as “laziness” may actually be carefully constructed processes designed to maintain the fairness and integrity of the hiring process to protect against things like nepotism or favoritism.

    Yes, there are certain aspects of HR that drive everyone crazy, but just as it’s unfair when all PR pros are called “hacks” or all sales/marketing people are called “snake oil salesmen,” it’s just as short-sighted and unfair to paint an entire profession with as broad a brush as you did in your comment.

  4. I only have the knee jerk reaction because of my personal (admittedly sour) experiences. Probably should have held off on posting that and walked away…but occasionally I can’t hold my feelings back.

    I’ve never had a person in HR hire me. I’ve only gotten buy in from departmental people who saw what I was doing and forced HR to make the decision.

    So take everything that I saw about HR with a grain of salt. I’m bitter about my experiences.

    1. I can relate…and as we discussed on twitter, when I was interviewed by a HR guy who knew very little about the actual industry, that really bothered me.

      It’s definitely a system that needs changing, but as Amy points out, is going to be very hard to change.

  5. I would say that resumes serve as being a foot-in-the-door these days. The real time to shine is during the interview with intelligent answers and an impressive portfolio.

    HR people and interviewers are not dumb and can tell when somebody is blowing smoke. If you put something impressive on your resume, but talk about a different side to the project during an interview, the interviewer will know what’s up, and you’re deceit will be exposed.

    I still think a neat, TRUTHFUL and creative resume is still necessary because if you want to apply for a company, but had never met anyone before who works there, how else are they supposed to know about your experience? This gets into a whole new territory with networking, but I still think organizing an impressive resume still sheds some important lights on a potential employee.

    The resume is the abstract of a person, the interview is the article and it’s up to the interviewer to tell whether or not they have Stephen Glass on their hands.



    1. Just a quick addition: In all of my interviews I’ve never been interviewed by an HR rep. My interviewers have always been with Account Executives or Senior Account Executives.

      Anyone else experiencing this trend? I’m all for it, because the AEs and SAEs know what they are looking for in a candidate to work on their team.

  6. I have to agree with you and Stuart- as a student looking for internships, my resume wasn’t exactly that amazing (hence the internships) but no HR person would consider me without experience- it’s a catch 22. However, through LinkedIn and other tools, HR managers can see blog posts, engagement in communities, etc which will show them that even though students may not have professional experience, we do have the necessary skills ready to transfer.

    Even landing my first job was more about networking/ showing what I could do (and have done) rather than sending in my resume to HR.

    1. Good point Sheema. All of my opportunities have come from networking so far. If I relied on my resume, I’d still be sitting on my couch at home…and I didn’t have any crazy amount of experience either.

  7. Interesting discussion! Our agency received hundreds of resumes when we recently posted a new AE position. It takes a lot of time to parse through the information. And, David, to a certain extent you’re right — LinkedIn can provide good insights and is probably not as inflated as some resumes. However, it’s not feasible to think that a company — large or small — should examine every applicant’s LI page. (Think of large companies that are hiring for multiple positions and receiving hundreds if not thousands of applicants for each one. It’s just not realistic.)

    I think resumes should help someone cut through the clutter (and trust me, there’s a lot of clutter!). So, when someone advised you to use stronger words or action verbs, they weren’t trying to make you inauthentic or non-transparent — they were just trying to help you better communicate why you’re right for the position your applying for. If you create a resume that stands out from the crowd and conveys why you should be considered for the position, you’ll have ample opportunity to display your personality and individuality during the interview process.

    One last point: There are laws that govern the hiring process. I’m no HR expert, but I imagine that resumes help protect companies to some degree. Everyone’s LI page has a photo on it — imagine the lawsuits that could arise if an applicant perceived that he/she wasn’t hired because of how *looks* (gender, race, etc) stemming from their LI page. Resumes help companies go through a fair hiring process, which is very important, unless you want cronyism to be more rampant than it already is.

    Heather (@prtini)

    1. Good points all around Heather. The issue of laws is a big one that I think is the main thing deterring change. Amy made some great points on this matter.

      In terms of being able to sort through a large number of resumes, I don’t see how it would be any harder to sort through a large number of linkedin applications. I think it would actually be easier than using the outdated resume software.

      I understand why they encourage me to use these action words but I think that it’s taken a step further to the point where it IS sensationalized and created a mentality of making yourself look as valuable as possible, whether or not it’s a true representation.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s a tough one.

  8. Something I always say: Who you know will get you to the door, what you do and offer will kick your butt through it. How far is up to you.

