Why You’re Stuck With Your Resume

I’m a fan of Laurie Ruettimann over at The Cynical Girl. She’s an HR Pro who seriously knows her stuff, and is willing to discuss said stuff in all of it’s important, cynical, and at times soul-crippling glory. Most of her bag is obviously HR, recruiting, and hiring.

Awhile ago she discussed the fact that, yes you still need a resume. I wanted to add my own thoughts because I’ve been hearing for years that the resume is going to vanish.

It’s not going to vanish.  Trust me.  I think that’s something to talk about in depth.

The reason I want to add my voice to this is because I *have* been hearing for years how the resume is going to vanish and it has not happened. Yet this inevitable disappearance keeps coming up for discussion in the news and blogs, and there are people who believe it and doubtlessly do stupid things that affect their careers. Also I live in Silicon Valley, and there’s always a breathless story of someone who got a job without a resume, which is nice, but ignores the odds that you and your friends are probably not that person so you need to shut up and stop formatting.

Worse, I confess, I think the idea of going resumeless appeals to us geeks. We innovate, we play, we make new rules, we hack. The idea of going resumeless is the kind of challenge we relish, and we’re probably tired of making them in most cases.  But we probably still need to make one.

(Which is why I wrote a whole book on the subject of making them easier to do.)

So odds are A) you need the resume, and B) the guy who got a job by explaining his job career via cake or who sent a company an animatronic to interview is the exception to the rule.  Those strategies may not work for you.  Also in the later case, they sound kind of creepy (no I don’t know if someone did either of these, but I could believe someone had).

This is why resumes are not going away:

They Work: The resume has existed so long (comparatively) and spread so far because it works. It communicates things effectively and it’s relatively standardized so people can scan one and hopefully get the high points. It’s evolution in action.

They’re Expected: HR and hiring is in most cases a conservative part of a business, and thus resumes are part of what they need, expect, and use.  They’re not going to change quickly (and a lot of HR people are probably tired of the changes technology and the economy have forced on them, thank you very much). This is part of the “they work” explanation as well, of course.

The System Is Built Around Them: More than just the HR departments, a lot of hiring itself is build around a resume. It’s asked for on websites, exchanged among recruiters, and critiqued at meet ups of job seekers. Look on all your past job searches and ask yourself just how many times you needed one because it was “in the system.”

We’ve Got No Viable Replacement: I hear how there’s going to be a replacement for a resume, and I’m still waiting. The fact I’ve been hearing this for years and there hasn’t been convincing substitute is a good sign that we’re going to wait awhile.

It’s Useful To Make: Creating a resume is an excellent way to inventory your skills and background for a job – ironically even if you never use the resume the act of making one is a source of insight and understanding you’d still use in a job search. This is unsung advantage of having them – they provide insight.  Even if the resume were to some day fade away, there’d be a “resumelike” exercise or set of exercises people would be doing to understand themselves.

Not Having One Isn’t Something To Brag About: Right now saying you don’t have a resume on the job search frankly makes you look weird or irresponsible in too many cases. Yes, we may respect someone who is daring enough to go job hunting without a resume, but in a lot of cases people will think their arrogant or strange – even moreso if their career history doesn’t justify such confidence.

It Acts As a Centerpiece: For a lot of people and a lot of careers, a resume is also a kind of centerpiece off of which the job search and personal information hangs. It lists your background, your publications, links to your portfolio or personal website, contains contact information, etc. The various things that people may use outside your resume are still on your resume.

So, sorry, the resume isn’t going to go away because it’s doing the job it’s evolved to do, and people are used to it.

Now that’s not to say that the resume is going to stay the same, or you can’t do them innovatively, or that indeed some day it won’t be replaced (at least for some professions). Resumes and associated job search tools have changed, some people have done some daring things, and recruiting does change (albeit slowly). But I’m thinking for the above reasons . . . we’re stuck with them for awhile.

With this being said, however, I think there is room for a lot of innovation. Over the years I’ve seen such things as:

  • Various creative resumes. There is room to innovate in design, content, etc. If you think it’ll work for you, go for it.
  • Unique delivery methods. I’ve seen resumes on portable gaming stations, as candy bars, as games, etc. Again, use your discretion, but I think there’s room for innovation – especially if said innovation testifies to the skills that sell who you are.
  • Increasing importance of extras. Publications, portfolios, example code, etc. are all important and seem to be more important over time because you need to show what you’re capable of. Building up the things your resume acts as a starting point for is more important (and may be an area that changes what resumes are in the long run).

So I think you’re stuck with the resume for awhile. But hey, there’s no reason not to get creative with it . . .

So here’s a question for you: how long do you think we’re stuck with the resume as we know it?

– Steven “Resume Sympathizer” Savage