First let’s introduce the star of our story for those of you who may not be familiar with him – and I call the resume him since for the first 500 years my guess is that these documents, that started out as letters of introduction, generally were penned by and profiled men. You can read a brief history – which I would advise you to take with a grain of salt – at the Business Insider website.
Today’s resume is very different than what people would have considered a resume even fifty years ago and in fact the resume of the 1940s was more like today’s online presence with details about height, weight and age. These kind of personal characteristics – and often a picture of the resume’s subject – are still expected in some countries (for example in South Korea) although in most European and North American contexts asking for such details is illegal.
When I was in highschool over thirty years ago a resume was essential and I still have one from then tucked away somewhere (that’s one of many great things about moving halfway round the world for an extended period – you’re forced to cull your belongings/hoardings and in the process you discover some gold among the dross). It’s typewritten, looks like crap but is actually quite intentionally humorous. I don’t know if I ever distributed it while job hunting as it seems pretty cockily written for a 17-year-old but maybe I did. Resumes continue to be important even to this day although the printed-on-paper resume is nowhere near as ubiquitous as previously.
However, I was surprised to find that the paper resume is certainly not considered dead by many in the HR department and that jobseekers are well advised to bring a printed resume (and perhaps multiple copies of it) to a job interview. One HR executive quoted in a WSJ article said she uses the printed resume to jot down notes about the candidate on and also scans it for grammatical and other errors that might indicate a lack of attention to detail.
Of course another place where resumes are essential is job fairs. Think about working as a recruiter at a job fair and ask yourself which candidate are you going to favour – one that offers to send you their resume by email later in the day or one who has a resume – crisply printed on good quality paper – ready to hand over right then and there.
It seems obvious that the concept of the resume – a place to capture and catalogue your skills, accomplishments, education, interests and experiences – is still valuable but that the formal, one-size-fits-all, strictly adherent to format document may be on its way out. And the Internet is certainly behind the death of the latter.
I’ll discuss what I mean by that in Part II – How the Internet killed the old-fashioned resume.