    The resume can be that added push – it’s a traditional form of what you should be pushing through your social media channels. Are you in PR? Talk about PR. Do you volunteer for a certain org? Put up some stuff about them. Interact with others. Show how “dedicated” “intuitive” etc. that you are.

    HR really comes into play with corporate and super big PR agencies. I know for a fact that at Mensa, all social networks are checked. I was in a dead heat with another girl, but she had a questionable Facebook. My recommendations and that fact pushed me over the edge.

    I think the resume is a traditional platform, and SM can enhance it. Kind of like traditional PR v. PR 2.0.

    1. Again, I’m not questioning the concept of the resume. I understand it’s purpose and I think it is necessary…I’m questioning the medium and the mentality around the one-page paper resume.

      All your points are very true, and something that every job seeker should take into account.

      Thanks Lauren.

      1. Just to be a devil’s advocate – aren’t you, though? (You know I love ya D) If we are questioning the medium, aren’t we questioning the concept and it’s necessity? If it’s not going across the proper channels, its meaning is irrelevant.

        And that just might be your point!

        1. uh oh Lauren, you stepping in the fire? =P

          By concept, I mean that yes there needs to be a method to show your experiences, talents, skills, etc…in a clean and presentable manner. There should be a way for HR or whoever should be doing the hiring, to filter through applications efficiently.

          I do think that if you switched the channel, that would help. I also think though, that the mentality around the resume has to change too. It shouldn’t be, “here’s how I think you should view me”.

          There should be a way for you to objectively display your skills and experiences, while also taking into account outside sources. In essence, a true and thorough method that sheds an unbiased look at you as a professional. But maybe I’m naive to think that could exist.

          1. Of course I am!

            However, I don’t know if HR could really do that – especially in this economy. They get 300+ resumes per job as it is – there whole job would be reviewing and researching resumes. Too much.

            Maybe once a resume has been passed, the actual person interviewing (ie. supervisor) should look at other channels. Especially in PR where SM is a given in your job.

  9. As someone who has been hired, and has hired people a number of times, I can tell you that a resume is vital because more often than not, it’s the first point of contact between you and the company you are looking to work for. If your resume is bland, boring, or full of verbiage that makes your responsibilities sound overinflated then trust me, both HR and the hiring manager will see right through it. I have personally, and those ones don’t get a second look.

    Also, you should think of a resume as another medium to stand out. If you’re treating your blog as your own personal way to stand out above the fray and get your personality out there, then have your resume match that. Have a very strong, truthful and opinionated mission statement at the top, list out all the social media efforts you have made, and the accomplishments you have made “branching out on your own in social media.”

    Show how many Twitter followers you have, but more importantly talk about how often you interact and respond to blog postings, and explain how important your networking skills have been to your career. If you can weave that in with what you’re doing professionally. Instead of relying on SM (and forcing HR to rely on it) show the company you’re sending the resume to why it makes sense for them to do some digging on you and find out what you are all about. If they like what they see, they’ll do it. I’ve done it personally. First thing I do when I get a resume is check online to see what pops up, and a lot of HR departments do to. If a blog pops up and the writing/style impresses me, you can be sure that I’m going to consider them for a position.

    But the resume is your first (and best) chance to impress someone. You’d better make sure you do it well if you want that job. Just like everything else, find a way to stand out, and make it happen. Don’t hate the game, play by the rules and make it work for you.

    And to Lauren’s point, the resume gets you in the door, then it’s up to you to push your way through and put the company in a position where they have to hire you.

  10. Any company that insists on “traditional resumes” and won’t accept or look at an interactive/online/multimedia resume should have their computer and more precisely email privileges stripped.

    If managers can get the job done–advertisement, recruitment, hiring, training–without computers and email, I will create a traditional resume. Until then, I will keep doing what I’m doing.

  11. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “it’s who you know, not what you know.” Although I like to think I know a lot, it’s true. I’ve used the concept numerous times to my advantage. In each case, though, my contact at whatever business/agency/program/etc. can only refer me to the person in charge of hiring. That’s where the resume steps in. It’s an official way of submitting my candicacy for the position I’m after. It can either confirm me as a contender, or bash my hopes of getting the job at that point.

    Although I do like the idea of using social media in place of resumes, I worry that the creative aspect of resumes would be lost. An eye-catching resume is much easier to make than an eye-catching LinkedIn page. It’s all based on the same template!

    Plus, considering the amount of time I take to design, perfect and update my resume… they better ask me for it!

  12. Terrific post, David!

    As a former intern coordinator, I see the resume as a “lowest common denominator” for applicants.

    Even in our tech-driven world, there are still people that are tentative towards blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. I’m sure those of us reading your blog do NOT fall into that category, but those people do exist.

    I’ll assume we’re all in the communication business, in one form or another, so we are all used to putting ourselves “out there.” However, other industries don’t appreciate…open access…as much as ours does.

    Why should we deny someone an opportunity just because they are “shy” online?

    I think social websites are terrific tools to use IN ADDITION to a resume. It is easy to judge 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper, but learning more about a person lets you judge THEM.

    Resumes should never be the end-all-be-all of the hiring process, but they are the first handshake between an employer and potential employee.

  13. David, interesting discussion and something I think is on the minds of many, especially those well-versed in online communications. In your line of work or for anyone that focuses in digital communications, I understand why it’s frustrating. Why can’t an employer just look at my LinkedIn? It doesn’t seem transparent using all these action words to describe me and what I’ve done. I’d argue though that the majority of the job market isn’t well versed in online communications – a traditional resume is what gets your foot in the door.

    I recruit in the PR and communications industry. I could care less if someone sends me a traditional resume (for me traditional means PDF or word emailed to me – not snail mail or fax!) or an online resume (for example, VisualCV) or their blog with a bio of their professional experience. But I want to see something and more than likely, I’ll ask you for a proper resume at some point in the process. I consider myself to be technically savvy in comparison to most of my peers. I would love to see a huge shift in how recruiters and HR departments can evaluate candidates in the selection process. There are some tools there as you mention, but it’s certainly not centralized.

    My clients expect to get a resume. Resumes are usually more comprehensive and detailed than a LinkedIn profile. A resume can be written specifically to cover certain points of a job description, making your case as a candidate much stronger and customized for the company/position.

    A traditional resume is also a screening tool for most employers. PR professionals spend their career communicating on behalf of their companies and client, promoting their services and products, etc. but yet when it comes to pitching themselves and demonstrating in writing their capabilities, far too many struggle more than they should. That document tells me a lot about how the person presents.

    Stuart says HR is a lazy bunch and while there are lazy people in any industry, it’s much more complicated than that (HR does a lot more than just candidate selection). You can’t expect an employer to do all the work. It’s impossible to look at every interested candidate’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, etc. before selecting who you want to interview. That is what happens once you’ve passed go. Each day a position is open, it costs a company thousands of dollars. Companies need the tools to process the information quickly and get to interviewing – a resume facilitates that process. You need to interest them first. The reality is that it’s all about them and not about you – until you get much further in the process.

  14. Lindsay–

    You write, “My clients expect to get a resume. Resumes are usually more comprehensive and detailed than a LinkedIn profile.”

    I agree that a traditional resume may be more comprehensive than LinkedIn, but that’s not at issue. At issue is the tool. Are you stating that a black font on white paper resume–whether printed or electronic–is not only the de facto standard but the ONLY tool your clients will receive? Or, are they open to other tools that provide the same, if not more, comprehensiveness and detail?

  15. Ari, the issue is the tool. You can’t customize your LinkedIn profile to solve a client’s issue or problem because each situation is unique.

    I’m not saying that black font on white paper is the ONLY tool they will accept (that depends on the position and situation). A candidate can get away with a bit more if they are working with a savvy recruiter who knows their client and know how to dig deep into a candidate’s background, but a candidate going at it solo, yes, they do want more than your blog, Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile. They want some thing that shows you may be the answer to their problem and that’s really hard to pull off with just a link to a profile with general information.

  16. I’ll add a fourth reason resumes should be irrelevant – because HR people and hiring managers already respond to rule-breaking, off-beat resumes! Perhaps not in an extremely corporate setting (banking, healthcare), but I know more than a few communications people who were recognized and hired for purposefully transgressing in their resume writing/design.

    That said, I’m equally as wary of the relevancy of Linked-In. Yes, it’s a living document with real people writing recommendations. But, as a social network it has very specific constraints on organization and design. It’s not so different than the paper version.

    I’d be interested to talk/hear more about your thoughts on a “visual CV,” as you mentioned above.

  17. If the HR people are not in sync with the needs of the department doing the hiring, I would suggest that is a company you probably do not want to work for anyhow.

    When push comes to shove it is very limiting not to have a physical format in hand at the moment. Will it be obselete someday? Unlikely, there will need to be some form of agreed formatted document. That said from my perspective, I am far more likely to react to the creative solution vs. the static paper. The best option would be to send your resume to HR as required and send something of creative value to the individual(s) doing the hiring. The latter should not be too difficult these days.

    You need to be able to walk both sides of the fence on this, at least for now.

    1. Very well said. I like that idea of walking both sides of the fence. I look forward to the day when we won’t have to, but in the meantime, that definitely sounds like the best method.

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